December 2, 2013 – the 2014 workshop program is confirmed, chosen title: Catching The Wave.
Here’s how to maximize your time and get all the possible benefit from your time at Guelph (warning: this explanation is long so either go grab a chai or read it later when you’re more relaxed):
2014 EXPO HOURS FOR: February 1 & 2
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 1 – 9.00 am-5.30 pm • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2 – 10.00 am -4.30 pm.
REMINDER: !!!!! - the Expo is free, just walk in the door, hang up your coat ($1.00 in Registration UC103) and then go to town, as they say in the trade. Or keep your coat on but we’re advising you that by the time you carry your coat PLUS load yourself up with all the organic products you’ll be stuffing into your grocery bags, you’ll be exhausted.
All registered workshop guests received an 80-page Proceedings booklet containing all detailed descriptions when they registered.
We’ve eliminated the terms ‘introductory’ and ‘advanced’ for the Friday-Saturday-Sunday programs but we’re considering adding them back for a future year. As always, anyone can attend ANY workshop on this program and still feel comfortable there. However, in many cases, such as the more advanced Friday seminars, this program may be a continuation of that speaker’s previous years’ presentation (thus it is more ‘advanced’). This simply means that the speaker wants to keep the flow of info and may not take introductory questions. The speaker has the option to defer any of these: **till the end of the workshop or **to a private conversation with you out in the Centre 6 Coffee Shop at a later time or **out on the Expo floor in a scrum of 15 people. In all cases when posing your workshop question, keep it short, concise, relevant and of interest to others in the room.
Some of the 3-hour Friday seminar organizers spend literally dozens of hours preparing their panels so the time-flow is critical – 3 hours is not enough time to solve some of these persistent organic challenges . You can see that the 4x 3-hour Friday programs are more complex programs, in many cases featuring up to 4-6 presenters.
If you are attending for networking & info gathering……… we suggest you spend the extra time and $$$ to take in the late Friday afternoon Organic Food & Wine Dinner. Up to 200 people gather for a great social networking event – you can get more of your queries covered there and probably make some new friends.
So, not to despair as you search for info on how this event runs and what you should attend. For example for workshops, as a novice going to an obviously advanced workshop here are some helpful hints:
- take good notes
- read your 80-page Proceedings booklet carefully (included in your guest workshop registration)
- collect business cards, contact names or pamphlets at the end of the talk (+ Expo booth #’s for the Saturday-Sunday show where you will meet many of the presenters)
- plan to ‘gather as much info on this topic as you can for your own future research
If you are unsuccessful at getting your question answered in a particular workshop, write the question down and present it to the speaker by private communication later. Also, most Expo exhibitors will be happy to spend 20 minutes with you dealing with in-depth queries. This is why the Guelph Expo is so exhausting – there are only so many conversations you can have in an hour ! Finally, you will literally be pulled in 5 directions at once when at the Guelph show. This is normal so plan right now to budget your time. If you become laden with goods, organic foods, books and materials, the UC103 coat-check will check them for $1.00 so be sure to keep agile and drink lots of water + get a good sleep.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT THE 2014 “RELATED EDUCATIONAL & PUBLIC MEETINGS” - SEE 2014 MEET & GREETS ON TOP MENU.
These are numerous related gatherings, research reports, consultations and spontaneous public presentations, already confirmed – the issues were proposed and the rooms are now being assigned (free rooms given by the Conference on the University Centre 3rd & 4th floors):
- Organic Council of Ontario ‘Organic Awards’ – downtown Guelph on the Saturday evening – contact Organic Council for details – www.organiccouncil.ca
- Organic Ag. Centre of Canada always runs a ‘Research Needs Meeting’ where any member of the general public can talk to Canada’s leading organic crop & livestock researchers to set priorities – room location listed at Meet & Greets
- REAP-Canada AGM – details now announced – Contact: Meredith Kushnir, REAP-Canada.
- Several others… see the 2014 Meet & Greets menu above. It is almost full for Saturday & quickly filling for Sunday – these mini-events are generally free (unless admission charges are stated such as the OCO Awards event) and represent a Conference within a Conference
Organic Sector Profiles & Examples
A lot of people have heard stories about the Guelph Conference but don’t really know where it fits into their own world view. This event is often called a ‘mid-winter organic experience’ and there is truth in that – everyone attending can take away a piece of the organic business for their own use during a late January period when seed catalogues appear on the coffee table and “spring is just around the corner.” The Guelph Conference isn’t quite a mainstream fair like the Royal Winter Fair (tens of thousands of consumers and producers gathering in a huge hall). The Guelph show actually has the air of a grassroots, regional, organic weekend event. In a good year up to 2000 people take part over the entire ‘Guelph Organic Week.’ Going into its 32nd year, this Conference has grown right alongside the Canadian organic movement which traces its roots back to the 1950′s, 1960′s and 1970′s.
For all those interested in how food marketing exhibitions work, there are virtually 100 shows in Canada that you can attend. These range from grocery marketing shows (Grocery Innovations/Toronto-October) to holistic health shows (Whole Life Expo/Toronto-November) to foodservice shows (Food & Beverage/March) to farmer equipment shows, to the COG-Toronto annual February show, to trade-only organic/natural health product shows (CHFA Expo East & West). In fact, the Guelph Conference encompasses many or all of these features/focuses, with a strong consumer component. The Guelph Conference, featuring free public Trade Expo entry and low workshop costs, makes it easy for anyone with a basic organic interest in organics to see:
- farming exhibits
- 1-acre gardening advocates
- foodservice suppliers
- certificates – how to get certified, how to train on a farm, how to develop organic inputs
- processors & distributors selling bulk wholesale & truckload orders
- retail sales of organic products, seeds, books, tools
- public advocacy and quasi-political agricultural movements (some not so ‘quasi’)
- innovative technology and education programs in support of organics
- other important components of a quick-growing sector (solar, fair trade, home sprouting)
WHO PARTICIPATES ??? – The Guelph Conference actually serves at least 10 audiences
As just mentioned, many shows are ‘TRADE-ONLY’ – they are geared only to processors, distributors, retailers, etc. and do not have a public component. That is, they focus strictly on trade sales because distributors want to sell to retailers… but they don’t serve the consumer education component and the public can generally not enter these shows.
But the Guelph Conference & Expo has a wider focus – which takes in both the ‘trade aspect’ (processors selling organic crops and finished products to stores) as well as the ‘consumer aspect’ (presenting these organic products to you, for marketing, education and networking + educating you on where to buy). Thus, this event actually has at least 10 different audiences which can and do benefit from attending the Guelph Expo:
- Organic producers: certified and transitional producers can network with buyers, sellers, fellow organic producers, suppliers of organic-specific equipment and learn about organic training programs. These growers can also bring samples and try to sign long-term contracts with traders and buyers.
- Interested mainstream producers: a grower not familiar with organic systems can kick the tires, get introduced to organic certification standards, find out the prices being paid for organic crops so s/he can compare this to ‘commodity’ type prices, get comfortable with the 3-year organic transition to organics and network with all the educational/support/training bodies which guide farmers through transition.
- Consumers: sample many of the brands sold in organic food stores and supermarkets. These products will be at the Guelph Expo for consumers to taste, discuss, see, touch and buy, right on the show floor. Also, the Conference’s 40-workshop program is one of the best for educating consumers with relevant info. Everyone from “novice” right up to “the consumer ready to buy land and get into organic production on their own” should consider taking in a Guelph workshop.
- Retailers: store owners are an increasing component of the Guelph show. Retailers attend to source new organic products and to get these into their stores from the many distributors and brokers who attend the Expo. Retailers also link up with certified growers for future direct supply.
- Organic traders, processors & suppliers: these well-developed businesses come to network with their peers, buy and sell crops, services and products, go to private trader-business meetings and to trade-invite hospitality suites. Generally speaking, these trading companies add to the million $ economic aspect of this Conference.
- Researchers: this is an ideal spot for organic crop research to be born. One of the event’s sponsoring non-profit organizations (OACC – Organic Ag. Centre of Canada) received a national, multi-million $ organic research co-ordinating grant. Research projects on organic food viability are born at this show and you can talk directly to the organic researchers at the Expo at the OACC booth and also in the “Research Needs Consultation” room – where we are just about to confirm a room.
- Media, both mainstream publications and organic-focused, niche newsletters: this is a perfect spot to gather story material, to research stories directly on a first-person basis with the marketers, to line up future advertisers and to get new writers and contributors. The Conference last year ran an Eco-Writer’s Intensive workshop for those wanting to forge a career. Check out the several booths with the Organic Media Partner sign hanging at their table – these are the confirmed supporters of organics. Our Media Relations professional, Katrina Simmons, can link with you pre-Conference or at the Conference (see Contacting Us for Katrina’s info).
- Academic professionals: University staff and graduate students can talk directly with the farmer activists in organic production. By coming out to the Expo, you can get the sense of the organic sector and then plan which new course materials need to be designed. OACC (listed above) has a table right on the Main Level of the Expo and they can provide invaluable guidance in these issues.
- Students: both those who are ecologically-inclined and those who have only just begun to think about organic alternatives. Students can find jobs, get internships, do work-stints, buy and sample products, participate in various study programs – and in some cases “these students have their life-path changed while here” (Conf. Mgr’s comment: Hey, why not? Get involved… this could be a good career.) And for those students just walking through the U.C. who ‘stumble upon’ the Conference, please stop and try a sample of the organic fair trade chocolate ! We often get inquiries from high school students in a ‘sustainability class’ and we strongly encourage this kind of attendance to take advantage of the cheap Saturday-Sunday student rates.
- Others not mentioned above: if you are simply an interested individual who has heard about various food claims (and may be skeptical or curious about this info) or someone who likes to read labels but who has never bought organic products, you should attend the Saturday-Sunday Expo. Nobody will ask you to commit to anything, to sign up for anything, to buy this or that membership, or to wear a button saying “I Grow An Organic Garden.” In other words, we welcome genuinely interested people who want to get the sense of what the food business is all about, without committing to anything. Actually, this is perfect – a deal, as they say. Cost: $0, except for maybe a $2 Guelph transit bus token plus $1 to hang up your coat and a $2.00 cup of organic cider – total cost $5.00.
- Hoping to see you there !
So to sum up, the Guelph Conference welcomes all interested parties. Organic is a business where you can be a consumer, producer, researcher, product developer, trucker and retailer all at the same time ! That’s organics!
A commentary on whether “History is on our side” – all opinions are welcome BECAUSE WE COULD BE WRONG ABOUT THIS. ESSENTIALLY: LAUGH, THREATEN, JOIN – a saying which is as old as the hills.
“All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; and Third, it is accepted as self-evident.” — Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
At first, when the Conference was getting started, 1982-1992, it was a novelty… really just considered as a passing fad by the media and the agri-conoscienti. In the next phase – the growth phase, from about 1992-2002, the event represented the increasing strength of organics as an economic reality (Europe, U.S., gaining momentum in Canada). So the sense was that the conventional system was working hard to disprove the viability of the business model even though some big companies were emerging. In the current phase, 2002-2014, ‘organic’ is now a reality (as in the 3rd facet of the above laugh-threaten-join statement by Schopenhauer). Everyone from President’s Choice (TM) to the local farmers’ market has endorsed it. But this success has made it vulnerable.
Why – because organic has strict standards… and because the public tends to be swayed by the allure of inventive claims which growers and marketers choose to make, with or without 3rd party oversight. However, that is one of the Conference’s main jobs – to present authentic, certified organic products from the producer-manufacturer ‘direct to the public.’ The motivated consumer who attends the Guelph show is very aware……. s/he is someone who is conversant in all the sub-issues in agriculture (GMO awareness, pesticides, adulteration, claims, environmental sustainability, reading the fine print on labels). This consumer is a loyal user and supporter, willing to spend a little more for a premium organic food product and very supportive of organic farmers wherever they can be found. Many consumers who attend our show also want to get into their own organic production at some point in the future on their own land. That’s why we focus on innovative training programs which will guide you into the farming business.
Finally, over the last 10 years, i.e. about the last 1/3 of our “generation,” the consumer has been presented with so many new organic product choices, as well as services which didn’t exist before now (on-line sourcing and Google references). Events like The Annual Guelph Conference have increased consumers’ organic product variety and selection, price availability and cosmetic appeal… and home food production. No doubt, many new products have come out of this show. This is what we work for – continued organic market development.
See you in January, 2014 to CATCH THE WAVE !