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food / travel

Argentines Crowd Into Organic Food Markets

Argentina may be at the forefront of high-tech farming, but a growing number of the country's urban dwellers want food produced by organic, local farmers.

An organic market in Buenos Aires
An organic market in Buenos Aires
Einat Rozenwasser

BUENOS AIRES — A growing number of Argentines are turning their backs on supermarket fare and flocking instead to food and wine fairs that promote local farming and organic produce.

There are now fairs, markets and events that run throughout the year, allowing local producers to sell directly to consumers. Options range from organic-type permanent markets like the Sabe la Tierra (Taste the Land) in Buenos Aires, to more "upmarket" events like the Día del Gourmet (Gourmet Day).

"This has to do with the evolution of gastronomy," says Juan Aznarez, who runs Joy magazine and organizes one of the fairs, the monthly health-oriented BA Market that recently had 40,000 visitors. "Previously, going out to eat was something done before going on somewhere else. In time it became a destination and people started going out specifically to eat," he explains. "These types of events are part of food's transformation into spectacle. You come and do your shopping, eat, see a show. It's like going out."

The Argentine capital has similar events around the concept of food as entertainment. One example is the local edition of Masters of Food and Wine at the Park Hyatt. "Most people come to this after work. They see it as a different way of going out on a Thursday," says Pilar Rose, communications chief for the chain's Palacio Duhau in Buenos Aires.

There is also Buenos Aires Food Week in mid-April, when dozens of restaurants offer promotional menus. And at Masticar (Chew), organized by chefs and sector professionals, some of the city's best eateries join local producers to promote Argentine food through presentations.

These events allow small producers to have direct contact with customers. "The chef is a communicator between the producer and the market, and this is the space to show that all these things exist beyond what you find in your supermarket cart," says Martín Molteni, a member of the ACELGA association of restaurateurs. "Eating seasonal food tastes better, it is cheaper, favors producers and is better for everyone."

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Organic market organized by Masticar Photo: Martin Zabala/Xinhua/ZUMA

Customers at the fairs "are ready to pay a bit more for a quality product that is tasty, healthy and natural," says Fabián Amoruso, co-founder of Bonyüzz Smoothies, a brand of packaged natural juices.

Angie Ferrazzini, founder of the Sabe la Tierra market, confirms the trend, and says her outlet works on "developing a community of producers and consumers in each district or neighborhood: 80-90% of producers are residents" of the zones where her market opens. Ferrazzini also tried a "night market," which proved to be a real hit.

"We are really noting our consumers' interest in composting, vegetable gardens, obtaining seeds and knowing where their food comes from," she says.

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