Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Money vs. Ethics

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.


GeoLeoF said...

You can say that again!
Chemical free food tastes better too.
I grew some vegetables on land that may have never been farmed this summer, and, for example the tomatoes, they don't spoil, and they taste so clean.
Sail on!

JB aka JayBee said...

Time for a new post Andrew... is it not? Both of Us

Noah said...

All your points are silly. Let's take them one by one.

1. How is it better to support your local economy then the poor Chilean farmer? Is an American better somehow? Is someone who lives close to you better?

2. If the product is being made in Chile there is even less harm to the local watershed then if it is grown by a local organic farmer.

3. The vegetable is probably fresher, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is any more nutritious.

4. You will only save a small amount of petrolium products for your vegetable. Large ships use a lot of oil, but they also carry huge ammounts of produce.

5. Your local farmer care no more about you than the large corporation. They're both in it for the money. But the local organic farmer asks for more of your money.

Also, you say that food co-ops were started to help poor people. If that was the case, it is no longer. They are the gathering places of snobs.

Give me a big Safeway or Albertsons any day.

Cosmic Monkey said...

Noah, why do you prefer a Safeway or Albertson's to a small co-op or grocery store? Is it because you like being the anonymous shopper, you like the giant buildings pulsing with wasted energy, the glib and unresponsive staff...You need to reevaluate why you prefer a giant box store before I can really debate you about local organic agriculture. You want to pay 5 cents for an apple from mexico? Go ahead and suck down those pesticides and herbicides, go ahead and feel happy about subjecting those farmers to these chemicals. Your points are not thought out:

1. It is better to support your local economy because that is where you live. Don't you want to support your neighbor, build a relationship with the farmer, recirculate your "hard-earned" cash in your town? this has nothing to do with being "better".

2. There is no harm to the local watershed when a product is farmed organically. None.

3. Fresher vegetables are better for you. There are more enzymes and vitamins. This is a scientific fact.

4. You don't honestly believe this? The farther away a vegetable comes from the more fuel is used in getting it to your plate.

5. The small local organic farm cares about the community and the earth. There is no other reason to get into organic farming. There is not alot of money in it. The farmer might as well work at UPS and get health insurance and a decent wage, rather then work their ass off every day for no money and no insurance.

I said in my blog that the co-ops were started to help the poor get bulk commodities, and now they have turned into rich peoples dietary centers. But I think it's important to support them anyway, the same reason I think it's important to support your community even if you think it's full of assholes. Only you can be the change.

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