Gary Hirschberg called me some weeks ago to ask if I would speak to a group of family and food bloggers. Stonyfield intended to immerse them in the taste and touring of organic farms and chefs in Northern California. Would I gather up my knowledge of organic policy, politics and passion and utter a few words on that murky blogosphere?
The invitation leads me to ponder the unlikely journey I have traversed to get to this very page.
How did I come to write about organic and why organic matters?
The Unlikely Blogger
Before I was VP Policy & Industry Relation at UNFI and Executive Director of the UNFI Foundation, I did many assorted and motley things.
Never did I study writing, have an inkling to put pen to paper or scribble some lines of prose. Indeed I loved to read voraciously from the moment I could and devoured many a novel not always suited for my age or state of being.
Instead, I spent most of my adult career buying, selling, importing and trading fresh organic produce. From the tender circa 1976, I began stocking shelves at a COOP in Iowa.
I came to California to follow the Dead which soon morphed into following big “O.” My career spanned retail, distribution, brokerage and starting my own business, Source Organic, which became a conduit for growers and retailers.
The past 17 years have happily whizzed by with Alberts and UNFI which offered up great opportunities to run with my passion for organic food. When they asked me to begin writing in 2012, I was flummoxed and also intrigued. Could I do it? Did I have anything to offer?
Why do I write?
It took me a good solid year to realize that I had to write about what I knew and share my personal story. I realized that the organic community needed education on some very basic stuff. They needed to know what was happening in Washington DC, how food policy touched their lives and affected the planet and future generations.
And of course, my insatiable desire for the flavors of organic fare could spice up the plot from time to time with juicy tidbits.
Who do I write for?
What I call the organic community is an assorted party of consumers, farmers, manufacturers and traders. It encompasses those seeking health and wellness as well as policy wonks, environmental advocates and concerned citizens. Mothers, teachers, Midwestern corn growers, and West Coast produce buyers all have something in common—they care and want to know more about organic food and farming.
This community collectively cares about the growth of organic and the prosperity it brings to rural and urban societies. Those who make a living at it understand that organic research is woefully underfunded and we need more from the Farm Bill.
Many in the organic trade want an Organic Research and Promotion Program – or the GroOrganic checkoff, currently languishing deep inside the bowels of USDA’s machinations.
They stand appalled by USDA’s action to withdraw the long-vetted organic animal welfare standards.
Every one of them realizes that Organic is a delicious choice for your fork, your farm and your family. Farmers elect to go through the tedious time and paperwork to become certified to the USDA regulations. Mothers make the conscious choice to place those USDA organic apples in their grocery carts. Families everywhere are coming to realize the benefits of organic.
Why write about organic now?
All of the major issues facing us today are impacted by food and agriculture.
Climate change, environmental degradation, the catastrophic loss of biodiversity, the safety of our food, and the health of our children—organic plays a role in mitigating them all.
Organic agriculture prohibits the use of toxic inputs reducing the amount of pesticides and nitrates that pollute our air and water. Organic food can be fed to the smallest and oldest with no risk of toxic residues, antibiotics, hormones or GMO’s
The very definition of organic includes fostering biodiversity and recycling natural resources.
Living organic soil teaming with life sequesters carbon from the air helping to offset our changing climate.
Is the glass have full or half empty?
There is a certain group of thoughtful rousers sometimes referred to as the “organic circular firing squad.” Many in the organic realm have (sometimes unwittingly) played a part in it.
They come as defenders of a pesticide-free world who would like to eliminate every synthetic material from organic production.
They arrive in the guise of consumer advocates painting a picture of conspiracy with the trade in the firm grip of some maniacal corporate plan.
All strive for a perfect organic in an imperfect world. If we somehow could attain perfection, there would be much less organic production.
In this case, perfect is the enemy of the good. Moderation—a middle path—needs to be taught.
Organic is not perfect, but it is the best and most transparent food system we have. We should not cast doubt upon it.
Now is the time to educate and advocate for organic.
Organic is timely and pertinent to today’s issues. There is a need to dispel the myths and misconceptions about what organic means. Consumers get stuck in a world of dueling labels and claims—confusion reigns! Non-GMO, Natural, Regenerative, Fair Trade, where does organic fit in?
It’s time for the food writers and bloggers to build consumer confidence in the label.
Now’s our chance to make a call to get involved in the Farm Bill and change the paradigm of fast, cheap food that’s making us all very ill.
We have the ability to call out the hidden costs of cheap industrial based foods and make the case for organic. Paying for real food costs up-front eliminates the hidden expenses to our environment and health down the line.
Outlining the relationship between food, health and the environment is the most pressing thing an unlikely blogger can write about today. Add a few delicious recipes and you’ll get a very likely reader.