By Des Lamgkilde
As GMO (genetically modified organism) food concerns continue to be a top priority for the general public, the demand for organic food is growing, but are professional conference organisers taking advantage of this trend when planning catering needs for their delegates?
According to a 2015 Organic Industry Survey report by the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic food and non-food products in the United States broke through another record in 2014, totalling $39.1 billion, up 11.3 percent from the previous year. Organic sales now near a milestone 5 percent share of the total food market. The organic dairy sector posted an almost 11 percent jump in sales in 2014 to $5.46 billion, the biggest percentage increase for that category in six years.
In South Africa there are just 45 organic farms. One of these organic farms is located just outside Stellenbosch, on the Spier Wine Farm and it is from here that the Spier Conference Centre and restaurants on the estate source their wholesome food.
This organic farm operates as “Go Organic at Spier” and is a joint venture with seven emerging farmers, who together own 27.5% of the business. Spier used to lease 100 hectares of land from the local municipality, and this land is now used by the company and funded by the government’s Land Reform Credit Facility. The farm is now one of South Africa’s largest commercial organic farms, and is fully certified by Ecocert.
Managed by Angus McIntosh, Go Organic at Spier also retails its ‘Pasture Reared Food’ on his ‘Farmer Angus’ blog site.
According to ‘Food with a Story’, Angus uses the high density ‘mobgrazing’ technique for farming his grass fed cattle. Developed through observing the actions of herds of large wild herbivores, this method mimics nature and is particularly good at sinking carbon. “If ten percent of cattle in the world were grazed in this way, we wouldn’t have the carbon issues we have today”, says Angus.
Mobgrazing works by allowing the cattle to graze the top third of the grass plant (the healthiest bit) only before moving them along. The roots are then ‘shed’, effectively storing carbon in the soil. This allows for optimal grass growth, and carbon-negative beef.
At the Spier Farm, they also produce real free-range chickens and organic veggies. All the animals that are farmed for their meat are slaughtered on site. The slaughterhouse is about as good as a place like that gets – the staff are taught to respect the animals and revere and be humbled by the power that they have when taking an animal’s life. To be conscious.
Angus hopes to raise awareness and erase consumer apathy about food production. “Agriculture causes the most destruction on the planet, but also presents the biggest opportunity to heal the planet, empower people and reduce poverty.”
So do your conference delegates, and the planet, a favour by going organic when planning catering or selecting a conference venue.