The Running Score: Organic Verse Conventional

15 03 2011

Today is it virtually impossible to buy or eat everything we want without something be labeled “organic.” My favorite snack, fruit leather, has cashed in on this growing niche market… and at $6.00 a box or so it must be working out for them. I would gladly eat fruit leather of the non-organic variety and when it comes down to cost, I would prefer it.

So why are so many people doling out the dough to eat organic diets? It might be that it protects the environment, saves the soil, or that is better for our bodies, healthier. It might be that they just don’t know the facts.

And truthfully, neither did I.

What makes something organic? Common answer: it’s all natural. Even more correct, scientifically based answer: Soluble mineral inputs are prohibited and synthetic herbicides and pesticidesare rejected in favour of natural pesticides. Natural, yes. But is it better?

And why is it so expensive? Well, organic farming practices mean lower yields and inefficient use of the land.

An article by Anthony Trewavas said that the leading organic researcher admits that in organic farming “there is very little science” and “this gives rise to a great deal of illogicality and confusion particularly insome areas of production.”

I would think that when it comes to the health of the environment and our families, science would be of the utmost importance.

So here is the break down so far: organic means expensive, unscientific production of food. Conventional is, and again Trewavas said it best: a diverse set of technologies using the best available knowledge, whose ultimate goal is the safe, efficient provision of foods in abundance and at lowest price.  And the score stands:

And as we stand:

This Blogger Visits the Hospital…

24 02 2011

Sorry for the delay in posting… I started my Wednesday morning with a trip to Memorial Hospital in Springfield, Illinois to visit my boyfriend’s father who had a severe heart attack. He had three stints put in and looks much, much better today. Thank goodness.

However, I did end up finding a copy of farm journal in the cardiac waiting room which sparked a conversation about agriculture. One gentleman was a hired hand, another talked about his experiences on the farm, my boyfriend’s sister-in-law talked about how her parent’s are considering selling a vacation home in order to buy some farm land and I of course had a lot to offer on urbanization near our home farm.

It surprised me that within this room each of us had something to say about agriculture. It was a topic of conversation like where we are from and the weather. I wonder how many generations later will be so far removed from the farm that they don’t have anything to contribute but questions, but that’s okay.

As agriculturalists we should take every opportunity to talk about agriculture (it’s not as taboo as politics, yet!). And as non-agriculturalists we should take every opportunity to ask questions.

Now, I am going to jump off my soapbox I’ve stood on for most of this week and go back into the hospital room.

And please keep this blogger and her almost-family in your thoughts and prayers!

What was, what could be, and what should be?

14 01 2011

In agriculture there is a constant tension between what was, what could be and what should be. It exists in farming practices, where new developments are questioned by consumers who look on past generations with nostalgia.While I see the incredible value of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticide applications, I also look back on old farming practices with nostalgia for the sense of community it reinforced and nurtured. There was a time when harvest was a community effort. Ears were harvested with a corn picker (which is where the term picking corn derived from). The ears of corn would then be stored in a corn crib until the neighbors would get together and shell it. Baling hay was also a community effort. In this way I feel I can relate to the feelings of many consumers.

The tension between what was, what could be and what should be exists for farmers across the United States who struggle to maintain dilapidated outbuildings. My own farm has a cattle barn with a hole in the roof big enough for an elephant to fit through. Due to the fact we do not have any animals sheltered there, it is put on the back burner when there are costly machinery repairs, ever rising costs of farming inputs, etc to attend to. The original barn the cattle barn is attached to has been in existence since 1855 or so with other parts being built in the 1870s, which is about as nostalgic as a barn can get. Ultimately, the barn serves no purpose today (as our machinery is housed in a Morton building and our livestock in a remodeled chicken coop) and each year its disrepair becomes more and more striking. However, for now it is here to stay as a warm, but depressing, reminder of another era.

As more and more barns are replaced with Morton buildings, I believe many farmers can relate to the feeling of valuing what was, seeing the worth of what is and looking forward to what could be. With further education and discusssion I hope doubtful consumers may also come to value what was, see the worth of farming practices today as a safe means to feed the word, and look forward to what could be with members of the farming community. Hopefully this blog post can give us all a little insight to the mutual, or somewhat related feelings, we all have.

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