When I was growing up organic vegetables were just “vegetables.”
My mother grew them and canned them. My neighbor had a garden that was about two acres big. She grew everything. Going to the grocery store to buy corn or green beans or even radishes and lettuce seemed silly when you could plant a seed, let it grow and a couple months later… voila…. food.
I guess I am fortunate to have been able to live in a place which had tillable soil and temperate weather (if you can call WNY weather temperate weather). As I have grown older, and watched everything that I used to see produced at home – food, clothes, entertainment become increasingly mass produced, I find myself troubled by the whole “organic vegetable” movement.
Hold up a minute growing and buying vegetables without pesticides is a “movement”?
According to Maria Rodale, in her piece, Organic Rising, for the Huffington Post, she found herself scratching her head as well. Having grown up in Illinois, in the corn belt, she remembered grass fed cattle and non-GMO corn on the corn fresh from the field, just like I do. She points out the in the 20 years that she lived abroad, things changed dramatically in the U.S. to a point where now, “toxic systemic pesticides can be found in many GMO food products that make up as much as 70 percent of the food on our supermarket shelves. Equally astounding is that nearly 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States today are fed to our factory-farm animals to make them grow faster and survive the crowded and unsanitary conditions they live in.”
And since toxins and pesticides cost money, I am still curious to see what sort of cost savings poisoning our food supply is bringing these corporate farms. But I digress.
How did organic food become a “movement” – to me, it was always “food” and why is this “organic food movement” dominated by rich hipsters?
And please don’t scorn me and say that rich, hipsters are not the only ones obsessed with organic foods. Because I know that. They just dominate the conversation. When you think of organic food, don’t tell me that you don’t get a picture of the rich hipster browsing through Whole Foods, because I would tell you that you are lying to me.
The message is clear, if you want to eat healthy in America, you have to have money. Why else would Whole Foods have the pet name “Whole Check”?
But when I grew up, it was the poor farmers that were eating the grass fed cattle and the home grown veggies and the free range eggs and chicken.
They were making the artisanal jams, cheeses and the homemade butters. And when I say that these farmers were poor, they were dirt poor. I admired my neighbors for their ability to make a meal out of what they had on the farm. They weren’t thinking about being “organic” because it was hip. They were eating the fruit of their labor and surviving. They grew in the summer and canned in the fall to survive through the Winter and Spring. They butchered their animals and lived on “grass fed” and “farm raised” and “free range” and “non antibiotic” poultry, pork and beef. They fed their families. They fed this nation.
And corporate farms ran them out of business. And we let them. And then we let them poison us. And fill our grocery shelves with their poison.
And now “artisanal farms” are sprouting up from the ashes of these family farms and rich hipsters are selling to rich hipsters the very same things that these farmers relied on to keep their families alive.
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I don’t have any problem with organic food. I prefer to grow my own vegetables still. I have free range chickens. But when the very people who invented the damn practice of “organic farming” can’t afford the food, I have a problem. When healthy food is priced to an unaffordable point for most consumers, I have a problem.
That is one of the reasons I volunteer at Beardsley Community Farm. Beardsley is an urban organic farm here in heart of Knoxville, Tennessee. Khann Chov is the amazing Farm Manager over there and her small staff – Ellen and Karina keep things flowing with the help of many, many volunteers. And they can always use more. For more information about volunteering at Beardsley, click here.
Beardsley Farms uses their resources and labor to bring organic food to those who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Programs like Bridge Refugee Service and Mobile Meals benefit from the hard work that they do at Beardsley.
Another program which benefits from Beardsley’s bounty is Food in the Fort, where I serve as Volunteer Organic Vegetable Coordinator. Food in the Fort is a program under the umbrella of The East Tennessee Peace and Justice Center. Tomorrow, I will be writing about all the different things that Eddie Young and the staff at the ETPJC are working in the community to transform the marginalized population in East Tennessee.
So for now, I can only do what I can do. Work with Khann and bring organic vegetable to those who would otherwise have to eat the vegetables that are currently on our grocers shelves. Which in a way, I cannot understand how a vegetable that is doused with chemicals and transported thousands of miles costs less than a vegetable grown locally with no pesticides and no chemicals. I think someone has been pulling the wool over our eyes.
It’s time that all vegetables are organic vegetables again. Stop allowing our poor and disenfranchised to be poisoned. Volunteer at your local urban farms or drive out to the country and volunteer at a CSA and donate our share to a family in need. Find organizations like the East Tennessee Peace and Justice Center and work with people experiencing homelessness.
We need to stop letting 20 year slip by as our hearts, mind and bodies continue to be poisoned.