More than 160 chefs to protest Ontario mega-quarry by dishing out soup
Chef Jamie Kennedy prepares a meal in this undated handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Rebecca Burton, CTV Toronto
Published Saturday, October 13, 2012 7:00AM EDT
Swiss chard and potato, hot plum with a cold ice cream topping, even a harvest medley of beets, turnips and squash. This is just a taste of what will be offered up at Toronto’s Soupstock 2012.
As the successor to last October’s Foodstock, this mega-culinary event will gather over 160 renowned Canadian chefs and restaurateurs in a fundraising event to rally against the proposed mega-quarry in southern Ontario.
“As restaurateurs we view food as culture. So when you are making a contribution to food culture, it’s very important to respond to where you are geographically,” chef Jamie Kennedy told CTV Toronto.
Kennedy will dish out 2-3,000 portions of his Swiss chard and potato soup at Woodbine Park on Oct.21, to crowds expected to reach 30-40,000 people.
The proposed quarry will sit just 100 kilometres northwest of Toronto on Highway 124 near Shelburne. The expansive quarry would span 2,300 acres across the Township of Melancthon, eliminating farmland to tap into one billion tonnes of limestone deposit.
It is estimated that 600 million litres of water will be pumped from the quarry every day due to the high water table.
Kennedy joined the efforts as part of the opposition to the quarry to slow down the process. He wants to allow for more negotiations and involvement from community members.
“A lot of us are supporting our rural communities because we depend on it for food,” said Kennedy.
Highland Companies, backed by a Boston hedge fund, is heading the project, promising they will “rehabilitate the site agricultural and associated uses,” according to its website.
The Ontario government announced on Sept. 1, 2011 that a full environmental assessment will be required before a decision is made, a first in history. If the quarry is approved it will be the largest in Ontario and the second largest rock quarry in Canada.
Melancthon Mayor Bill Hill told CTV Toronto he expects the government’s decision to be years away, as the environmental assessment has not even begun. Hill expects the assessment to begin early next year and take up to two years to complete.
“Obviously and understandably there has been severe opposition to this,” said Hill. But Hill said his council has yet to take a stance on the quarry and are currently reviewing the data.
Highland Companies confirmed Friday it is currently evaluating how to commence with the environmental assessment saying there has been no timeline set against it.
Co-sponsored by the David Suzuki foundation and the Canadian Chef’s Congress, Soupstock will take place in Toronto this year to target GTA residents.
Faisal Moola, director of operations at the Suzuki Foundation, said GTA residents are unaware how influential local agriculture is to them.
“This proposed project is unprecedented in Canada in terms of the impact it will have on farmland and nature,” said Moola.
Moola classified this as some of the best farmland in Ontario; farmland that is already being lost at precipitous levels to new highways, aggregate development and unsustainable practice. According to Moola, 16 per cent of class one agricultural soil, soil that has the highest rate of agricultural land capability, has been developed for urbanization in the last 10 years.
“This is not the time to be moving forward with this proposal that would destroy so much farmland so quickly,” he said.
Moola said continued research by the Suzuki foundation has found that greenbelt farmland surrounding the GTA has other benefits as well. Approximately 40 million tonnes of carbon are absorbed out of the atmosphere by this farmland that fights emissions causing global warming.
Fundraising from Soupstock will go towards the continued fight against the mega-quarry and research on the importance of this farmland in the battle against climate change.
Michael Stadtlander, president of the Canadian Chef’s Congress, lives just 30 kilometres from the proposed site.
According to Stadtlander, the land is known primarily as a potato-growing region, producing approximately 20 pounds of potatoes for each Toronto resident.
Farmers in the area have expressed concern that if the quarry is dug, bordering farms will be vulnerable to drought. Wells could also begin to dry if moisture moves into the pit. All factors that could seriously hinder the production of potato crops.
“I really don’t like things when it gets too quiet. It should not be put on the backburner. It’s not going to go away,” said Stadtlander.
In an effort to keep things local at Soupstock, all chefs will be provided with food from local producers distributed at Evergreen Brickworks on Wednesday.
Stadtlander, who will use ingredients from his own farm, said this move towards locally grown foods is a trend that is picking up each year.
Even visitors are expected to do their part, as they are requested to bring their own bowls and spoons to cut down on waste.
Last year’s event was hosted about an hour outside Toronto and attracted an overwhelming 28,000 people. Over 100 chefs offered unique tastes beside musical talent such as Sarah Harmer, Ron Sexsmith and Blue Rodeo.
This year’s decision to offer soup was based on its “versatility” said Stadtlander. He also credited the season and weather in the decision.
A local line-up of artists from the likes of Jim Cuddy to Snowblink will provide the musical backdrop to the event. Music organizer Brian Burks said he hopes to create a family-friendly atmosphere while producing a hugely memorable concert.
But if the soup runs out quickly, other anti-quarry efforts have popped up across the GTA to join the fight.
“The beautiful landscape being devastated by the largest mega-quarries was enough to inspire artists to protest,” said artist Donna Tranquada.
Tranquada will join “artists against the mega-quarry” to kick off its art show and sale in the east-end of the city on Oct. 18. Even Ontario College of Art and Design Students launched a poster exhibit against the mega-quarry at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen on Thursday.
Sales from these art shows will also go towards organizations fighting the mega-quarry.
“The loss of thousands of acres of the best soil on the edge of the GTA is something we should be concerned about,” said Moola.
Soupstock will run from 11:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. on Sun. Oct. 21, 2012 at Woodbine Park. A $10 entry fee allows visitors three bowls of soup.
Site of the proposed quarry north of Shelburne, Ont.
Opponents say the quarry planned for a site on Highway 124 near Shelburne, Ont., would destroy prime farmland in Ontario's potato-growing region.