From 2007-2010 I designed and painted a mural for Toronto caterer Carole Ferrari, proprietor of The Local Cafe. The murals were painted on the exterior of a former mini school bus that Carole converted into a kitchen and street food cookery. The project required many brainstorming sessions with Carole about how the paintings would reflect her business vision (which is partly about educating people about food, as well as cooking).
One of the themes that emerged was Carole's commitment to following the footsteps of her culinary heros by making choices that support fair wages in the agriculture industry. Although Carole is a cook and her product is food ready to eat, she spends a lot of time thinking about how the food was produced, before it became her ingredient.
Carole's views motivate her to support small Ontario farmers who raise organic food outside the mass market system. Carole also wanted to educate the public about the realities of where most of our food comes from. Much of the food we eat in Canada is raised on large industrial style farms, either here or abroad. In Canada many farms employ seasonal migrant labourers who, as foreigners in this country, may have little control over their labour and see disproportionately small profit from the work they do.
The first mural celebrates labourers whose work is made invisible and often forgotten once the food they produce makes its appearance at our table. We took inspiration from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in California whose landmark campaign forced major North American fast food companies to increase the price they pay for tomatoes.
On the opposite side of the bus we depicted farm buildings and animals derived from sketches and photos made at local Ontario farms. The foreground figures drawn from photos of Carole's heroes who inspire her philosophy of food production.
On the back of the bus we depicted a farm meal, with the figures who appeared in both the side murals coming together for an outdoor meal, eating the food their work had grown.
While the ideas behind the mural are complex, I'm proud of how it turned out. I'm hoping it lets viewers to come up with their own opinions about food production.