It’s December and I’m in self-reflection mode.
2017 was a doozy. In a really really great way.
At home, I no longer have a quiet little baby that scootches on her bum to get around, but a chatty, strong willed toddler who runs and jumps and sings the hell out of jingle bells.
At work, Dara and I took the leap into entrepreneurship and finally turned our blog, our passion project ‘on the side’, into something more. How to Eat, our cooking and recipe blog founded in 2012 is now finding its way as a food and nutrition communication business and we couldn’t be more excited about what’s in store for 2018 (and beyond!).
This year I also stepped way outside of my comfort zone and took on a job hosting a series of events that marries my love of food, farming and science (dream job much?). Sponsored by Canola Eat Well for Life, who represent Canada’s 43000 canola farmers, these 6 Toronto-based Canola Connect events took place throughout the year, each with a different theme, and each with a group of food-lovers who came ready to eat and learn.
At each event we enjoyed a food lesson and feast from one of Toronto’s brilliant chefs, listened to the personal journey of a Canadian farmer, and learned more about what brought us together in the first place, canola oil, one of Canada’s great agriculture success stories.
One common thread weaved throughout each event however, was ‘connection’.
Making real-life connections with people from the culinary, agriculture and science communities, in other words, people working outside of my nutrition bubble (or echo chamber as it’s referred to these days) was eye opening in so many ways.
So this year, I’m sharing three things that helped me to grow and evolve my food philosophy in 2017
1. Have questions about farming? Go to the source.
There is a lot of misguided information being perpetuated about farming and agriculture out there, and almost none of it comes direct from the source – farmers.
While less than 2% of Canadians are farmers, 97% of farms remain family-owned.
And guess what? Farmers are feeding their own families with the food they produce on their own land. They are invested in high quality, safe, sustainable food production no matter how big or small they are. They want those things even more than we do. It’s their entire livelihood, and often a legacy for their children, too.
If you are watching a popular documentary which paints the modern agriculture industry as a villain, stop to think about where the information comes from. Be skeptical. If the farmer who actually produces the food doesn’t get a voice, how transparant and balanced can it be?
One of my favourite Canadian resources for farming and agriculture is Farm & Food Care who produce the incredible Real Dirt on Farming, a free booklet that provides basic facts on topics such as the difference between growing crops conventionally and organically, pesticide use, animal housing and animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and technology used in farming.
In other words, facts not fear.
2. Make friends outside your comfort zone.
Most people train, work and play within a community of people who share similar ideas. As a dietitian, I used to seek connections with people whose ideas and philosophies around food matched my own. Low and behold, those connections were primarily with other dietitians or nutrition-focused food enthusiasts.
What I realize now, is that when we interact exclusively with like-minded people, especially in an online environment where it’s easy to do, we fail to get the perspective of other incredibly important people.
Real-Life Eaters of Food!
We all have something to offer. We all need to be a voice in the food story.
My advice is, find a new farmer or chef or science friend and follow them. I’ve even begun following people and groups whose views I completely disagree with in an effort to be more open minded, empathetic and balanced in communicating about food.
Farmers, Chefs, Scientists and Nutrition Professionals
should be need to be friends and allies.
3. Biotechnology is not a scary word.
We need to settle down on the fear mongering, people. Biotechnology has brought humanity insulin, vaccines and antibiotics which have saved millions and millions of lives.
Biotechnology in our food system has been making huge positive environmental and financial impacts for producers and consumers for decades. Again, ask a farmer about this.
Do we need to remain skeptical and ask questions about our food and new technology? Absolutely.
Do we also need to fear or reject anything that isn’t wrapped in muslin and stamped ‘all natural’? Nope.
No one is asking us to blindly trust our food supply, but I think it’s important to note we’re living in an age when food has never been more abundant, safe or affordable. We should be excited rather than fearful about the technology that can keep it that way.
How has your philosophy about food (or otherwise) changed or grown in 2017?
I for one am looking forward to growing, connecting and learning even more about our food system in 2018.