The 2013 Brewers Plate will be our sixth annual spring feast celebrating local, sustainable food and craft beer. It is an fundraising and popular education event that awards its net procees to not for profits and charities promoting local, sustainable food and farming in Ontario. The event is produced by Ecotone Productions in association with the Catalyst Centre, a registered charity.
It started in 2008 as a project of Green Enterprise Toronto (GET), in partnership with Slow Food Toronto and Local Food Plus (LFP). Paul DeCampo of Slow Food and Mike Schreiner from LFP (now leader of the Green Party of Ontario) worked closely with Chris Lowry of GET to create the event. They reached out to the chefs, brewers and food artisans for advice, especially Jamie Kennedy who has been a champion of regional and wild foods for many years. We were inspired by the example of a beer event in Philadelphia called the Brewers Plate, a project of Judy Wicks' White Dog Café Foundation and the Sustainable Business Network.
Following Jane Jacobs' dictum that new ideas love old buildings, we held the first Brewers Plate in the wonderful Berkeley Church. For the second and third years we moved to a more spacious and equally historic, gorgeous venue, Hart House at U of T, with the help of Slow Food maven Arlene Stein. In 2011 we moved again to a larger space with several additional advantages, the wonderful Wychwood Barns. When Green Enterprise Toronto became Green Enterprise Ontario (GEO) in 2010, the Brewers Plate became a project of Ecotone and the focus of the fundraiser shifted directly to benefit the food and farming sector in the Toronto region. Chris Lowry teamed up with Frances Pairaudeau, who has served as our highly effective and gracious Event Manager for since 2010. Fran's track record as an event producer includes being Marketing and Development Director for the prestigious English National Ballet.
The promotion of local, slow, wild and sustainable food has deep roots in this city. It grows from seeds that were planted and inspiring meals shared over the last twenty years or so, to bring us to this extraordinarily fertile and positive time in the local food and farming movement here in Toronto. Chris Lowry first learned about it in the late 80s through a magazine that he helped to create, called the Journal of Wild Culture. Back in 1988 they were talking about foraging for wild food with Hank Hedges, they published recipes and interviews with Michael Stadtlander, Jamie Kennedy, and Chris Klugman, and they did a photo essay documenting the very first Feast of the Fields, complete with manifesto.
In 2006 before launching the sustainable business network that became Green Enterprise Toronto (GET), Lowry hired Innovolve to conduct some research in Toronto, a needs assessment survey of about 300 of the most progressive business owners in the city called “How to Grow the New Economy.” Overall, the businesses surveyed demonstrated a very strong commitment to the environment as part of their daily operations. Respondents represented diverse sectors of the economy, but it was really interesting that 1 in 4 of them described their area of business activity as food & beverage.
It makes sense that these are the early adopter green entrepreneurs -- for many of us, environmental awareness starts with food, and the food and beverage sector is enormously attractive to green entrepreneurs for many good reasons.
GET wanted to serve this large part of its constituency, and to build the local living economy movement through food, as many of our successful local living economy networks are doing elsewhere. But GET wanted to be sure that it could add value and support the amazing work of many organizations that were already thriving in Toronto when we were just getting started - the Brewers Plate was an answer to that. GET work with LFP and Slow Food to do it. It adds a spring event to the local food calendar and links local sustainable gastronomy with our independent craft breweries, in an effort increase the cultural and market profile of independently made craft beer.
Food is the harbinger of where we all need to go now.
The future lies increasingly in regional self-reliance all over the world, with local living economies trading fairly, useful, durable goods, food, and good low-carbon ideas.
A shift toward regional self reliance, with food leading the way for the whole economy, is our best chance to stem the rising tides of changing weather and rivers, diminishing fossil fuels, scarcities of fresh water, fish, soil - what many are now calling 'peak everything'.