ACORN prides itself on being a true network, involving all the players from seed to plate in advancing local organic agriculture in Atlantic Canada. It is true that we definitely spend a lot of time talking with and working on behalf of organic farmers, but it is with less frequency that we have the opportunity to speak with consumers.
Recognizing the critical role our retail partners play as the first-line of education about food for the majority of consumers, ACORN developed an “organic 101”-type of workshop to deliver to retail staff in order to share our organic expertise and serve as a reference for whatever organic questions are out there.
The workshop is designed to achieve multiple goals, which include providing staff with an overview of what organic means, an understanding of the rigour of the organic system (regulations and certification), as well as details of the responsibilities related to handling and selling organic products. In addition, the workshop discusses what the NB organic sector has to offer and how ACORN works to support it.
The workshop has been well-received by small health food stores, with some offering it as an open event for their customers. In the past month, we have been to Sequoia Whole Foods (once for staff & again during Organic Week for customers), Real Food Connections, and Winterwood Natural Food Store. (So far we are only offering these workshops to our NB retail business members since it is part of our NB Marketing and Distribution project, but we are hoping to be able to offer it in all the provinces soon!)
Each workshop has been a bit different, with the discussion taking all kinds of forms. Such variety is most definitely the intent with these workshops; the goal is in fact to have more of a dialogue than a lecture, one that is tailored to reflect the various levels of organic knowledge and experience all retail staff and customers have.
Throughout the various dialogues we have had so far, we’ve been thrilled to learn how engaged NB retailers are in local organic food issues. Some of the specific questions we’ve been asked include: How is it that honey or maple syrup can be considered organic? How long does it take to transition livestock? What happens when a tractor leaks hydraulic fluid on an organic farm? What about manure application on organic farms? We plan on sharing the answers to some of the most common questions here, so stay tuned for more informative blog posts!
In addition to these workshops, ACORN staff has spoken at St. Thomas University and is scheduled to be speaking at both the NB Food Security Action Network’s Biennial Gathering on Food and Food Secure Canada’s conference – we’re definitely taking advantage of every opportunity to talk organic up!