Vancouver must be the most organic city in the world. Organic food is everywhere. Conventional food seems to be the exception. It’s such a modern city buzzing with vitality. There are large supermarkets (Wholefoods) that only sell organic produce.
Another interesting fact is that within Vancouver there are 110 community gardens/allotments. The mayor of Vancouver was an organic farmer and processor and he initiated a community garden outside City Hall.
After a 20 hour exhausting journey we arrived in Buenos Aires. I would have imagined hustle and bustle and people running around everywhere – but no, it was one of the most relaxed and friendliest cities we have come across. Everyone smiles and enjoys life and most importantly drinks Yerba Mate from a gourd cup. Mate is a native plant that is related to Holly. It’s a great coffee substitute and after getting used to it – delicious. Families in parks, people in offices and even during farm visits – everyone brings their gourd and a flask with hot water and starts to brew their yerba mate which is quite a ritual in itself. The owner of the mate cup takes the first swig through a metal straw and then passes it around the group of people. You never thank the owner until you are finished. If you thank them after your first sip you won’t get a second go. I wonder if this drink which appears to be a lot healthier than coffee could make it into Europe?
Another native crop to Argentina is Stevia – unfortunately we didn’t see any growing there during our 4 day stay in Argentina.
Sorry I got side-tracked alittle– farming in Argentina is large-scale. The farmer always lives in the city and checks in with the farm manager about once per week. Given that Argentina is such a vast country – who would have thought that 90% of Argentinians live in cities? Not only is there no government support for farming in Argentina – it’s quite the opposite. Farmers had to pay an export tax of 30% on all crops that are exported and that is on top of normal taxes. So they only get 50% of the value of their crops. The new government is slowly changing this and farmers are more positive. They don’t think it’s fair competition, especially when farmers in other countries get subsidised. The Australians and New Zealanders happily agreed with that.
We saw wonderful co-operation amongst farmers in Argentina. They formed a group called CREA. There are 2000 members and they form small local groups and exchange knowledge and share problems. Each group meets once per month and they also employ an agronomist. They meet on one of the farms and in the morning everyone shares practical information and technical details and in the afternoon the owner of the farm presents a problem that he has on the farm and the group with the agronomist tries to solve it. This system worked extremely well for all farmers. The Aussies and New Zealanders were impressed. They thought that farmers in these countries would never share their knowledge. What about Ireland?