Thursday, December 16, 2010

Event Recap: Catching (Up With) Slow Food

December 2 was a busy evening of grilled cheese, slow food, and awesome music.

Willow Blish
Sandwiched in between the cheesy goodness and the loud fun, I attended an event at WorkBar organized by EFactor; it was a panel discussion on building a sustainable business in the food industry. It was nice to run into another food blogger there whom I had yet to meet - Nikki of art & lemons (which, by the way, is full of gorgeous photography. Check it out!). The discussion was led by Willow Blish of Slow Food Boston, and the panelists were Jennifer and Julia Frost of Chive Events, Valerie Conyngham of vianne chocolate, JD Kemp of Crop Circle Kitchen and Organic Renaissance, and Mike Raymond of First Light Farm. The discussion focused on three questions: What is sustainability? Why would a business choose to be sustainable? What are the challenges when starting a sustainable business? All panelists provided a variety of interesting views.

Jennifer Frost
Julia Frost
Jennifer and Julia (Chive Events) spoke of using "beautiful food" from "local sources" to cater their events; they aim to make their business sustainable from beginning to end. Jennifer had prior experience with catering companies and was appalled at how much food was simply thrown away after events. By composting and recycling, they ensure that there is no waste after their events. All billing is done by email to avoid wasting paper, and they use materials with a low environmental impact.

Valerie Conyngham
Valerie (vianne chocolate) spoke of how building a sustainable business was mainly a marketing decision; the competition wasn't going the sustainable route. While she buys locally as much as possible, there are some materials and supplies that she gets from farther away for economic or other reasons. Spices come from Christina's, though, and cream and most of her butter come from the Dairy Bar. Where Jennifer and Julia have thrown themselves completely into sustainability, Valerie has taken a more moderate approach, one that is perhaps easier for many of us to use as inspiration. Making sustainable choices is wonderful when possible, but making a living is important as well, and sometimes your business choices have to support you before supporting your philosophy.

JD Kemp
JD, who was unfortunately seated in the blinding light of the projector, resulting in this somewhat creepy (but kind of cool, yes?) portrait to the left, spoke of his newest endeavor, FoodEx, an alternative method of food distribution that addresses current gaps in the system. Kemp's company is basically a middleman helping local farms and producers get their goods to the consumers without wasting valuable time trucking everything around themselves, and the process is as transparent as possible, with the cost to producers coming only from the food miles. (This article from the Jamaica Plain Patch goes into more detail.) "People think we're crazy," JD said. "I think that's a good sign."

Mike Raymond
Mike provided a farmer's prospective and talked of his goal to remain small in order to stay flexible. His reasons for building a sustainable business include not wanting to poison the land and not exploiting labor, hidden costs of mass production. He is very enthusiastic about CSAs; you can learn more about First Light Farm's CSA programs (and CSAs in general) on the farm's website.

Overall, it was an interesting discussion. The question "What is sustainability?" yielded the predictable lack of a clear definition, just like the related "What is local food?" Everyone had different reasons for building a sustainable business, but many of the challenges are shared.

After the talk, I got a chance to try one of Valerie's pumpkin chocolates. Yum!  I actually ran into her at an event a week or so later and bought a small box of chocolates, so I'll post a review on that soon.

After the event, I hurried over to the Middle East (downstairs) and arrived just in time to see a couple of my bandmates, Michael J. Epstein and Sophia Cacciola, in one of their other projects, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, a musical homage to 60s spy show The Prisoner. In the second song, Michael somehow managed to break not one but TWO bass strings. That's how hard these guys rock.

A couple more photos from the show:

Quite the night!

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to go to that event but had other plans that night. It was great to read your recap.


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