Make mine organic, hold the yurt

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.


NOtoGMOs's picture
NOtoGMOs on August 10, 2009 - 15:42 Permalink


Organic culture to me means looking after your own food and health, lessening the costs of importation of food that can be grown at home, getting to know your farmer, and it’s just so much better for the planet.

But you’re right, who wants to be a new millennium hippie!

Organic was the everyday, ordinary farming for millennium, before the green revolution, and will be again as it is the only farming that is sustainable.

That said, more research and development needs to be done on organic methods, and NO money needs to be given to Big Agra /Big Pharma on their secret research, ie GMOs. Monsanto, et al, do not allow independent testing of their poisonous products which they are foisting off on the world. We are the Guinea pigs. They hope that their GMOs will contaminate organic fields and that they finally will control the world’s food supply. They’re well on their way to that!

We can stop them by buying organic, demanding an end to GMO craziness in our food (corn, soya, canola) in almost everything plus in things you can’t imagine it being in! Read your labels, you’ll see what I mean. Don’t buy anything containing these three GMO products and guaranteed you will not eat much processed foods and be healthier for it!

You go PEI — make an example for the rest of Canada to follow.
p.s. I live in Quebec but always buy PEI potatoes. Yummy!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous on August 10, 2009 - 21:43 Permalink

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.”

NICE!! I totally concur…

Stephen Pate's picture
Stephen Pate on August 11, 2009 - 19:14 Permalink

Frankly, it’s true. I was a rubber boot, tree hugging, back to the lander, living on 4 acres with a cow, free range chickens and everything au naturale like 35 years ago.

It got tiresome and no one cared if we were sprayed poison at 5 am on Saturday so we moved to town.

Then the government paid McCain’s and Irvings to push production at all costs. We’re not at the organic end of PEI, but we can see it clearly from here.

It’s the same people, or at least they look like them, who lived in Lewes. I loved them and still do but no one is paying attention to them. They are politically inconsequential. The government supports organic farming by sending the Premier to the Farmer’s Market once a year.

The Festival was interesting but could have been called the Dixon Road Collective Indie Music Festival. I didn’t see too many Mi’kmaq getting respect. Don’t get me started on that one.

Josh Biggley's picture
Josh Biggley on August 12, 2009 - 22:34 Permalink

Peter, once again a simple and poignant statement of life in Charlottetown. I would add an acronym to your definition of organic as I believe it is what people really think of when someone says organic — SOLE. Sustainable, organic, local and ethical. Either way, no matter how it is defined, it is about pushing the thought of organic/SOLE into the mainstream.

A little case in point. I’ve never given a second thought to where the beef that I bought at the Superstore came from aside from wondering if it was Atlantic Canada beef. This week we took delivery on a small order of beef from David and Edith Ling. It is SOLE beef (to call it simply organic would be a disservice) and I realized that I was connected to that beef. Though I have never met the Ling’s (I bought the beef through a friend who was placing the order) I hope to get out to visit them and their farm in the near future. You see, the Ling’s are the cousin’s of a close family friend. This morning as we were re-packaging our beef I did it in almost a reverent, contemplative state. The thought occurred to me that I would (hopefully) soon have the chance to go to the farm, meet the farmers, perhaps even meet the cows who would be the future ground beef, and really know where my food came from.

So, again, you are right Peter. SOLE (I am replacing your organic) must become the norm, not the exception, to our consumption pattern. Check out the article by Michael Pollan in the New York Times for, what may be, the largest stumbling block of moving SOLE food to the mainstream. We are clearing the access hurtle now, going mainstream still means we have the clear the hurtle of cooking. (Hint: Can you cook, a la Julia Child, 3 meals in 31 minutes, including clean-up? Not likely)…

Paul's picture
Paul on August 13, 2009 - 17:50 Permalink

I found there to be a lack of food in general in the festival (especially free food). It was a festival right? Would have been great to have had 20 or more vendors selling organic eats — like all those trailers you see at a the old home week fair selling hot dogs and french fries. Maybe it was just the novelty aspect of a festival that was missing — it wasn’t fun really — nothing exciting other than some great local bands. I love food and get excited thinking about eating tasty treats, but at the festival I was not excited by anything let alone the food. The fresh lemonade with mint and lavender was quenching in a delightful way.