"Farmer's markets are great....One day they're going to kill some people though. I'm just saying that to be dramatic though." - Galen Weston - 2012 Canadian Food Summit (2012 CFS - #FS2012)
On a day when most of the country was supposed to be busy talking about mental health Galen Weston hit the 2012 CFS delegates square smack in the puss with a PC Choice Mississipi Mud Pie when he lobbed that comment out during his address. By about noon Galen Weston was trending second on Twitter, right behind #letstalkaboutit and it wasn't pretty. I suspect that by about the end of the day the golden hair boy, whose face and Mr. Roger's styled sweaters have become synonymous to the President's Choice brand and marketing campaigns had quickly become the most hated person in the food industry.
Oh it got dramatic alrighty. Betcha Galen got a whole lot more drama than he and his marketing gurus over at PC could have ever dreamed of. Then again, tons of press, even if it is bad press is all good. I would never put it past those Wile E. Coyotes. Let the spin doctoring begin.
I'm asking myself how is it that a guy who is so smart and marketing savvy could make such an egregious error in judgement. Surely Mr. Weston must have known the domino factor would occur or did he just think he was speaking to a roomful of bureaucrats and policy makers who would take it with a grain of kosher salt. Therein lays his first mistake. Mr. President's Not So Good Choice off the cuff remark set off a tsunami of a social media tweeting frenzy which led to his second mistake. Never under estimate the power of 140 characters. The vitriol that bled out into the twitter sphere was unbelievable and deservingly so.
The third mistake that Junior made was not fully understanding the grassroots street level network of the food community. This isn't a bunch of hippie like Good Mother Earth foodies. This is a well organized group of people who are interested in everything from influencing food policy to addressing hunger issues. They are smart, focused, educated, respectful and highly engaged. They are deeply entrenched in the locavore values and that includes the highly valued and revered Farmer's market. To this group, the Farmer's market aren't a part of a community, they are the community. It speaks to their intrinsic core values of family, community and a sense of being and a sense of doing the right thing when it comes to bringing home the proverbial bacon.
I know a thing or two about farmer's markets. I've been trundling about the province over the past two years working on a photo journal of farmer's markets. I've travelled from Leamington to Ottawa and all sorts of places in between. To date I've amassed almost 10,000 photographs along my journey. I figure it'll take me another two years before I can say I've been to almost every farmer's market in the province and at the end of that journey I'm hoping to create a visual guide of Farmer's markets all over Ontario. It is my own way of saying thank you for reminding me of what is really important in the food chain of life.
I've met a lot of good, hard working people along the way. I've bought and eaten a lot of food. I've learned alot about the "from earth to table" philosophy. I have a whole different understanding about things such as wild foods, the slow food movement, what organics are really about and a much greater insight to ethical food production and consumption. For the record, I've never once gotten ill from any thing I've purchased or eaten along the way which is something not everyone could say about shopping at Loblaw's or any of the sister stores of the Weston empire.
Here's the thing Galen. When you made that silly comment you didn't insult just the farmers. You insulted the butcher, the baker and the candlestick makers. You insulted every person who gets up at the crack of dawn and hauls their beloved products out in the blazing heat, the freezing cold, the pouring rain and the gale force winds in hopes of bringing their special bounty to every mans table. It's not glamourous. No body, but no body is making oodles of money here. There are no commercials telling us these products are worth switching for. These are plainly just hard working people who have a connection to our community that many of us highly value. I for one am really grateful for those who chose to serve their communities through this venue. It is not an easy road to travel.
The Farmer's market has seen a real resurgency over the past few years and that in of itself speaks volumes to what is important to us as a community. The Farmer's market has been a conduit for so many of us to connect back to the food chain and it has made us feel good about not only what we put on our table but also in knowing that we are directly supporting the economy of the very people who work so hard to make that happen.
I recently saw an ad for the upcoming new season of "Recipe to Riches" aka the Galen Weston show of "You Know You Wanna Be Me". I suggest that perhaps the show look for a winning recipe for Humble Pie. Lord knows, Galen Weston could use a piece of that.