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Home > Feature Articles > Agriculture & Organic Production

Rethinking the True and Imagined Costs of Organic Food

Benefits of organic agriculture include health, habitat, cost, taste, waste reduction and sustainability.

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The business of food.

Food has become a fashion item. Heck, even clothing has become a fashion thang! The business of food is volume, consistency, high prices for premium quality...ya, ya, ya. We have to have ethnic foods and diet foods and individual packages and six flavors. We're way beyond sustaining the body!

The advice to a struggling organic shopkeeper, "People work hard for their money. Give them more and let them keep more of their paycheck and they will come around. If you can’t do that your idea isn’t worth squat." Well, I'm not so sure that ignoring fashion will help you succeed. Ask the thousands of people who go bankrupt each year based on hard work and a product that just didn't catch the public's fancy for some reason. The public is fickle. Some things work. Others don't. And don't try to sell too many buggy whips, either. They were great in their day...but times change. And change seems to be changing rather rapidly these days...

Sanity?

One suggestion on a discussion of the high cost of organic food was to "end poverty, and end the indentured servitude of many people having to spend most of the week working just to stay afloat financially and keep paying back immense debts..." Sounds like a case for serious self-discipline, innovation, hard work and more hard work. Farming and cooking from scratch and making your own clothes are all hard work. Wonderful if you can do it...but hard work. I've been there, done that and am now living the city way of life. Not exactly indentured, but not cash happy either!

Are Organic Benefits Tied to "Certified Organic"?

Getting that "Certified Organic" label requires extra expenses in terms of paperwork and certification fees. And big agriculture has smelled the money trail -- not all organic produce is created equal. Many small organic farmers can’t handle the extra burden of certification and some consumers have abandoned the organic label in favor of local produce that is farmed organically, sustainably and with respect for local ecosystem practices. Some people want to meet or at least virtually meet their farmers.

Don't Forget Your Local Farmers Market for Local Organic Foods

Someone suggested that organic food has us stuck using 17th century technology. Is today's organic food grown using 17th-century technology?

What are today's best, most sustainable food production technologies? Is organic all there is? How about crop rotation. Compost tea. Soil enzymes and beneficial bacteria. Mulching. Natural plant breeding vs. genetic engineering. Deep tilling. There are many new techniques used on organic and local farms that maintain the wisdom of working with the land, but most have upgraded the wooden plow. They just stop short of the test tube.

Eat Less, Eat Better.

Another complaint about the organic system is the higher cost that covers the certification process and the extra cost of organic operations.

How about eating less? Better nutrition should require less bulk, less calories. And less total cost, especially when you factor in less health care costs can arise from poor nutrition.

Exercise More, Work More.

And more exercise will require even less food to support our "overweightedness". Shapely, healthy bodies require less food than overweight bodies. It's that simple. birds california native species

Seasonal and Varied Foods -- Natural Shapes and Sizes

I love organically grown food and have found a delivery service that is like a CSA (community supported agri). They include in their bulk delivery a variety of seasonal foods, and some odd sizes and shapes of apples and radishes. Part of the high cost of groceries is "perfection". Locally grown, natural foods come in all sizes, with many odd shapes and insect nibbles, and this very real, very natural diversity in the harvest can't be sold in the perfect grocery story.

Perfection is a manufactured, legislated concept. Everything precisely measures, weighed, color coded and graded. Just a thought here -- small and big sometimes might even be better. We consumers have to get over "perfection" and accept reality -- odd shapes just might mean better nutrition. And it certainly means less waste!

Insect nibbles usually just prove how delicious the food is! Do you really want to eat something that even insects with their tiny brains don't find acceptable -- like genetically modified or pesticide laden pseudo-foods?

One example of size power: small potatoes and apples actually have more nutrition per ounce than large ones.

Reframe the Issue to Discover Real Value

As we rethink our priorities, organic becomes an even better deal...but we have to think beyond the obvious.

And let's not forget the systemic benefits of organic farming -- less pollutants in our water, healthier soil for healthier water, less water consumption. Get my drift?

Water conservation is a key benefit of sustainable farming...and factory farms are polluting our dwindling supply of fresh water. Erosion. Dead soil. Wildlife without habitat.

Loss of biodiversity is also a real threat to our seedstock. Genetically modified pseudo-species can't reproduce.

There are just so many real, green, sustainable issues solved by the simple concept of supporting organic agriculture!

An ounce of organic prevention truly IS worth a pound of cure. Pay now or pay later...



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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