Most people buy organic food because it makes them feel better. Why not buy eggs from chickens that had space to live, and vegetables that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides that can sink into groundwater?
But conventionally-produced food still accounts for the majority of the food we eat. And with it comes a host of problems – soil depletion, biodiversity loss, groundwater contamination. The list goes on.
Heather Thomas opened the MadMad Madbodega earlier this year to address the problems of modern agriculture and, on November 12, will host a panel discussion about these issues. We spoke to Heather about her inspiration for starting the restaurant and for hosting the panel discussion.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was living in London where I worked in the creative industry, but had long been interested in food. I had started to think a lot about how far we have come from a time when would buy food directly from farmers. Modern cities have moved a long way from that.
My interest really started to develop after I worked on a pop up restaurant with the Royal Academy, together with a high quality London restaurant. I started to think about the reality of food culture and dreamt about turning Battersea Power Station into the world’s largest urban farm to demonstrate how different life could be. I started to do a lot of research about the Nordic food movement and emphasis on changing infrastructure to create a more resilient food culture.
I was then invited to write about the Nordic Food Movement for a seminar on sustainability in a Scandinavian context at Copenhagen Business School and I started to build network here in the city. That, in turn, led to creating a business plan for my restaurant, whose focus is creating consumer awareness about sustainable food and how to positively impact consumer behaviour.
What is the main problem with modern agriculture?
After World War Two we witnessed an agricultural revolution that dramatically increased the yield of food we have produced. But it has come at a high cost on our biodiversity and soil quality. Modern agriculture also creates enormous carbon emissions – the food we buy accounts for a thirty percent an individual’s carbon footprint.
Climate change is a major issue, and the easiest way for individuals to reduce it is to be more careful about what they buy and eat. But this also links to food security. We know we are changing the climate, and while the planet will probably survive, our future is much less certain. What is at risk is our ability to live on the planet, so we need to make sure we have healthy soil, water and seeds for a growing future population. It is a critical issue that most people simply aren’t aware of.
How does your restaurant help in this process?
MadMad is trying to do multiple things. Firstly, we serve seasonal and organic food, 80% of which comes from within 200km, so guests know they are eating food that is part of creating a more resilient food culture. But we also want to have an intimate relationship with our guests and consumers, because restaurants can be an important place for learning and exploring new foods, as well as introduce new ways to make food. We host events that introduce people to new ideas and skills and tastes, which help to raise awareness and change their habits about what and how they eat. Our vision is to be more transparent about how the food system works by bringing together suppliers and end users so they have more mutual understanding.
What is the ambition of the panel discussion?
The basic question we are asking is: What is a sustainable ecosystem? The solutions are complex, so it can be really difficult to understand what on earth one can do to make a difference during a trip to the supermarket! With the event, we want to bring together people from all parts of the food chain who are working creatively towards solutions to our problem, with the hope that we can inspire more people to take positive action towards change. After all, food is one of life’s greatest joys – let’s make sure it’s something future generations can enjoy too! M
Eating the planet to death – How far are we from producing food socially and environmentally sustainably?
Vesterbrogade 96, KBH V
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