Store News, Landing Back On Fertile Home Soil and Why I' m No Longer A Food Activist…

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This is perhaps the longest period I’ve been through in 7 years now where I haven’t written to you.
Between perhaps the longest stretches of school holidays we’ve ever seen, Winter and the jarring events that preceded and then proceeded that like the chocolate fraud and then the launch of CERA ( The Conscious & Ethical Retailers, Consumers and Producers Alliance) – I haven’t felt solid ground beneath my feet for some time.
I’ve been a touch bewildered by it all, to be honest.
It is time to come home now and make sure that our base is solid and rest a bit from fighting larger battles. It’s time to re-connect, to us, to this store, to the farmers we’re standing for and behind and to bring energy back here. I arrive back from engaging with some larger food context issues  – I just want to come home now and get on with it now and put energy back into us – Organic Emporium and The Jozi Real Food Revolution.  
 
Thank you to Rob Small from Abalami – Harvest of Hope too – for changing the meaning of the word  ‘Revolution’ for me at the CERA Cape Town launch – and for inspiring me to call it rather – more accurately going forward – The Jozi Real Food (R)evolution. 🙂
There are some incredible people in this country doing the most meaningful work and Rob Small from Abalami Harvest of Hope and The Biodynamic Association of South Africa is one of them. And he’s right – this isn’t a revolution – rather it is a re-evolution:) I love that as much as the quality of his heart and mind, I do.
Thank you too to my co-founder of CERA – Robert Miller whom I have much to be thankful for and so many others, everybody that participated and joined. As CERA progresses, I shall introduce you to the great people who are a part of the inaugural members of CERA and who we will be aligning with us to bring more clarity and collaboration to our work to get more nutritious food from good farmers, more readily available.
I come back here – different – I’ve learnt after everything I have experienced over the past couple of months that I am not really a food activist, no longer wish to be one or define myself that way.
I might have been, I guess I was for much of my time in this space when nobody knew what organic meant, where there was little available and I had to educate through writing and research to help teach people what I was learning about the conventional food system and more sustainable ways of farming. That isn’t where I’m at though anymore, different context, more grown up, Definitely more grown up.
Harder in some places, softer in others. I find it very difficult to live a vocation around attacking a context pointing fingers outward anymore – I’m far more focused on something I find a little less draining and definitely more effective – trying to create an opposite context. A world I want to live in where connection to good nourishment, great farmers and the best food is easy.
There are people making careers out of staying in anger and ‘being right’ and making others wrong, I’m not one of them. I actually didn’t know this about myself until recently.
I am very clear about what my place is within our food (R)evolution,  going forward I’m doing things differently. I officially resign as an activist. I have a different focus now. I will explain later of course but first let me get to talking about the store news – the part where we actually get the job done of having a connection point between you and the incredible farmers and food producers I find, support and stand for.
New stock of The Free Range Food Company whole chickens arrived today – the only whole chickens we have for now that do not have GM content in any of their feed. You’re getting used to cooking these large (normal) size birds and I have been delighted each time I have converted one of you to trying to roast this once a week. I haven’t met anybody yet who wasn’t delighted with putting this age old tradition back into their kitchens and who hasn’t enjoyed the convenience of having excess good chicken left over for soup, stocks, salads and school meals.
For new subscribers – cook these birds on a lower temperature – 150 degrees – stuff with organic herbs, lemon, garlic and onion, rub over olive oil and Mooberry butter, salt and pepper, roughly an hour for every kg. You will never ever get a truly free range chicken as tender as conventional – there is no brine – salt water within the meat nor antibiotics which tenderise and the chicken has moved and exercised outside, it will never be the tender mush in your mouth we thought was normal. Cooking it properly is the key – and then using juices to make a beautiful gravy necessary, just reduce the roasting tray dishes with a good organic white wine and add a cold block of butter for gloss once the gravy has reduced.
For those of you who prefer the chicken pieces and are going for the CTOrganics pastured chicken pieces – if you haven’t tried my pre-marinade recipe using The Gourmet Greek yoghurt, do yourself a favour – it transforms this chicken and gets over the fact that it is slightly gamier and obviously tougher. The yoghurt tenderises and penetrates the chicken beautifully, use 2 cups of Gourmet Greek yoghurt, the juice of 1 lemon or lime, 1/4 cup coconut water and herbs of choice – adding a tsp of honey is also an option here if you want a slightly sweeter tone, I have also added fresh turmeric to this marinade and that was beautiful, try and marinade for a day before or over night before cooking. You can take the pieces out of the marinade and grill or braai – or you can actually leave the chicken pieces in the yoghurt marinade and bake it all together at 180 for 30 – 40 minutes and the yoghurt marinade becomes a cook in sauce. Another customer likes to put tandoori spice in his yoghurt marinade and says its insane delicious.
Aldersyde Farm- Tarkastad Karoo Lamb boxes are still available and the new orders are coming up on the 18th. They have new cuts available – please e-mail Michael – michael@organicemporium.co.za for the order options if you’d like to book your lamb. I’m quite excited about this next batch because Spring lamb is always the best from the Karoo. For those of you new to ordering half lamb boxes – here is a link to my best recipe for the roast leg and shoulder cuts – never fails.
New charcuterie is in from Jewell & Co – where Neil Jewels head chef at Bread & Wine turns his passion for both pastured pork and charcuterie into something real for us using Charlie Crowther’s pork from Glen Oakes Pastured Pork farm in the Hemel en Aarde Valley. His signature pork belly bacon packs, Walters Ham, Coppa, Pinotage and Fennel Salami and Italian Squashed as well as the Saucisson Sec.
On the fruit and vegetable front – we’re in the predictable mid-season dry spell where winter crops end and we await Summer crops. We need more combination of storms, rain and sun to jump start Spring planting, the shelves will get fuller over the next month. My best news is always when the organic turmeric is in and that is back. Whenever we have it, I religiously make a herbal tea every night with herbs from my garden, buchu and rooibos, I grate in turmeric (permanent yellow stains on my fingers evidence this), ginger and fresh lemons. If I just start with a scratchy throat or stress that shakes my immune system, this just never fails to pick me back up. I hate it when we don’t have organic turmeric root in now. Anyhow, it’s in, as is spinach, carrots, cabbage, Kazi Farm micro greens and the bright lights spinach and Wensleydale sweetcorn.
I had a long catch up chat yesterday to Avril from Wensleydale – Wensleydale is joining CERA just by the by – anyhow, I wanted to talk to her about why we didn’t see any organic apples this Winter season.
Her answer was pretty bleak actually. Wensleydale as you know only sell certified organic produce.She says that the farmer didn’t want to go through the cost of renewing his organic certification because it doesn’t make any sense when it is costly, the market here in SA is too small and he is getting a higher price exporting it and selling it as conventional in Europe. Apparently this is becoming a large issue. Right now, you can get more selling organic fruit as conventional overseas – so the motivation to pay for the costly certification process here and try to supply us – a still far too small market, doesn’t make it viable. I found this depressing, I did.  I transform depression and anger into motivation for action though, so it makes me fuelled to just keep on keeping on.
We need to keep growing through consumer awareness and education so that this isn’t the case.
There is a crop of apples coming towards end of October from one of their farms as well as nectarines and plums so we just have to ‘vasbyt’ for that.
I’m also anxiously waiting for the new Spring cheeses from Beatrix Mountain Goats – as well as the new sheep cheese that Barry is making from the new sheep project on his farm. If you are a new subscriber, please do yourself a favour and like the Beatrix Mountain Goat Diaries page – Barry puts up almost daily updates and scenes from that farm that are so joyful and beautiful, ever proud to be connected to that farm and a farmer of this calibre. I need to get up there soon, actually I need to do a spate of farm visits, it’s that sort of time, to get back to visits and updating with news about your favourite farms.
What else – oh – the coconut chips from The Hungry Herbivore – ! – what a topic – you cleaned us out of those so fast my head nearly burst – yep – they’re delicious – more stock has just arrived – including the cheese and onion ones that were your favourite by far.
Please can we have your feedback on The Moonbeanunbakery raw macaroons? Do you like them? Do you find your children like them?
From Monday we are trying a new bread supplier out – Paul from Paris Patisserie is going to be sending us baguettes, panini, sourdough and ciabatta – all only made with Eureka flour, I’d love some feedback on how which ones you prefer.
I will be back on Facebook, I haven’t been for some time – getting back into the rhythm of writing and updating with you with our everyday news.
Landing my energy back firmly rooted – in this space.
 
That’s the end of the most important store news for now.
CERA Update
 
Before I head off, I’d like to talk about a new particular awareness I have, learnt much after dealing with the chocolate fraud, launching CERA, trying to pull together some of the best leaders for change we have in this country right now into one alliance and reflecting on all lessons learnt.
CERA (The Conscious and Ethical Retailers, Consumers and Producers Alliance) has been launched both in Cape Town and in Johannesburg and we have an inaugural group of members who participated. It wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, I knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park and hell knows I’m not put off by challenge but after much debate and trying to push for the need for less arguing amongst all of us with the best hearts and minds in the workshops, we got there.
It will be an ‘alliance’ focused on clearing up and bringing clarity to food labels and terms used in the alternate food space. The alternate food space defined as any sector that contributes towards an alternate to the dominant conventional one and that makes attempts to bring good nourishment to tables.
It’s going to take some time to define our membership criteria, admin, processes and most importantly the culture of language and collaboration we will use to resolve critical debate amongst us but I believe in this so deeply that once it is set up – I will no longer make decisions about what goes in my store – everything will get checked and verified by CERA first.
Robert Miller, CEO of Battle Brew had the same vision as me and founded CERA with me, a person I admire greatly and am so grateful for, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to get through that if it wasn’t for his support.  After the workshops we now have a group of inaugural members who wil be part of setting CERA up with us. CERA will not belong to anybody – CERA is a voluntary, open, free economic alliance.
 
CERA will be the first voluntary and associative competitive business alliance that includes consumers that we have ever had. I don’t think it’s been done before because it’s complex and collaboration like this between all players from consumers, producers and retailers requires a new way of thinking, communicating and behaving yet the vision is compelling and we’re going to walk this road.
It’ll mean in the end as it builds that you will be able to buy CERA produce from member retailers that commit to real engagement and transparency and that terms on labels will be clearly defined by a cross section group in each working cell that includes input across the whole value chain and CERA will be clear about what these terms mean from CERA’s point of view.
When the working cell for ‘free range chicken’ for example is defined, a group that includes farmers, retailers, consumers and relevant expertise including consumer protection action input will define between them, through a constructive debate process – what ‘Free Range’ according to CERA will mean and will end up with something meaningful to ‘everybody’.
It will be an elevation of terms and standards in all likelihood, most especially where DAFF has not defined good enough standards for these terms. In many instances too, something that came up in the Jozi workshop that was interesting and exciting, it will be a place too where sustainable terms that have been mis-used and made meaningless by big food will be re-laundered and we will take back their meaning by defining it clearly.
Our next work is to debate membership criteria for all categories of membership retailers, producers, consumer action groups, other organizations and consumers, we have defined and agreed our process for doing this and once that is done, any new members will be able to join by completing the membership forms.
We are not taking this near social media for now or setting up any pages until we have our structures complete and set and a clear understanding between us all of what CERA will be and who the members are. Of course I will direct you to the website as it all develops and when everybody is ready to go.
Why I am No Longer A Food Activist
 
I have been on a journey with this business and at times thought of myself as an activist and I no longer do.
I will be removing the word ‘food activist’ from descriptions of myself and removing it from my sense of my own identity in this space. I have engaged much lately with some incredible activists as much as some worrisome building identities around endless negativity, anger and criticism which drains me to my core and I’m becoming very discerning – and need to be – if I want to keep my energy up and focused around creating change, between the two.
Some people are activists coming from a deep sense of injustice and ‘compassion’  who use their anger to bring awareness to issues while they too help find solutions,  but there are also some who seem to actually just land anger on causes.
The way I spot the difference now is that a person who is truly fueled with anger about an injustice related to their cause, is excited when they see alternatives and wants change, you see them getting as passionately excited about solutions to the cause of their anger, as they do what triggers it.
I have also seen is another type of ‘activist’ that I have learnt not to trust that lands anger on causes and doesn’t move past there, because the truth is their anger and staying stuck in blame and attack isn’t as related to their cause as much as they believe.
How I spot the difference nowadays is that, that particular type of activist isn’t interested in solutions, doesn’t get excited about alternatives, is just endlessly critical of them, doesn’t participate in trying to create change and work with those that do but seems set on remaining angry and they’re pretty good too at up-ending efforts to create change.
Of course – because if successful attempts at creating change occur – then where will they land their anger? They’ll have to find another cause to fight but if they are building professional identities around attacking and get support for that then it’s not that much attractive to change.
I get that as much as consumers need to be educated about what they’re eating, we’re in a young place of food activism in this country and we’re going to need to be as much discerning about constructive activism for change which for me means bringing awareness and supporting alternatives and renegade activism that actually isn’t that much effective. Not all ‘activists come from the same place.
I am eternally grateful to the great activists I have connected with and those who attended the CERA launch workshops and I will continually support their good work, those that raise awareness and celebrate solutions and so effectively support change.
I will not be supporting the other kind, those that shipwreck initiatives for change, bully, create harm, endless strife and negativity and who have agendas aimed at advancing themselves as an activist identity. I don’t think they help the ‘whole’ yet the former really do and I’m grateful for them.
Having said all that, I now know that I am most certainly not an activist.
I am not here to get angry all day with Big Food or the food system, though it’s broken and treacherous and you well know I have a particular anger and passion about that.
I use that anger to focus attention on creating an alternative for us all by celebrating farmers and food artisans who bring us something better, who bring us nourishing food without messing up the land upon which they produce it.
I stand for and behind those farmers and focus my anger into a determined passion to create something different for us.
I focus my anger at labelling fraud into CERA – an attempt at collaboration between all the great people in this space to meaningfully and professionally bring clarity to the food (r)evolution.
The food system is the food system, big food is big food – wasting energy attacking them all day and being angry isn’t where you will find me.
I am here as a change agent – with you – to create a viable alternative.
I am here to find solutions, I am here to help connect us meaningfully to the best farmers I can find. I am here to continually push – against some funky odds – for meaningful collaboration and alliances between all the good people in this space.
I am not an activist attacking the current system – I don’t find that fruitful – when I get angry – I create.
You have been on this journey with  me for a long time now and I am ever grateful for that. Our little place in this ®evolution that happens around this store, that happens around the newsletters and this connection and that now too will happen in CERA, is the place where we can be the change we want to see.
I have a propensity for anger as you well know and I find anger very useful when it is used as energy to ‘create’ and ‘motivate’, when it isn’t channelled that way – it just destructs.
I believe in working with people to help create awareness, not attacking them, I believe in modelling change through demonstrating another way – that’s why Organic Emporium, why Jozi Real Food, why CERA – because we aren’t going to change the food system by throwing rocks  – we will change it by building new models.
Of course there is a place for the rock throwers but you won’t find me there, I’m focusing my time on building something better.
I am not a food activist, I am not fighting the current system – I am dead set on finding solutions and creating something different, something more nourishing, something better.
And I shall take no prisoners in my resolve to be the change I want to see and bring the change I want to see. Whenever I get angry, you will find me creating. I will not stop standing for this principle and I will be more discerning going forward about this. Check me when I get stuck in anger – for I do not want to be that person.
Thank you for the journey.
Standing for your right to access the best food from South Africa’s most sustainable farmers,
Debbie Logan
Standing for Collaboration, Standing for Integrity, Standing for Change. Standing Behind Good Farmers. Standing for Our Right To Good Nourishment. Taking Gloves Off. Standing With People Who Want Solutions.
Much love, as always, Debbie Logan
Yours in the Jozi Real Food Revolution,
Debbie 
The Organic Natural and Whole Food Emporium
Organic Blog – www.organicblog.co.za
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debbie@organicemporium.co.za

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