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by Jeff Johnston



Knives & Forks is a group of people so diverse it's hard to believe we could find common ground. What keeps us together is our desire to see organic foods have a higher profile.;

—Chef Matthew Jamieson;

Knives and Forks – Advocates for Organic Agriculture (known to most as simply Knives & Forks) is a non-profit organization that promotes the environmental and human benefits of organic agriculture, primarily to people residing in Toronto and surrounding urban areas. Knives & Forks was formed in 1989 by Toronto chefs Jamie Kennedy and Michael Stadtlander to unite chefs with organic producers and promote the need for an organic farmers' market. Since then, it has grown to include Southern Ontario chefs and restauranteurs who want to use the highest quality, freshest chemical-free food; farmers wanting to market their delicious and nutritious organic food in Metro Toronto; and enlightened consumers looking for urban access to locally grown organic foods. Gary Hoyer, chef at the Tutto Bene in Thornhill, likes to be involved in the promotion of organic agriculture because it fits his lifestyle. Gary believes that "nature has been abused and forsaken for so long, it's time to get back to treating the earth with respect." Borgo Antico's pastry chef Lauren Boyington feels it is "ethically satisfying to be involved with organics.";

The organization has long been known for its weekly organic market in Toronto (see page 10). The recent growth and increased popularity of THE Organic Farmers' Market, with support from the Mirvish Village Business Association, has given Knives & Forks the opportunity to focus on other educational, fundraising and sponsorship activities. Chris Klugman of Wayne Gretzky's in Toronto likes "the appeal of developing communication and cooperation among chefs and farmers and providing a benefit for the community." Chris now has a greater appreciation of the importance of developing organics from the work he's done with Knives & Forks.;

The chefs in Knives & Forks know the way to a person's heart (and chequebook) is via the stomach. They have created fundraising events that fill the stomach with delectable food, the heart with a desire for more, and the mind with information on why they should be eating it, where to find it, and what to do to ensure that organic food is always available.;

Feast of Fields, Knives & Forks' annual extravaganza, is an afternoon of gastronomic bliss in the country (see Winter/94 COGNITION: "A Cause to Celebrate"). Every fall, owners, chefs and staff from southern Ontario restaurants, bakeries, catering companies, breweries and wineries gather together in a rural setting near Toronto (past events have been held at farms, vineyards and a college) and prepare an organic buffet for hundreds of people. Guests wind their way along paths through the fields to each participant's location, greeting old friends and making new ones as they go. Feast of Fields is Knives & Forks' major annual fundraising event, and is the main activity of the year for promoting and educating the public on organics: farmers and non-profit organizations such as COG are given a chance to sell their produce and share information with the guests.;

Every March, to celebrate the start of a new growing season, Knives & Forks hosts its Spring Symposium in Toronto. Farmers, chefs, and organic food supporters meet to listen to guest speakers, take part in panel discussions and network, and eat another mouthwatering organic meal. John Baby, chef at Café la Gaffe in Toronto, found that these Knives & Forks events have allowed him to work with other chefs and learn about organics, knowledge that he takes to his work at Café la Gaffe.;

The money raised by Knives & Forks supports some very worthy causes in the organic movement. Beginning this year, Knives & Forks is sponsoring the Heritage Seed Program's heritage garlic collection as an ongoing project. The Guelph Organic Conference also received financial support this year. In the past, the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) has been very supportive of Knives & Forks, so this year the association reciprocated by helping OCIA in its work to provide certification standards and education for farmers on organic growing methods.;

Knives & Forks is sponsoring a show on the 1993 and 1994 Feast of Fields events for Field of Greens, a cable TV program about organic agriculture. It is also supporting COG by funding this issue of COGNITION.;

To inform the public about the organization, Knives & Forks is producing its own booklet/directory. Scheduled for release this fall, it will include information on organics, where to buy organic food and where to eat organic meals. In addition, Knives & Forks is working with farmers and the Mirvish Village Association to revitalize the businesses and the surrounding community. Lorene Sauro, owner of Beyond Words Desserts Inc., is very excited about this project. "What amazes me is that in Knives & Forks we find ourselves involved in all sorts of events, and just when we thought we'd done it all, along came the opportunity with the Mirvish Village Association to help stimulate the economic growth of the neighborhood. I think it's one of the most exciting things we've been doing," says Lorene. "No one's ever done anything like this – a non-profit organization, farmers and a business organization working together to revitalize a community.";

Knives & Forks has been a catalyst for the increased availability of locally grown organic food in the Toronto area: THE Organic Farmers' Market, Feast of Fields, and the Spring Symposium have brought the superior taste and nutrition and environmental benefits of organic food to the mouths and minds of many people who may not have been exposed to organics otherwise. ;

If you would like to participate in and support Knives & Forks, or think that the Knives & Forks idea would adapt well to your area of the country, why not join? Membership costs $40 per year and entitles you to discounts at events as well as a subscription to the newsletter Feast of Fields. Send your membership information to Knives & Forks at 301 Westmoreland Avenue, Toronto M6H 3A4, or call for more information (416) 532-3997, fax (416) 532-6605 during business hours.;

Spring is well underway now. As farmers turn their attention to their fields and animals, hundreds of Toronto area citizens are beginning to dream about this year's bounty of local organic foods. Their eyes glaze over as they envision mounds of just-picked produce and fresh meats and eggs. Behind it all, Knives & Forks members quietly prepare for the next Feast of Fields, which will allow them to continue their work of promoting organics and community development in the city.;



Jeff Johnston is Vice-President of Canadian Organic Growers and is actively involved in the promotion of organic food in Toronto.



Copyright © 1995. Jeff Johnston.

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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