A report by the World Tourism Organisation shows that Food Tourism has grown considerably and has become one of the most dynamic and creative segments of the tourism industry. For many of us, tasting local cuisine, learning to cook local dishes and connecting with local people over food has become a highlight of travelling.
The impact of the food we choose to consume and the food experiences we have when we travel is significant. If we're to be GOOD travellers, we must make conscious and informed decisions on where and what we eat. We've therefore added a new food category to our blog and we're looking forward to exploring this important issue with the input of some guest bloggers from around the world.
The impact of the food we choose to consume and the food experiences we have when we travel is significant. If we're to be GOOD travellers, we must make conscious and informed decisions on where and what we eat.
First up, we're excited to share a guest post from Jemmy Barrera on the importance of consuming local, organic produce and supporting sustainable farming practices when you travel - and when you're at home too. Over to Jemmy!
Sustainable traveling is not just a trend, and supporting local is not just what hipsters or millenials do. You heard right! This is a way of life. One where the decisions you make can help whole communities. I have seen and experienced this during my time in Gainesville. Gainesville, Florida, is known for 2 main things: The University of Florida and the Gators. The town is bustling with people, as thousands come to pursue a higher level of education or tailgate football games. Traffic generated by tourists, students, and parents contributes largely to Gainesville’s economy.
I attended the University of Florida, and I instantly fell in love with their local community. This community has taken pride in mom-and-pop shops, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and fresh produce from farms scattered around Alachua County. Farmers markets are set up every week where students and townspeople alike gather to receive freshly picked produce and create relationships with the people who grow it. At the Bo Diddley Plaza, where these interactions take place, small and local owners proudly display their partnerships with other small businesses and farmers.
Farms like Swallowtail, which is a farm in Alachua County, are able to have financial stability by implementing a CSA program. CSA stands for community supported agriculture and it allows farmers to get paid before the season by selling produce in weekly or bi-weekly shares. Many students and locals will pay for a whole year or in a couple installments for boxes of fresh produce. This not only allows people to buy large amounts of fresh produce at a cheaper price, it also allows farmers to receive money in a consistent and stable manner. This in turn allows them to have all the tools and resources they need at once so they have enough to sell later.
It’s a great way to get to know your farmer and make a commitment that provides benefits to each party. I have also seen the relationships between locals in the way they help each other, and as a result they promote themselves, other small businesses and the idea of community. For example, restaurants show what farm they got their fresh veggies from, coffee shops will hold community gatherings and sell baked goods from a local baker, local bookstores will highlight and sell only locally roasted coffee. These represent only a small portion of the chain of influence and solidarity that these local businesses share. This is a hub for sustainable prosperity, and they have fought hard to keep the momentum.
During the weekend of September 17-19, I volunteered for the first Organic Food and Farming Summit in Gainesville that marked the 30-year anniversary of Florida Organic Growers. Florida Organic Growers, or FOG for short, caters to organic farmers in all of Florida. FOG is the only non-profit in Florida that certifies organic growers as well as provide them with the resources they need. I was a part of their Education and Outreach program which works with the community to get them involved and empowered to be a part of the organic movement. As part of Education and Outreach, FOG wanted to create a Summit so they can spread knowledge and bring the community together in a large and productive way. This Summit allows large groups of people to gather at once and easily distribute information and resources.
I was honored to be a part of the team that cultivated the very first summit. Along with my team, we created and planned the entire event which spanned three consecutive days. During these three days our mission was to connect local farmers, educate on sustainable best practices, and create a platform to continue the conversations encompassing local, sustainable and organic farming. We did this by dedicating small and intensive workshops to new farmers, interacting and networking with experienced farmers for ways to improve, and lastly, to include the community in these conversations so they have a better perspective of Organic and Sustainable Farming.
This summit is also very important due to Florida’s lack of progress in its sustainable and organic agriculture. There is much to catch up on compared to other states and there is a very unique climate that can be a great advantage for Florida (it is a subtropical area where you can grow year-round). The chance for these agriculturists to market and build a tight community has increased their stability. Over the years, more travelers and students have become attracted to this community, as it has become a niche interest as well as a social norm. During the 2 ½ years that I stayed in Gainesville, I have witnessed and participated in the growth of local businesses and farmers. I have seen better and bigger farmers markets, a larger awareness of food waste, use of plant-based cups and cutlery, and even large discounts for bringing your own reusable items at restaurants. Fortunately, a summit like this one helps speed up that progress by giving others knowledge on marketing and creating successful, sustainable, and organic businesses.
I grew up in a city and never really knew what it meant to get my hands dirty and grow my own food. I’ve never really thought about what it takes to feed a community. In order to be a sustainable traveler, or just sustainable in general, you have to understand the dynamics of where you are getting the things you are buying and eating. There is an immense satisfaction in being able to know your money is helping families and not just sucked into some void. Being a sustainable traveler is about making connections and understanding your impact. I say next time you travel anywhere in the world, some great questions to ask are: What community am I visiting? How do they make their living? And what strides are they making to progress?
Being a sustainable traveler is about making connections and understanding your impact. I say next time you travel anywhere in the world, some great questions to ask are: What community am I visiting? How do they make their living? And what strides are they making to progress?