Today was the day for Nigwek, a “street festival for an organic PEI,” held along Victoria Row in downtown Charlottetown.
I went down for lunch, had a very nice bowl of noodles, an Island-grown fruit cup (grapes, gooseberries, raspberries) and a glass of fresh lemonade that was everything a glass of fresh lemonade prepared by a chef dressed in whites should be. While I was enjoying my food I also got to listen to a little Meaghan Blanchard and a little Lorne Elliott. The weather was sunny and warm, friends were plentiful, and it was a nice way to spend a bit of a Sunday afternoon.
But here’s the thing: organic agriculture on Prince Edward Island needs a street festival with a weird name and a bunch of burlap-wearing hippies like it needs a hole in the head.
Don’t get me wrong: I love street festivals, I love weird names, and I love burlap-wearing hippies.
But Nigwek, it says, was organized as “a public exhibition for increased attention toward the necessity of PEI becoming more organic.”
And while Nigwek may have been a fun social event for the “organic community,” by closely adhering to the early-adopter back-to-the-land aesthetic that first gave rise to the organic movement (see also brown rice, Birkenstocks, face painting, alfalfa sprouts, juggling, tofu, et al), Nigwek wasn’t very successful at helping to direct attention at the organic issue outside the community of people who already know that it’s in our collective best interest to move the agricultural economy in this direction.
There are many things standing in the way of a more organic Island; one of the foremost is the perception that growing and eating organic is a fringe movement, fine for vegetarians and people who drive Subarus, but far outside the everyday realm of the average Islander.
If anything, an event aimed at drawing “increased attention toward the necessity of PEI becoming more organic” should be bending over backwards to make organics appear like the most regular everyday thing in the world.
Which is to say that the downtown location, the plaintive folksingers and the weird noodles have gotta go.
Do it in the Walmart parking lot. Or in the empty lots beside McDonald’s. Serve regular everyday food that happens to be organic. And for heaven’s sake, give it a name that doesn’t scream “poetic.” Sell the organic idea on its merits, divorced from a lifestyle that, however attractive it may be to you and me, is just plain weird to everyone else.
There’s a strong and lively cultural aspect to the community that’s embraced an organic lifestyle to this point, and I’ve no issue with that being celebrated and strengthened. But it’s limiting to think that to achieve widespread organic food adoption is going to involve (or requires) a parallel widespread organic culture adoption.
It’s time to bring organics out of the yurt and into the bungalow.