Threading it all together
At the beginning of this class, I was not too sure what capitalism was. I had no idea what to bring with me when having to show up to the first class with an idea of what capitalism meant to us. I did some research and talked to some friends to try and grasp a better understanding. When we were tasked to come up with a theme in regards to capitalism, I thought to myself that food was a topic that affects every human being and with that a theme of sustainability. I thought it would be interesting to focus on sustainability because in my mind it does not go hand in hand with capitalism, and could create some interesting results. I also thought about how we live in a society where productivity is encouraged and sometimes even encouraged over our own well-being. What stemmed at the bottom of this research idea was my past with food, and how much my ideas have changed in the last few years.
I have always been a very Type-A person, and aimed to be a people pleaser no matter what. Often meaning that I needed to be productive and produce something to the best of my abilities. This, was at the root, what my eating disorder had thrived on. I needed to be perfect, I needed to have the best grades, I needed to produce the best work, I needed to produce the most work, and I needed to be the best at absolutely everything. As sad, as it is to think about, I did not make this way of life up, I learned it from my surroundings. I learned it from people not taking an actual lunch break but filling this ‘break’ with a trip to the grocery store, or a doctor’s appointment, and so I internalized the idea that in order to be as productive as possible, I did not have time to eat or sleep – I needed to be a machine. I eventually cracked, and had to glue my pieces back together and I re-learned that in order to be productive I needed to eat, and I needed to sleep. These are basic human needs that allow my body to function on a day-to-day basis, and not eating will not make me more productive, it will in fact, make me less productive.
This piece of background story might be completely irrelevant and the need to be productive was definitely not the only reason for my eating disorder but tying the idea of capitalism and productivity connected the two for me. This background is one of the ways in which I place myself in the loci. The second way I situate myself in the loci is the way in which food is consumed, produced, and bought.
At the beginning of the school year, I started shopping at NU Grocery, because their business model is based on “zero-waste”. The idea behind zero-waste is self-explanatory but when I connected it to this class and the theme of capitalism it didn’t quite make sense. In my mind, I thought that the idea or business model for any business was they wanted to sell as much of their product as possible in order to make a profit. (The goal of capitalism: make a profit no matter the exploitation of all other resources.) In this case the store’s mission was different. They didn’t want you to buy as much as possible, they wanted you to buy exactly what you needed and not more. I liked this idea.
Now that I’ve situated myself in this research project, and shown where I’m coming from, let’s recap what I have learned this semester based on what I published.
In the green squares we have all of the different blog posts that I made this semester. In the pink circles, I pulled out the common themes found in the posts. In the yellow, we have the themes that are at the base of this assignment, and in the blue, we have different ideas and observations that tie everything else together.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The mind map at first glance, just looks like a whole bunch of colours and words. The first round of mending together that was done was situating myself in with the research. The second round of mending that I will do will hopefully tie everything else together in nicely. This mending will be based on two different grocery stores.
NU & Farm Boy
First, Let’s take a step back and look at both stores objectively.
Farm Boy started as a produce stand in Cornwall, ON in 1981, and grew from the idea that people had two options. They could either visit multiple farmers markets in order to get everything they needed or they could go to a traditional grocery store where the produce might not be as fresh. The founders of Farm Boy decided to create a blend of the two, and that’s why instead of carrying the same national brands as traditional grocery stores, they carry local products made from vendors across Ontario. (Farm Boy's strong ties to the growers in the communities it serves have made it a destination for customers looking to buy local., 2020) Farm Boy’s big focuses are mainly on offering a healthy, clean, local diet, and sustainability. (Farm Boy—a holistic approach to sustainability | Canadian Grocer, 2020)
NU started locally in Ottawa from the founders who were trying to live waste-free but realized that in order to make this possible in Ottawa they needed to grocery shop at different stores to get everything they needed. From there, their idea for a zero-waste grocery store began and they created a grocery store where the focus was on waste reduction in order to protect and preserve the planet. Nu partners with local vendors in the Ottawa and surrounding area in order to bring everything from produce to baked goods to kombucha to its customers. (Our values, 2020)
The reason I chose both of these stores is because they focus on locally grown products and bringing the best quality of food to their consumers. Another similarity is that one focuses on zero-waste living and the other on sustainability, again, it is not specified what exactly this means but the definition of the word is to avoid the exhaustion of natural resources. So, similar in the sense that they want to protect the environment but different in how they’re willing to help. The reason I decided to focus on these two stores is because this is where I do my grocery shopping. I love shopping at NU and it helps me feel like I’m helping the world a little bit but I also love the wide variety of products that Farm Boy carries and on the rare occasion appreciate their meat selection. However, from my point of view, this is where it gets its interested. Both of these stores started off as small local shops but now Farm Boy is expanding at an incredible rate. In the Ottawa and surrounding areas there are at least 6 stores, and Farm Boy recently opened a new location in Train Yards Shopping Centre as its biggest location to date. NU, on the other hand has two stores in Ottawa, and they’re not very big. NU’s stores are almost the size of a boutique where you walk in, and you can see all their products and all the different sections of the store. Whereas Farm Boy is a big store, divided into all of their sections that you cannot see all at once upon walking in.
This is where I thought capitalism creeped in, and I won’t compare the two stores in terms of how many shops they have because one’s been around since 1981, and the other since 2017. Rather I will comment on how they’ve set-up their stores. Farm Boy is getting very big and their focus is on bringing in money. The bigger the store, the more space they have for a wider variety of products and the more clients they will bring in. The grandiosity of the store is creating an image and a sort of community that people can be a part of. This might just be my experience, but not many people want to shop at Farm Boy because of how expensive it is but when they do it’s almost feeling like they’re part of this exclusive club that can afford Farm Boy. In that sense Farm Boy has not just created a ‘local’ market across Ontario but they have also creating a hub in the city for the upper class. The store encourages you to buy everything you want because they have it all and it all looks appealing.
NU on the other hand, gives off a similar image of creating a space for like-minded folk in the city to shop locally and reduce their carbon footprint. However, their products are much more affordable and the store encourages you to buy only what you need.
Ergo, the two business models are very different and one is very much wrapped up in the consumerism and capitalist approach to make a profit no matter the cost, and the other is much more situated in the sustainability approach of reduce, reuse, recycle.
TYING OFF THE THREAD
Earlier in this post I showed you the big mind map of where we started, and then I presented my position related to it, and examined two local grocery stores in regards to capitalism and sustainability. We have a couple of things left to tie in: purest form of getting food & quality of food, globalization and a wider variety of food, humans aren’t the only creatures that need to eat, food movements, food and experiences, and a timeline. Using the two grocery stores discussed above I will briefly explain the sections and give an example.
Purest form of getting food and the different quality of foods
The purest way to get food is to pick it from the ground. In our society this has mainly become an activity or an act that someone is capitalizing on. In Ottawa we see this example when it comes to apples, strawberries, pumpkins and even raspberries. They are grown in fields not for the purpose of consuming but rather for the purpose of making a profit regardless of what will go to waste from overgrowing. This activity is also not accessible to all families or members of a community. These fields are often found on the outskirts of towns meaning you need a vehicle to access them and a pound of strawberries, although fresh, is costing you close to 20$. This is where experience with food over the need for food comes into play. We see again, a class divide between the upper classes who can afford to spend 20$ on strawberries whereas lower classes might only have 20-40$ for groceries for the week. This difference in quality of food is found within the same community. Further we see this as well in grocery stores, where a bottle of eggnog at Farm Boy cost 6.99$ and the leading brand at your local chain grocery store is maybe 2.99$ at most. The two factors at play here are, first, capitalism and the ability to price something more expensive because people expect higher class from a grandiose store. Secondly, we have social class because although one product is cheaper, it might also not be organic and not locally produced meaning that it could contain more preservatives. None of this affecting the taste but influencing the quality of the product in the long run.
Food movements and experiences.
To recap on the food movements we have three, two of which I knew existed before the beginning of the class and one that came to my mind throughout the class while learning and reading what other people were talking about. The first food movement was the fast-food movement and it was created to accommodate for people’s busy lifestyles and short breaks from work. It was meant to describe eating food in a fast manner, not sitting down to eat it, and not cooking it. Then we have the slow food movement which was created to counter the effects of globalization that came with the fast food movement. The basis of slow food was to bring people back to their roots, to fully appreciate the quality of the food, the time it took to cook it, and to eat it with loved ones.
I believed that these were the main classification of food experiences and forgot that there are other reasons why people eat certain things. As things were discussed in class and other people talked about their food choices, and eating habits. I remembered that we all have cultures and customs that we adhere to whether we know it or not. As college students, I think our common food consumption source might be McDonald’s. It’s a cheap place to eat that offers option to vegetarian diets, gluten free diets, vegan diets, and there is something in everyone’s price range. My roommate and I have McDonald’s once every two weeks or so, and we do it for the commodity but also because the food is tied to memories. Memories that can go as far back as childhood when you were on a road trip and the only food available was McDonald’s but you were with family, all together, having fun. Sometimes we order it because we forgot to cook food and sometimes, we order it because we want some good food to go with a TV show. The latter doesn’t necessarily tie in to any of the above-mentioned food movements. Rather, it almost creates a new food movement, the hybrid food movement. We can see this food movement shine through in stores like Farm Boy because they use locally produced products to create ‘home-made’ meals for their customers. It could be argued that it is considered fast food but there is the aspect of fully appreciating the quality of the food, which, if you’re shopping at Farm Boy might be the reason, you’re there in the first place.
Timeline of food and globalization
On a similar note, to the experiences mentioned in the previous section, we also have the main reason why we all eat. We all eat because we need fuel to survive. This is a concept that has not changed over time. What has changed over time though, is that humans used to eat for the sole purpose of survival but with globalization and in developed countries some social classes have the ability to eat for an experience. Again, using Farm Boy as our example, this can clearly be seen in this grocery store. Not only are there the different sections of food but there is a variety of food from different origins. This is where the global and the local mix together creating a ‘glocal’ product. A good example of this is their Danish Stroopwafel ice cream sandwiches, it is very likely that the stroopwafel is created from Canadian flour and the ice cream is made from Ontario milk but the recipe is not of Canadian origin, it is Danish, hence, glocal. In fact, I don’t think the concept of ‘glocal’ is too far off from the concept of the hybrid food movement. In a way, living in a capitalist society it is quite hard to live a more mindful life. Instead of creating a movement that would counter the effects of something. The hybrid food movement was created out of necessity to keep some aspects of the slow food movement alive, like making stroopwafels but using aspects of the fast food to have them readily available on grocery store shelves.
Humans aren’t the only creatures that need to eat
Lastly, we, as the leading species on earth it is important to also be aware of our actions. When we eat or create food for consumption it’s not only going to impact the farmers farming it, or the people consuming it but it will likely also impact the animals in the area. Any new field that is developed for harvesting will need a road leading to it, and this road will require cutting down trees. This will destroy animals’ homes, and interrupt the functioning of eco-systems maybe even introduce new species to the eco-system. To put this in more concrete terms, I will use NU grocery store as an example. Since they procure everything locally whether from a local egg farm or an Ottawa based baker their food is not travelling a big distance. This means that food is not traveling many miles to make it on the shelves. By not traveling far there is less CO2 emissions produced. The other way we see their mindfulness to the environment is in the zero-waste mindset. This not only helps animals in the area but can have a ripple effect to animals in other areas or eco systems of the world. There are many statistics that tell us how many of our waste ends up in the ocean, and there might not be a way to know the accuracy of this but if we don’t produce waste than we can help the worlds eco-system as a whole.
At the end of the day, maybe I did learn something. I am not sure that I have a concrete definition of what capitalism means to me. Nevertheless, I’ve seen how it can impact different social classes, the production of food, the procurement of food, as well as animals and ecosystems of the world. The only blog post I haven’t talked about is the one where I drew out my idea of pills of sustenance/energy to get us through the day. For a while, I wanted this to be real, I wanted someone to create a pill that you could take once every 24hrs to keep functioning. I see now that if we ever get to that point than maybe capitalism has taken over a little too much and we are truly being seen as workers and not as humans if we can’t even have the time to eat in one day. The other thing I realized is that there is so much more to food than just eating to survive. I know I am lucky to be in a position where I can, most of the time, eat for pleasure and experience over survival. I also see how much culture and memories can be passed down through cooking and eating – something I appreciate before. Food is both something that is easy to capitalize on because we need it for survival and is something that we need to make time for because it is a basic need and we are humans not just workers.
Canadiangrocer.com. 2020. Farm Boy—A Holistic Approach To Sustainability | Canadian Grocer. [online] Available at: <https://www.canadiangrocer.com/kruger-sustainability/going-green-kruger-sustainability/farm-boy-a-holistic-approach-to-sustainability-69569> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
Farm Boy. 2020. Farm Boy's Strong Ties To The Growers In The Communities It Serves Have Made It A Destination For Customers Looking To Buy Local.. [online] Available at: <https://www.farmboy.ca/departments/local/> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
NU Grocery. 2020. Our Values. [online] Available at: <https://nugrocery.com/pages/behind-the-label> [Accessed 10 December 2020].