On Monday, December 3, 2012, the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council, met at New College to discuss Growing Businesses, the Food Way. With over 100 community members in attendance, the meeting was facilitated by Bryan Gilvesy, our keynote speaker and moderator for the evening, and five exciting panelists. This event was done in collaboration with the Toronto Food Policy Council and University of Toronto’s New College Global Food Equity Project.
Lauren Baker, Coordinator of the TFPC, Michelle MacIntosh and Sasha McNicoll, Chair and Vice-Chair of the TYFPC, started off the evening with introductions. For TYFPC committee updates, volunteer positions, and other opportunities, please see here.
Bryan Gilvesy of YU Ranch, our Moderator and Keynote speaker, gave some tips from the YU Ranch experience, and spoke on the importance of influencing Change. Start off by asking others on how to be successful? How have others done it in the past? How do we get there? Faced with food safety issues, food chain busts, global warming, disgruntled consumers and farmers, YU Ranch made several changes such as re-integrating themselves into environmental and climate causes, reutilizing undervalued skills, restoring native grassland and wildlife, and reconnecting to the consumers. Bryan sees several revolutionary trends that are redefining the metrics of success: transparency, redefining value, sustainability, and removing the middle men in supply chain.
Our first panelists were Henry Faber of Bento Miso and Leila Timmins of GathererTO. Bento Miso, is a coworking space for web and game developers, and also for physical projects in food and food businesses. GathererTO is working on expanding space to include a shared use kitchen, and space for food start-ups, food writing, food photography, event space, facilitation of food policy workshops and educational evenings.
Next, Seema Pabari of Tiffinday. Dissatisfied after 25 years of working in the corporate sector, Seema started Tiffinday. The triple bottom line for Tiffinday is: Profit, Environment, and Social Hiring. Zero carbon vegan lunches in tiffins (Tupperware) delivered on a 3 wheel e-bike. Seema says that the most heartwarming part of her business is the hiring of people who face barriers to employment.
Matt Basile, of Fidel Gastro’s, decided to become his own boss and made his business model around having a good time. He created a 55 page business plan and approached the bank, but was turned down. Matt has been able to break conventional concepts of business through the use of pop-up model. Starting with no money, no staff and space, Fidel Gastro has been able to expand, to include a food truck and even a reality television show. He is still able to operate under his goal that food must be fun.
Last but not least, panelist Erica Lemieux of City Seed Farms. Erica brought a new method of farming SPIN-Farming (Small Plot Intensive Farming) from Saskatchewan over to High Park, Toronto. She started by handing out brochures to her neighbours, and within 48 hours, she received 8 responses from people who were interested. City Seed Farm utilizes backyards to grow organic produce. This past summer she sold to two farmers markets and two restaurants.
Bryan asked the panel how long it takes to build critical mass and find returns?
- Matt says he was able to find returns on the first night when people showed up. Be smart in the beginning and careful of food and labour costs. Be prepared to not sleep, work hard and believe in what you do. Be open to suggestions and ‘copy’ people who are doing it right.
- Henry said that the metrics of success is measured against your own values. If you’re satisfied and still have a roof over your head, then you’re doing well. Prove assumptions in the least wasteful ways.
Bryan asked Seema about running a business based on the returns of ‘heartwarming’?
- Seema says don’t do the business if it doesn’t make money. Money can enforce environmental and social justice. If the business does make money, do it with your heart. This drives her more and gives her more purpose.
Bryan asked Erica and Leila, how they are going to change the world?
- Erica said by being carbon neutral: using a bike trailer to get around, farming within a 3km radius, and using organic methods of farming. City Seed Farms will be selling to the West End Food Co-op at reduced prices of under a dollar. City Seed Farms has also been able to fix the problem of landowners with land but no time, and farmers with time but no land.
- Leila says that through small offerings of space. Offering goes back to the abundant supply of ideas and fantastic actions in an affordable space.
Audience member asked about the legal barriers faced by small business.
- Matt said that his biggest challenge was having a kitchen to cook out of and the need for business insurance. In the food truck business, there are red tape and by-law issues. Consult a food lawyer. Seema says that it is important to get the food handlers safety certification. You will be inspected by public health.
Audience member asked about scaling up in the food business.
- Henry said to make use of technology and human resources. Get support from the community, and make connections. Other panelists emphasized the importance of reinvesting what you have.
- Education Committee: Facilitators and Helpers needed for the Introduction to Food Policy workshop. The committee is also accepting submissions for its journal Gathering‘s second volume (http://journal.tyfpc.ca). Contact Kathleen@tyfpc.ca for more info.
- Network Committee: Looking for volunteers for a network database to expand networks, in terms of diversity, perspective, and in different areas of Toronto, contact Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Advocacy: The committee is looking for help to add youth and food voices to existing campaigns, contact Sarah.email@example.com for more details.
- Food Secure Canada will be having a Youth Caucus, please contact Sasha.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- City Hall Deputations on the budget will be happening on December 10th and 11th.
Join us for our next community meeting on Monday, February 4th, 2013.