Ontario: Tobermory to Wiarton

18 September 2014 – Day 92


Today’s cycle was gorgeous. There were the friendliest caramel-coloured cows chasing us through the fields and it was cold but sunny all day.


We were keen to check out Lion’s Head, but decided to save our legs because of Muntasir’s shins. We stopped at a bakery instead, and were a little disappointed. It was an organic bakery and had a funky sculpture walk, but the staff were not too friendly and the products didn’t taste great either. It seemed like in their rush to be alternative, they had forgotten about delivering quality products. I really appreciate organic, fair-trade and ethical initiatives, but these should be in addition to quality, not as a replacement for. It is also interesting how being alternative is now becoming so common that in some areas, being normal could be the new alternative.


I used to always look for organic, but then I started realizing how much of a selling point, rather than a philosophy, that organic has become. It has become so regulated, so expensive, so niche and so unsustainable. Does it have to be that extreme? Perhaps it does because mass production methods now have also become so extreme? Do the scales have to tip dramatically to the other side to reach a balance?


We came across so many people in Canada that were doing things naturally, just quietly, like so many people in rural areas around the world. One farmer explaining the order of thirds – a third goes to the weather, a third goes to the insects and a third is the part you get to eat. He did not have an organic stamp, but surely what he is doing is better for the environment than buying bottled organic juice in excessively fancy plastic packaging? His products only have to travel from the garden to the table, whereas that bottled juice has to travel halfway across the world to get to the shelves of your local ‘health food’ store.


Are we focusing all our attention on the smaller picture and forgetting about the impact of our supposedly good actions on the bigger picture? Is our rush for health food killing us just as much as mass produced food is? If we really care about it, why don’t we grow it ourselves – or make the time to go to a local market? So often it seems that health food shops are just guilt alleviating short cuts that are responsible for huge carbon mileage. In one that we went in recently in Blind River, the only local product they sold was maple syrup. In addition, health food shops contradict seasonality and locality. They allow you to buy anything, anytime. Sure, coconut water from the Philippines is healthy, but honestly, in Canada, in wintertime, is it really what your body needs?


One of the most interesting examples we saw was the Mennonite colonies. Their food was simply branded as food, but it was actually all naturally grown. It did not have a stamp, but they use age-old farming methods, do not rely on power and do not use damaging pesticides, insecticides or industrial fertilizers (from what I could gather). Lets be honest, micro greens are not about to actually feed anybody. The bursting fruit and vegetable stands run by the Mennonites are doing that though.


I am torn – I do not believe in the over-usage of artificial pesticides, insecticides or fertilizers, but I also do not believe that natural food should not be niche, overly expensive or a fad. We are all facing lifestyle issues related to the quality of the food we eat, and the health of our planet, so we do need to change the current status quo. Organic is great, but I think the first consideration should be local, the second should be seasonal, the third should be food with ingredient lists that we can actually pronounce (and do not contain numbers) and the fourth should be packaging. Organic can slot right in after that.


Later in the day we stopped at the Farm Market and Bakery, which was heaven. Besides the Mennonite colonies, this is the first place we stopped at which actually stocked a good range of Ontario-grown produce and homemade products.


There is a huge excess of huge pumpkins in Canada in the fall. It’s like jackfruit in Bangladesh or mangoes in Northern Australia (to use two examples I have eaten first-hand). I wonder what small percentage actually gets eaten, even with all the pumpkin-focused creations that appear – pumpkin pie, pumpkin beer, etc? How much predictably gets wasted every single year?


We stopped at Wiarton (population 2200) in the evening, and stayed at an interesting place run by a Polish gentleman, called the Top Notch Motel. Wiarton was a little touristy, but also historical. We liked it.


Garmin 200 reading: Distance: 77.81km/Ascent 458m/Descent 438m

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