In a year that saw event after event cancelled, the Terroir Symposium went forward this past September as a virtual conference for the first time. With over a thousand attendees, Terroir offered a wide range of conversations against overarching themes of diversity and sustainability.

Dr. Erinn Tucker

It is a strange time to talk about the future of the food industry, with more uncertainty than ever before and many businesses struggling to stay afloat. Nevertheless, Terroir felt like an optimistic discussion on what we are doing right, what trends are challenging the old normal, and who is working to create opportunities in a shifting landscape.

Highlights included a spotlight on Black Restaurant Week with Dr. Erinn Tucker, a look at legacy and entrepreneurship with Andrew McBarnett of Neale’s Sweet N Nice Ice Cream, and Joseph Shawana’s talk on Indigenous culinary traditions. Toronto’s Cheyenne Sundance talked urban farming and The Globe and Mail‘s Christopher Waters led a discussion on sustainable winemaking.

Andrew McBarnett

The event was remarkably smooth, despite the added technological intricacies. Participants could create a personalized schedule, pop in and out of scheduled talks, and join in on gamification that awarded and tracked points based on various interactions with the Terroir portal and other registrants.

Overall, it felt like a much-needed dive into what is happening now in the Canadian food industry, both with a lens on COVID, but also beyond it. In many ways, COVID has amplified issues that already existed in the industry for years — issues like a lack of sustainable practices and the plight of foodservice workers on the lowest rungs, for example. Luckily, there are innovators of all kinds who are imagining new ideas and solutions. Terroir 2020 was a showcase of these voices, broadcast across computer screens, at times pixellated, but always striving to better flawed systems, celebrate successes, and keep moving forward.

To learn more about this year’s virtual symposium and its takeaways, please visit TERROIR SYMPOSIUM.