Food. part 1

This is my hypocracy. I study organic agriculture and I do research for organic farmers, but when I go to the grocery store, I buy Gold Medal flour, and Quaker oats, and while I stare longingly at the Organic Valley milk and free range organic eggs, I think about my 16K income as a graduate student and I buy the cheap stuff. I buy dried Goya beans, generic brand butter and the rice in a large 10lb sack from the Indian market. I go to the farmer’s market for vegetables because I do like buying from local farmers – but the market I go to – the cheaper state market that is open year round – has no organic growers. I believe that paying the true cost for food is important, but I can’t always decide whether the cost of organics reflects the true cost of the food or whether I’m paying for the word “organic”.

The flip side is that I believe in sustainable production practices. There are some things I do stick to. I don’t buy conventional meat. The factory farming of animals disturbs me and as a result I eat very little meat. I’m not vegetarian – there is a big hunk of venison in my freezer right now – but I try not to buy it. I’ve recently switched to a middle ground on the milk – a local dairy that is not certified organic , but is local, allows their cows to wonder outside, has a conservation easement on their land and sells milk (conveniently) in local grocery stores. I don’t really buy processed foods (except ice cream) and I make sure to buy fair trade organic coffee. But the bulk of what I eat comes from large industrial farms. I can’t hate these farms. I grew up around these farmers. I know some very successful many generational family corn farmers in the mid-west. They support 9 children – 4 of whom are adopted – off the income from the “corn and beans” model. They are just as dependant on the longevity of their land as small organic vegetable growers, and although they use fertilizer, and round-up, they do their best to adopt best management practices. They reduce tillage, rotate as much as is economical, and use genetically modified seed so they can use less herbicide. For them, it works – for now…

Still, I believe or organic agriculture because the movement has forced us to consider alternative options… innovative options. And because of this, with time and research, I believe I that we could produce a good portion of our food organically without sacrificing very much. Business models may have to change. I hope they do. It would be great to see a de-centralization and a re-localization of our food system. If we re-adjust our diets to reflect our surroundings, if we ask questions, if we think about our food and the economy – and not just look for the word “organic” on everything we eat, we will realize that this issue is about more than just whether or not farmers use fertilizer. Its about the whole picture, and how we will feed ourselves and each other tomorrow.

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