I talk alot with friends and family about the benefits of small organic farms vs. large agribusiness and their commercial extensions, your local co-op and Rainbow foods. I wanted to make a few points clear here about my thoughts on thses subjects.
First of all, it is ethically better to purchase an organic vegetable from your local farmer at a Farmers Market or co-op then it is to purchase a conventional vegetable from Chile at your so-called "local" Rainbow Foods. Why? Because of these reasons:
1. You are supporting your local economy and your neighbor
2. You are being a steward of your local watershed and your local land
3. The vegetable will be healthier and therefore more nutritious for you
4. You will be saving a ton of petroleum products and other energy sources that are used to get the vegetable from Chile
5. You will not be supporting a large multinational corporation that does not care for you or your family or your neighborhood or your local watershed, but only wants your dollar bill
Simple. Obviously the first thing people say is, "Well, it costs too much." And my first reaction is to be angry because what is "too much" when we are talking about the future of our planet, the future health of our soil and our communities? When you have huge government subsidies for all the commodities that are out there, such as corn, rice, and wheat, but very little financial aid to small organic vegetable farmers, what do you think is going to happen? You can go down to a Superamerica or Cub Food and get pressurized Cheez Whiz in a can for a couple bucks as opposed to a juicy ripe organic tomato for a buck. Which do you think will be better for you? Why do you choose poison over health? Think about it.
What I can't deny is that a lot of co-ops and trendy food stores are starting to attract a more wealthy crowd. This doesn't matter to me. You have to look at the essential nature of what the co-ops were created for. They were created so that poor people could pool their resources to obtain cheaper bulk foods. And they grew into more and more elaborate organizations until what we have now is little different then your average Byerlys or whay have you. But their essential nature is different. Essentially their is democratic co-operative power involved in the governance of the business as opposed to a centralized dictatorial power. What we need to do is create our own modes of purchasing. We can get together with friends and purchase a CSA share and get our vegetables every week, we can go down to the Farmers Market and talk directly to the farmer. We can organize buyers groups and purchase directly from the big companies that supply the co-ops and grocery stores. We can by in bulk and split up shares. Basically we can and should recreate the food co-op that we used to know and love.
Small farmers are not making any money. They are basically out there tilling and harvesting because of their passion and dedication to creating a better world, a healthier reality. I think the least we can do is pay them a few extra bucks for their labor and spirit. Organic farmers are real live Bodhiisatvas on tractors.
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