One Day in Middelfart

The problem with arriving at Middelfart’s Kongebrogaarden hotel late at night and in heavy rain is that is difficult to get much sense of location. So I was delighted to pull back the curtains at 7am this morning to find myself overlooking a lake, surrounded by lush woodlands with the sun was shining on the boats moored on the quay below my balcony. The Kongebrogaarden is definitely recommended for a long weekend as it abounds with high-quality touches such as B&O televisions and home-baked bread, plus a fiendishly ingenious rotary cheese slicer which would justify a visit on it’s own (www.kongebrogaarden.dk for some nice pics). If you need another reason to come, on my pre-breakfast lakeside walk I met a bright orange slug measuring over 4 inches and some very talkative ducks.

Middelfart is an impeccable 2 hour train ride from Copenhagen and I am here as the guests of Okologisk Landsforening aka Organic Denmark. Today is their annual Inspiration day, where organic manufacturers and retailers come together to network and think about how best to grow Denmark’s organic market.

 Certain things immediately strike me about today’s conference, compared to other such events I have attended in the UK. Firstly it is free to delegates (paid for by Danish government). Secondly it is full, with few no-shows. Thirdly everyone is casually dressed – mine is the only tie and there are shorts, since everyone is going sailing later. Everyone I spoke to was well-informed, interested and interesting and I was asked some very challenging questions about organics in the UK and its possible relevance to Denmark.

Also the refreshments stand out – why don’t more people serve fresh peas in their pod as a snack? And as for my lunch of gazpacho, pizza with fresh basil, penne with slow dried tomatoes & buffalo mozzarella and chocolate pistachio cake, it was as delicious as it was fully organic. Organic micro-breweries have hit Denmark and since I had delivered my presentation immediately before lunch I Just Said Yes.

My session followed market analyst Henrik Stender-Rasmussen (GfK) and Eva Steensig (Lighthouse), a futurologist who both had interesting things to say about how the Danish organic market is developing. Over coffee Eva described how the growing strength of women in Denmark had lead to a crisis of masculinity amongst some Danish men who have become confused about how to respond. As you do.

My presentation appeared to be well-received as I had plenty of interruptions, and a full-scale debate erupted at one point on whether Denmark needed a generic organic marketing campaign.  I reckon I spoke for about an hour and we had about 30 minutes of discussion and questions, which seems about the right ratio to me (if you were there and you disagree, let me know).

My presentation followed two main themes. One was that in the UK we did not invest sufficiently in building consumer understanding on the benefits of buying organic, and the current drop in sales is the result. The second is that whilst if you consider individual indicators of sustainability organic may compare adversely to intensive production, but if you consider food production whollistically organic is clearly the most sustainable option overall.

My battery has almost gone and my train has almost reached Copenhagen airport so I end here. However I must come back, if only to sample the delicious-sounding Organic Slow Sourdough bread baked by Charlotte Reinhardt at her Ill Fornaio bakery (www.ilfornaio.dk).

 

My thanks to Henrik Hindborg and Birgitte Jorgenson of Okologisk Landsforening for their kind invitation.