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One Event’s Food Provenance Presented On A Map

Last week our team was a part of A Plan Bee, an event organized by Farm Folk City Folk & World In A Garden here in Vancouver. The event was this year’s installment of an annual film fundraiser that features a long list of local food businesses; it’s held at a local theater and guests are treated to an array of drinks, treats, and other samples before watching a thought-provoking film. This year’s film was “Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?” which I highly recommend to anyone who’s curious about beekeeping and the (massive) role that bees play in our ecosystem.

About The Map

We often think about these gatherings in the context of provenance, so we spent a bit of time last week reaching out to the food businesses who’d be involved looking for some insight into where their ingredients were from.

Nearly all of the parties involved sent us information on their ingredients, with almost all of them sharing specific origin locations for most of the ingredients. A few of the food offerings included ingredients that were only traceable to a particular region of the world, which we also included on the map (listed ingredients enclosed by brackets).

You can see the functional map here.

The results were interesting, when you consider that visualization with the following in mind:

  • This event was a small, intimate affair; it represents about twenty-five vendors serving light snacks to about 150 people.
  • The night is a celebration of local food communities and sustainability, and yet the inevitably global nature of the food in the room is obvious.

Food Provenance Maps – What They Tell Us

Throughout the evening this visualization ignited some really interesting conversations, but the most compelling was around the importance of “local“. In an admittedly biased crowd, it became obvious to most that “local” wasn’t the only important element of thinking about food. It was obvious that “100% local” was very difficult.

Many of the listed ingredients simply can’t be produced in our region, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re “bad”.

What the map offered the conversation was a chance to know more. It is a simple collection of insights into the food we were all eating that night, but what is the story behind these various ingredient-makers? Who were they and how did they produce food?

Wasn’t their story just as important to us as their address?

What We Know vs. What We Don’t Know

The map ignited a conversation about what people care about, and various people throughout the night held different convictions as to the food they choose to eat and buy. The map was just the beginning…many attendees could point at a particular node on the map and tell us something about the farm or food producer. Many wanted to know more about the cantaloupe from Florida.

What was obvious was that looking at the “what we do know” made “what we don’t know” rather obvious, and in this the most thought-provoking conversations were grounded.

We’d love your thoughts.

What does the map show you?

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