Creative Food Economy Emerges in Ontario


Hamilton Farmers Market. Credit: Communications Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food

In North America the food economy has long been dominated by commodities. A big part of the sustainable and local food movement is a direct response to systems that are controlled by outside interests. New models for food system are continually emerging. Martin Prosperity Institute, a "think-tank on the role of sub-national factors in global economic prosperity", recently published a report on one of these models, From Kraft to Craft: innovation and creativity in Ontario's Food Economy. At the core of the report is the concept of a "creative food economy".

The Institute published this handy chart to explain the differences between the industrial and creative food economies.

FeaturesOld 'Industrial Food' EconomyNew 'Creative Food' Economy
Prototypical companyKraft — cheese productsCraft/artisanal cheese
Sources of economic powerEconomic power is centralized National/international production, processing and marketing
Concentrated farms and control of land, resources and capital
Economic power is diffused and decentralized from owners or controllers of means of production to individual, highly creative knowledge-workers and extra-firm institutions
Sources of quality and innovationQuality is a measure of added value in highly-processed environments or incremental innovation in packaging and marketing of existing food products (e.g., 27 different kinds of Oreo cookies)Quality is a measure of taste, terroir, and talent of entrepreneurs making new and innovative products
Enterprises' attitudes towards placeFirm or company located close to traditional production inputs like raw land, and transportation networks. Little relationship between place and product making. Preferences for place are subordinate to traditional company inputs.Traditional production dimension important, but place becomes central to quality food making, marketing and consuming

The Institute feels that sustainable food economies have "profound implications for sustainable economic development" in general because of food's intimate connection to place.

Those passionate about food and food research are inspired because food, unlike any other commodity on the planet, is intimate: we eat it and therefore how we eat it has implications for a host of policy related issues around local job creation, health, hunger, ecosystem protection, carbon footprint, labour practices, cultural awareness and diversity. As Kevin Morgan so eloquently states, "food is a prism through which we can explore the scope and complexity of many of our most pressing economic, social and ecological issues". Once we understand this, we can begin to make significant policy change.

Martin Prosperity Institute

Tags: Agriculture | Economics | Local Food | Ontario

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