Thinking Food, Agriculture, Local, Corporate-type Things…

A new Starbucks recently opened in Dundas, which is distressing to me insofar as Dundas was a small strip of small businesses until now. One of which is a terrific bike-themed café with the best espresso I’ve ever had. The coffee is roasted locally in Concord, Ontario with one eye on environmental sustainability, which raises a series of interesting questions about sustainable and fair trade practices, priorities, and processes. I’m less concerned about the longevity of my local café, which I think has identified a niche that should allow it to thrive, and more about the aesthetics of the downtown shops.

But that’s not what I want to talk about (today). Just a couple of doors away from the new Starbucks is a wonderful butcher that draws its meat from its own local farms and a family-owned (since 1915) grocer’s. Across the street is a cheese shop with a variety of local and international cheeses. My brother is in town this term, teaching a course on animals and technology. He’s a vegetarian and experimenting with veganism at the moment.

All of which has had me thinking about food and where we get it from and the relationship we have with our foods. I wish I could say that my family does all its shopping in the various shops in Dundas, but our budget sadly doesn’t afford that luxury. But between my brother’s course and Starbucks’ arrival, I’ve been ruminating more about this. Also, too, a very promising doctoral student interested in the history of cheese (more on that some other time).

Almost a decade ago, I wrote this as part of a larger conversation about foods, their history, and how they influence our social and environmental pasts and futures. It was subsequently published on Common Dreams (complete with pretty pictures) and a variety of other places, too. José Bové is a pretty interesting character. He’s not really an environmentalist, but you can see how he might be considered one. It serves as a reminder that environmentalism increasingly extends well beyond nature and into a number of social contexts.

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