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New MacDonald, Organic or Not

March 27, 2015
Hot pepper flakes, SlowMoneyFarm style.

Hot pepper flakes, SlowMoneyFarm style.

Agriculture is changing. It always has, while rooted in tradition, looking at doing things better. Cheaper. This is often seen as a bad thing, and taken to extremes. It’s said organic doesn’t do that…but any farm, including organic, needs to make the maximum use of their space. It doesn’t matter if it’s 300 acres or 300 square feet – those intensive urban gardens we see that produce tons of food don’t do it without a tight schedule of planting, harvesting and maximizing their situation. An increased interest of many is hydroponics and aquaculture, both ways of raising more on less land, and both have their supporters and their critics.

Then there’s times the zeal for promoting crosses lines of all kinds. Ignoring the risks of food safety, let’s condemn the opposition so they forget the ‘controversy’ on ‘our’ side.

Only Organic, a coalition of organic food brands including Organic Valley, Stonyfield, and Annie’s Homegrown, recently launched the “New MacDonald” movement, a campaign encouraging consumers to take a pledge to add one additional organic product to their grocery cart each week.

The campaign’s big kickoff was this video, in which schoolchildren give a rousing rendition of Old MacDonald’s Farm, except in this version the song has refrains such as: “with a hormone here and a hormone there”, “a small cage here and a tight cage there”, “here a spray [of pesticides], there a spray, everywhere a spray spray”.” (source)

So I wonder what that really teaches. They sprayed poison pesticides in the faces of children for entertainment and marketing? I didn’t watch much behind that point because it was clearly blatantly untrue. Either organic supporters are ‘poisoning’ children to make a point or the whole premise was false and they were spraying something else, as farmers do other things besides just spray pesticides. Organic, even certified organic, sprays too if they need to.

Beef picture cuts and leavesI’ve spent this week promoting the CSA concept to folks in our area. Interest but not action continues. Yesterday Connor and I attended a meeting for the Walker County Farmer’s Market before racing over to man the booth. A big topic at the meeting was food safety. Regulations.

Are we bad if we take payments from SNAP and other low income programs or is it good to get food in the kitchens of folks with low income? If programs that benefit larger farmers are criticized is this an unfair advantage for small growers? How many will begin supporting the truly small growers vs the larger companies that pretend to be small producers?

The massive rock in the middle of the room is food safety. Food safety is a bigger concern than what Monsanto is doing or what glyphosate is doing to the bees (reality – nothing). Food safety threatens to take our farms. Want to see people turn on a farm? Have a food safety issue. It might affect 20 people but life will never be the same.

Many climb on the all organic is safe bandwagon, and build that up to where it’s a long fall. Organic spinach was a recent recall item. Annie’s Homegrown – who not that long ago was in the news for “selling out” to “the enemy” and organic folks swearing in comment sections they would not support the brand again. Stonyfield has also been subject to recall items – all natural does not necessarily mean safe.

Far beyond that, everyone has food choices. Often news reports come to what do you believe. One headline talks of child obesity increasing, while another points to decreases! I’ve watched children come through our booth for photos  this week, and do not see large numbers of obese kids. Healthy, happy children that are too young to be concerned with food safety, so adults must do it for them.

New MacDonald farmers are diverse. They might reach to automation for many tasks so they can spend more time with the animals. They may be outdoor housed animals, or may be all the buzzwords folks want to use but still struggle with finding a market. That’s food choices, in action.

Food choices. Farm choices. We’re blessed with many of both.

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