After a day of rest, recuperation and culinary remediation, it’s time to get to work. The very reason I have been called on this trip is to speak about US and German organic trade. So I don my suit, heels and hose, and I march right into the American Embassy, which by chance is located next to the celebrated Brandenburg Gate! My ambassadorial work begins.
The Germans love of everything natural and organic goes back over 100 years ago with the emergence of the “Vitalism” movement. It was a frolic of nature, nude bathing and rediscovering natural and whole foods. I suppose everything was technically organic back then. The movement grew and organic (BIO in German) is now cavalcading through grocery aisles, produce bins, fast food carts and even gallops through vending machines.
There are entire chain stores that sell only 100% organic products! What a surprise to walk into a beautiful organized exhibition of sausage, nuts tomatoes and eggs, knowing that every single item is BIO. I can’t think of a major store that holds that standard in the US!
The orator who speaks before me illuminates the crowd on the shining light organic sheds in this land of sturdy people. I had no idea the German government subsidized producers to farm organically. Producers here receive almost 60% of their income from government payments because organic agriculture does so much for conservation of the soil and water. With that nurturing support, it’s no wonder that organic has blossomed into 7% of all agriculture and is expected to grow to 10% in the next few years!
In the US, Organic is only 1% of agriculture.
Yet there are many similarities between the US and German organic markets. We are the two global leaders in organic sales, and this insatiable demand is outstripping supply.
Our farmers are aging, and there is an urgent need for the youth to get in and furrow the fields. The riotous high cost of acreage is a barrier of prodigious proportions. In Germany, it can be as high as $35,000 Euros per acre!
Fresh produce and dairy sales lead the way in both the US and Germany. It’s easy for families to make the connection with the agricultural practices used in the fields and barns and that first tasty bite or milky quaff. It’s tangible and delicious.
I am here to speak about the US market and I take my turn at the podium. With great eagerness, I explain that organic has grown at double digits year over year. Organic sales reached a stupendous $43.4 billion, according to the OTA 2016 Industry Survey, with an overall growth rate of 11%! Organic food fills the plate at $39.7 billion, and organic non-food items account for $3.6 billion, growing at 13%. What other industries can boast this kind of year-over-year growth?
I am thrilled to report that nearly 5% of all food sold in the United States is now organic!
The meeting ends with an all-organic lunch rounded out with Amy’s chunky tomato soup and Organic Valley cheese laden baguette wedges.
After the meeting, we fly the coop and take roost in the Bavarian city of Munchen (Munich). All of the talk of food and agriculture has me yearning for some meaty German dalliances. After hastily stashing the luggage in my room, I head out to one of the famous Bier Gartens (Beer Gardens) for a traditional Bavarian feast.
By this time I am ravenous and rapidly order the starter platter of local meats and cheeses. Another fine regional Riesling is required as a heady accompaniment. The platter comes quickly and to my surprise it is festively strewn with a kaleidoscope of lunch meats and cold cuts, porcine portions in every imaginable variety. Festooned with a few pickled onions, the summer sausage, head cheese, bratwurst and bologna, is enough to make me swoon—I am transported back to my grandmother’s kitchen.
These are the meaty victuals of past childhood lunches, embedded in great dark slices of fresh-baked bread, thickly slavered with golden mustard, and punctuated with dills. I devour great portions in reverie and then for good measure order half a crispy Bavarian duck.
Oh, I should certainly throw in a salad for health!
The local duck comes soon enough, and I wonder about my voluptuous choice but once I lay eyes on this golden bird, I dig in. The breasts are tender and youthful, the thighs are bulbous with meat, brown duck sauce is spilled as I lay into the beast. She is completely and utterly devoured!
I decide I can’t be bothered with the delectable potato dumpling interlaced with butter and chives nor should I fritter away my dwindling appetite on the sweet, warm red cabbage concoction nearby.
I have a salad on the way!
I wipe my chin, dab my brow and take another drought of liquid mountain vineyards. The salad is placed with a flourish before me. As I look down at the plate, I cannot believe my eyes. It’s a plate of cold cuts and bratwurst dressed with fine vinaigrette and a few sliced onions.
I dig in with the spirit of a weary soldier taking another tour. To my surprise, the dish again reminds me of one of my childhood delights: pickled ham! I can almost see my grandmother next to me urging me to eat up and don’t forget the fried potatoes.
This Germanic meaty orgy finally renders me asunder. I sleep restfully that night dreaming of tomorrow’s delegation at the Bavarian Ministry of Agriculture and of course my grandmother’s kitchen.