As consumers we are constantly surrounded by subtle as well as obvious clues as to what we should buy, how we should eat, the best diet, how to loose weight, etc…
Today, especially with all the GMO heat, the question of what produce should we buy has been quite the topic. Why is organic important, and what difference would it really make?
Last week at school we had a sub who happened to own a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that he had been running for over 20 years. Let me first say, the life of a farmer is not a easy one. It’s a full-time job equal to that of a mother. You are in-charge of caring for a large variety of crops and sometimes animals. These “children” are in constant danger of pests that present themselves in the form of weeds, insects and diseases. My first week of school a fellow student told a horrifying tale involving a chicken and a wild dog of sorts. The difference between the mother and the farmer is that the farmer’s ability to raise these children is directly related to his livelihood. Crop failures can lead to a year of horrible struggles, and the inability to even eat.
While we were working this week out in the fields, picking weeds in the rain, I asked him, “is your farm organic?” To this he paused. “well…” he said, “we use organic methods.”
The word organic has become so skewed. Its like the word healthy. If you put the word on something, people don’t question it. What does organic mean? It means naturally occurring, happening with no manipulation. With our foods constantly manipulated through chemical processes for ease of mass distribution, the grocery store has become pretty scary. For people afraid of risking exposure to these chemicals, an organic label is comforting.
What is processed? This concept has become a scary and elusive one just like GMO and organic. People are asking, oh has it been processed? I heard someone mention today that they don’t eat any processed foods. Hmm… well water is processed, pasta is processed, wheat is processed… just because something is processed doesn’t mean its unhealthy. It about the process that was used and not the fact it was processed at all. Green beans that have been cooked to a point of all nutrients being removed then placed in a metal can to be eaten who knows how long in the future doesn’t have the same nutritional value of a home grower who flash blanched their beans before jarring in their own special mixture. Most of the apples we purchase in our stores, have been grafted to other trees to control growth height and disease and a lot of apple trees these days grow more than one kind. Doesn’t mean these apples are bad for you.
The problem with all these hot topics is that we have let our fear of foods overrun our knowledge of them.
The studies related to GMOs aren’t directly related to those of pesticides. Genetically Modified Foods are exactly what they sound like, the food we are eating is has been chemically manipulated in a laboratory. There is really no organic process in this plant’s life. It cannot contract diseases, and it’s fruiting has already been dictated.
Heirloom strands can not be certified organic, but heirloom in itself is a strand that has been passed down for generations without any manipulation. Spraying a little round up in your greenhouse to kill the weeds around your heirloom tomato plant doesn’t mean the tomatoes being produced are corrupted and can give you the same effects that eating GMO food can.
Being a farmer is hard, you are basically trying to control nature. Wind blows seeds, cross pollination with non-organics can occur, these are really hard situations to control without the resources to grow everything in a controlled environment.
It’s about local, and local and organic is always a plus. But just like everything else it should be supporting the artisan and not the big corporations. The guy who wakes up every morning with the sun to do whatever is possible to deliver the highest standard of produce for his customers. It may be about making quotas, but it’s not just that. It’s a passion, a love and not a just business.
Its really about being aware of the extensive amount of information we are constantly being saturated in and finding the ability to become objective before following everything everyone else is doing. Do the research.
To find your local CSA or farmer, check out this great resource.