Every once in a while, Frank Stronach still gets a craving for cornmeal.
Growing up in a working-class home, it was the staple around the dining table.
It may not have been full of flavour, it may not have had the best nutritional value, but it did have something going for it: it was organic.
Now 88, the Magna International founder who opened Frank’s Organic Garden in Aurora last year, is doubling down on his efforts to make organic food more accessible and affordable to the public with a new foundation and outdoor space designed to let kids get their hands dirty and learn the fundamentals in growing their own healthy food.
“When you get older, sometimes you sit back and think, what is life all about?” says Mr. Stronach. “I have been very blessed with good health, a good mind, and I have always said it doesn’t matter how smart you are; if the stars are not aligned, it won’t work. I came to the conclusion I should go into agriculture and start to produce food without chemicals because I noticed just about every kid has food allergies. When I was a kid, hardly anybody had food allergies. I asked myself, What’s the most fundamental thing in life? Growing up healthy and happy. There’s no way you can be happy if you’re hurting.”
That is the underpinning philosophy behind Growing Up Healthy and Happy (GUHAH), a new foundation established by Mr. Stronach which will culminate in a new outdoor and indoor learning space for youth, which will be combined with a farmers’ market, near Woodbine Avenue and Mulock Drive.
The GUHAH Way is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy eating and organic foods for children.
“For parents, their number one concern is what do we have to do so that our children grow up healthy? If children are healthy, there’s a much greater chance that they will also be happy and successful in what they do,” says Mr. Stronach. “That’s the main reason why I established The GUHAH Way. Our mission is simple: we want to inform individuals everywhere that by eating organic food, the chances are much better that we will be healthy, and if we are healthy, chances are we will also be happy.”
One of the organization’s main initiatives will be to lobby school boards and various levels of government to establish guidelines that would permit only organic foods in school cafeterias.
They also aim to persuade governments and school boards that a certain number of hours allocated for students outdoors so they can get hands-on experience in the art of growing food.
While this lobbying might be a more long-term goal, the indoor classroom, greenhouse and fields at the Woodbine site, which is aimed for completion by the end of this year, will allow Mr. Stronach to put this philosophy into action.
“We’re building the first agricultural education centre right across from the OSPCA on Woodbine and I want to get it across that kids from Grade 1 to Grade 6 have at least a half day on how to grow foods organically,” he explains. “In the wintertime, it will be in our greenhouse and, in the summer, it will be in our summer garden. We want to have our own model where we teach kids to grow food. I think this is crucial. Canada is such a rich country and we have a lot of fertile soil that we should teach our kids how to grow food.”
“I think students will like it because it is a change of scenery from sitting in the classroom. They might throw a tomato, but I think they will be very interested!” he jokes. “We will have a restaurant there and when you serve them food they have been working around, boom! It clicks. I want to get it where farming is seen as a most honourable profession.”
As The GUHAH Way continues to develop, Mr. Stronach says he hopes millions of people will embrace the philosophy of “supporting and encouraging healthy, organic foods for our children.”
“We are inviting people who share that philosophy to join our organization by becoming a member and participating in our efforts to spread the message of a healthy lifestyle built around a diet of organic, all-natural foods.”
For more information, visit guhahway.com.
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran