Organic Food for Conscious Conferencing

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 the Organic Trade Association, American consumers spent more than $43 billion on organic food in 2015. The number of organic businesses grew by a record 12% in the same year to reach 22,000.

By comparison, there are just 45 organic or Biodynamic farms in South Africa. One of these biodynamic farms is located just outside Cape Town in Stellenbosch, on the Spier Wine Farm and it is from here that the Spier Conference Centre and restaurants on the wine 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. “Organic is good,” says Angus, “but biodynamic is better. It’s truly in tune with nature.”

According to his ‘Food with a Story’ blog post, 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 Biodynamic Farm, they also produce real free-range chickens and biodynamic veggies. All the animals that are farmed for their meat are slaughtered on site. The slaughterhouse is about as good as a place like this gets — the staff are taught to respect the animals and to 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,” concludes Angus.

So do your conference delegates, and the planet, a favour by going organic when planning catering or selecting a conference venue.

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