Recharging, learning and munching should be your top priorities for the annual Guelph Organic Conference & Expo.
“We’ve been selling organics for 21 years and you tend to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of the store,” notes Lynda Phillips, president of Lyn-Dys Health Foods in London, Ontario. “It’s so nice to go to the conference and get re-confirmed about our purpose,” she adds. Some days can be tough in retail, especially those filled with customers who question the products offered. At the conference, “you can socialize with like-minded people, and get that boost to keep going with what you’re doing,” says Lynda.
Conference manager Tomás Nimmo feels that one of the biggest benefits of the conference is the ability to meet with primary suppliers. “This is a great opportunity to meet with agri-producers/manufacturers and their distributors, sample their products, and talk at length with them,” notes Tomas. “This is a no- pressure show,” he adds.
The conference is also a great educational opportunity. “In our store we are often broaching the conversation ‘what is organic,’ and helping people talk to their families about why eating organic is important,” says Lynda. “The technical information is very helpful,” she notes. For example, workshops such as Organic Certification Demystified are designed to assist interested consumers, but also are beneficial for store staff. The conference also draws a diverse gathering of farmers, eco-associations and motivated consumers, making for great networking.
The success of the conference mirrors the continued increase in consumer demand for organics. A 2013 study by the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA), found that the value of the Canadian organic food market – at $3 billion per year – had tripled since 2006. It also found that 58 per cent of Canadians reported purchasing some organic products every week, with this rate even higher amongst ethnic Canadians, people living in Canada’s largest cities, households with young families and consumers with university educations.
This year’s conference features close to 160 exhibitors including Pfennings Organic (both the farm distributor and the farm store), Organic Meadow, Ontario Natural Food Co-op, Nature’s Path, Crofters, Organics Live and dozens more. The workshop schedule is jam packed with 42 offerings covering a diverse range of topics including soil fertility, organic crop production, pollination, permaculture, restoration agriculture and many others.
The Guelph Organic Conference takes place January 29 to February 1 2015. Registration, maps and details can be found at www.guelphorganicconf.ca. •