Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Food Activists: Dave Friend a.k.a. Mr. Organic

Welcome to a new series on After the Harvest called Food Activists! This ongoing series will feature people who are working to make change in our current food systems! Our first Food Activist is a man named Dave Friend, otherwise known as Mr. Organic. I recently became aware of Dave's work, and what he is doing is incredibly inspiring, to say the least.

In a nutshell, Mr. Organic (Dave) teaches organic gardening. He is empowering people to take their health into their own hands and learn how to grow their own food. His mission is "raising the profile, promoting the awareness and increasing the availability of health-friendly organic food."

Based in Sidney, British Columbia, Dave teaches people of all ages, but a major focus of his work involves teaching the younger generation more about where their food comes from, how to grow it, and why it's so important to grow your own food.

Examples of his programs include: "What is food, where does it come from?", "Food Security and Sustainability", and "Creating Organic Food Gardens". Through workshops, seminars, camps and field trips, Dave is doing his part to change how people approach food security, and he's doing it one passionate, dirty, green thumb at a time. I had a chance to find out more about his work and his own food memories from Mr. Organic himself:

After the Harvest (ATH): What initially inspired you to get into the business of educating others about organic food?

Mr. Organic (MO): I initially volunteered my time with the Victoria Chamber of Commerce to visit schools as a business consultant. This is where you guide/mentor a specific class through a entrepreneur-based project. I chose organic, business-related projects such as farms, health stores, home delivery services, restaurants etc. The various programs and presentations that I now offer all stem from being involved with the aforementioned project.

ATH: What advice would you have for a first time veggie and herb gardener?

MO: Do some basic research at the library and on the Internet, and talk to people who grow herbs and vegetables. Then if you still think you want to do it....just do it!

ATH: What is your earliest food memory?

MO: Watching/helping cows being milked by hand and then drinking the milk straight away - at the age of three.

ATH: Are there any notable restaurants you enjoy in B.C. that are committed to local, sustainable and/or organic food?

MO: I don't eat out too much and I am not sure if there is any restaurant that serves totally local/organic food. However, I have had some excellent meals on Commercial Drive in Vancouver that claim to serve a "high percentage" of local/organic food.

ATH: What do you see in the future for Mr. Organic? Any new projects on the horizon?

MO: Breaking News! "Growing Young Farmers" is my next project -- convincing all the relevant decision-makers that school students from grade 5 and up should be directly involved in structured, organized, supervised and coordinated programs. Programs linked to the educational curriculum! Programs that have students growing health-friendly food on a substantial scale!

Many thanks to Dave for his time and energy! I hope someday we will see many more "Mr. Organics" all over the world working to help us connect more with the food we eat by understanding how it's grown and appreciating its importance to a healthy lifestyle and a healthy community.

I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse of one of many Food Activists that I intend to introduce to you over the next few months! For more about Dave and his work, you can visit his website.

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