Organic Weekend Happenings

I spent much of this past weekend at the Guelph Organic Conference, hawking Alternatives Journal to attendees. Despite buying a table in an isolated mezzanine tucked away from the great hall, traffic was good. Over 2000 people attended the conference and trade show altogether, and I sold over 20 subscriptions to the magazine. My stock of 100 issues all disappeared, which saved my back during the trek home. So, all in all, a good, productive weekend. Since most of the people I'd talked to hadn't heard of Alternatives, I may check into spending the extra money next year to purchase space on the main floor.

Lest you think organic foods are the realm of long-haired hippes, attend this conference. I saw hard-working farmers, businessmen in shirt-sleeves, students and young families, all normal people. Only the long-haired professors were easy to pick out. I had free organic coffee with organic cream and a really good time.

Two products caught my attention at this conference. Despite temperatures of -16'C outside, everyone inside was munching on ice cream cones from Mapleton's Organic Ice Cream. There were a variety of flavours on sale, made with top-notch organic products, and they were all yummy; of that I can attest.

There was also a run on, of all things, potato chips. At this stall located near a hemp products booth (I only thought of this funny connection just now), Organic Snackfoods chose this event to debut their new brand of potato chips. And these were good; I'm talking Mrs. O'Grady's good, definitely putting the boots to anything Hostess or Ruffles has to offer. The product was so new that only a handful were on display while the factory in Brampton worked double-time to fill orders for Sobeys, A&P, Loblaws and other major local supermarkets. The stallowner was constantly begging people not to give him money for the chips because "I have to have some to display!"

Cracked pepper was the best flavour. I'd give lemon a pass.

Let's not insult organics with comparisons to granola. At the conference were goods and produce of quality that surpassed that of the mainstream equivalents. The only drawback was the price. The Mapleton ice cream, single scoop, cost me $3.50. The suggested retail price of a 140 gram bag of organic potato chips was an ouch-inducing $3.69.

There is nothing magical about organic foods. These are simply everyday products made to consistently higher standards than we've come to expect from the mainstream markets. You pay heavily for the privilege, but it does put the organic movement and our relationship to our food supply in a new light. How long have we been accepting cheap as good enough?

I was free Saturday evening, so Erin and I welcomed Cameron back to Kitchener. After a visit to the Maharajah Palace in Waterloo, we headed down to the Princess Cinema to catch the Cannes ad festival. For two hours, we chortled or gasped at the collection of the world's best ads that year. Ikea's forlorn lamp commercial ("some of you feel sorry for the lamp. That is because you crazy! It doesn't have feelings! And the new lamp is much better!") won the grand prize, not surprisingly, but there were plenty of other memorable commercials as well, including one where all of the players on a soccer pitch are naked and a streaker comes onto the field wearing clothes.

McDonalds in particular had an effective promotion, giving away a clear Coca-Cola glass with every meal in a very transparent way. ("Usually a lot of thought goes into our promotions here at McDonalds, but not for this. Frankly, we got the idea from a competitor who did something similar last Christmas and we thought, if it worked for them, why not for us?"). I also think that some of the British road safety ads should be imported to Canada for airplay here.

Yes, most of the material went straight out of my head when the lights came up, but it was a fun way to spend an evening.

It's also a mark of the quality of the fare at the Princess Cinema that their three lonely trailers had me more excited about the coming features than the usual seven trailers at a typical Silver City. We saw promotions for The Triplets of Belleville, the upcoming Animation Festival, and William Macy in The Cooler. All look like movies worth watching, the animated The Triplets of Belleville in particular; I've got to see that movie.


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