Friday, March 16, 2007

Farmer Monte Makes a good point!

The other morning I was having my coffee, checking my email and a morning talk/news show was on my TV. The lady announced that organic may be out, and local may be in. I about choked on my coffee and a big sense of "oh crap" came across my heart! I watched as much of it as I could, hoping it was one of those teaser announcements where they later say, no, actually you want local organic foods, not just local. I was saddened when no, that was not the result. In fact all they focused on was the pollution issues of transporting produce and foods. Okay, I am not for pollution or fuel consumption, but I am definitely not for feeding my kids produce and meats that are coated with pesticides or for our local farmers to be encouraged to not worry about what they are using in their farming practices. I'm all for the local farmer, if I could buy everything local, I would, and really do strive for that goal, but I cant say I would choose conventional over organic just because it was local.

So here is what Farmer Monte had to say on the matter, he is far more eloquent and since he is a local organic farmer, he is right in the middle of this new debate....

The Local vs Organic Debate

Ok, so when you are a produce nerd like I am, you get a little excited when food becomes a national issue. So I got giddy as a school girl last week when I saw that the cover of Time magazine was a huge picture of an apple.
But then I was quickly let down when the label on the apple said “Forget Organic, Eat Local.” Shoot, I thought to myself, now we have got someone (or a group) trying to separate two things that are not mutually exclusive. So let’s break down the debate.First off, I think the article is pretty much junk. The intensive research that the author did to reach his conclusion that we should all forget Organic, was to eat one Organic apple and one local conventional. He thought the Organic one was a bit mealy, and the local one crisp. So, he then brings the jury back and proclaims local should reign. Very scientific work from Time mag. Impressive.And I am not saying that local should not reign, but I want it to be Organic local. And with that, I would/will take regional Organic over local conventional any day of the week. I know that we might have some disagreement among the members on that, which is fine, but as a business owner, I cannot waffle on our bottom line. LPO’s stance needs to be concrete and consistent; so, therefore, we choose AZ or CA Organic over conventional produce from Belen.But I would love to get members feedback, so we are going to put a survey up on the web site this week for members to vote on and then I will let you know the tally next week. And the question is this, assuming quality and price to be the same, would you choose CA Organic over NM conventional? An interesting debate for sure.And since I have another half page to fill I will walk through my logic on why I would take the regional Organic. It can be summed up in two words, market forces. Economics prove that all markets and suppliers in a market are capable of changing. They can mutate and survive.Meaning that the factory who once made Beta Max video tapes, changed over to produce VHS and for the most part it was no big deal.Well I see the produce world in much the same way. We need to create incentives for growers to change. So that if a conventional producer reads enough articles about the big increases in Organic sales, they might be enticed into transitioning into cleaner farming. And when that happens on a large enough scale, then we will get a new and improved food industry.What happens if we dilute the demand for Organics by continuing to support a farming practice that we do not agree with just to say we buy local? What have we really accomplished?Do we really feel better about the introduction of chemicals into our environment as long as they are used locally? It seems to me that we want any conventional agriculture far away from our communities. Not in it. I am philosophically opposed to chemicals on food. Local or not. Finally, my last beef with the article is that it does not take into consideration the huge strides in farms that are both local and certified Organic. It does not have to be one or the other...we can (and do) have both happening.LPO is a microcosm of the small Organic farms that are popping up all over the U.S. Due to the relative low start up costs (elbow grease is still free) of a 2 to 5 acre market farm, we are seeing a huge increase in certified Organic production. A 40% increase in acreage in 3 years.In addition to the number of new farms and their diverse make up (many women and minority owned), farmed acreage by existing farms are going up, meaning that the marketplace is increasing for farms who do not sell to huge retail stores. All in all, a bright Spring for the Organic movement and all its growers….and consumers.
Have a great week, Farmer Monte

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