Au­to­mat­i­cally or­ganic

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CLASSIFIEDS/FOOD - BY MAGGY DON­ALD­SON

PARIS - Din­ers in Paris are flash­ing back — and for­ward — to the era of the au­tomat, but this time with a nod to or­ganic farm­ing.

A pre­cur­sor to the era of fast food, au­tomat eater­ies served hun­dreds of thou­sands of cus­tomers a day through­out the mid-20th cen­tury, al­low­ing on-the-go din­ers to pick hot dishes from coin-op­er­ated me­tal lock­ers. To­day, en­trepreneurs in France and Scot­land are ap­pro­pri­at­ing the con­cept that once sym­bol­ized moder­nity to help cus­tomers get back to the land. Their au­tomats of­fer fresh and lo­cal pro­duce and other in­gre­di­ents.

Joseph Petit em­ploys no staff at his two Paris stores. Both called Au Bout du Champ — “at the end of the field” — the small spa­ces are stacked with me­tal cub­bies con­tain­ing just-picked straw­ber­ries, hours-old eggs, and neat bunches of car­rots or spring onions, depend­ing on the sea­son. Cus­tomers sim­ply choose the box that con­tains the food they want to buy, then pay at a con­sole which then opens the ap­pro­pri­ate door.

It’s a sys­tem, Petit said, that brings fresh food to ur­ban ar­eas where few other op­tions ex­ist, while also sup­port­ing lo­cal, small-scale agri­cul­ture.

“We have some of the best farm­ers in the world,” the 31-year-old said out­side one of his two shops. “But un­for­tu­nately, we con­sume many of our prod­ucts from abroad. They aren’t nec­es­sar­ily the best, they aren’t nec­es­sar­ily fresh, and we don’t re­ally know who cul­ti­vated them.”

Petit also main­tains di­rect re­la­tion­ships with the half-dozen or so pro­duc­ers he buys from.

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