Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Wild blackberry canes on our farm
The Good

Some Swiss retail giants have decided to stop selling glyphosate (aka Roundup) after the World Health Organization determined that it is a probable carcinogen.

The Bad

We need to start treating our oceans like the precious gifts they are. Overfishing, plastic waste, and other human-created situations are having a negative impact on them. Of course sea life is damaged by our abuse, but we're also hurting ourselves. Read about the problems in our oceans and steps needed to reverse the damage.

The Ugly

As I pointed out in a earlier post, we're at the point that Gandhi talked about where they fight us (that comes right before we win). This is what took place at a recent meeting of the board for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:
Mr. Mills [a district representative - our district] spoke about a troubling new issue emerging in southside Virginia involving organic farmers forming a coalition and publicly criticizing traditional farmers in newspapers and social media. He said that previously, organic and traditional farmers have co-existed without any issues and that each has recognized the other’s right to farm as they see fit. He suggested that his fellow traditional farmers be aware of this growing issue and work to educate the public about traditional farming methods. He also stated that it is important for farmers to be positive about agriculture as a whole and to not allow a wedge to be driven between traditional and organic farming. He suggested that other Board members be aware of this potential issue in their district.
Mr. Kordek [representing “pesticides – commercial structural] agreed with Mr. Mills and shared that the pest control industry has similar image issues. He stated that the organic wave has a strong message and that it does not take away the value of traditional agriculture. He mentioned that Dow Chemical has stated that you can have the luxury of organic when you do not have the responsibility of feeding the world. He said that if VDACS can be doing anything to help promote a positive message on traditional agriculture, he would like to see it come before the Board.
Mr. Sturgis [board president and a district representative] echoed Mr. Mills and Mr. Kordek’s comments and stated the importance of educating the community about traditional farming. He said that he has spoken to a Chesapeake Bay Foundation education class for the last two years on the Eastern Shore and that it been a valuable opportunity to educate the community about what is needed to support production agriculture. He stated that both organic and traditional farming are great. He noted that by 2050, it is predicted that there will be 9.2 billion people in the world and that it is important to get the information out to the community on what will be needed to feed those people.
Commissioner Adams stated that the agency understood the importance of the issues being discussed. She said that when she and other agency staff attend events, they are sure to emphasize that they are there to support all types of agriculture. She stated that the agency’s message is that agriculture is here to try and feed everyone and that, although it is everyone’s personal choice what they eat, all kinds of agriculture are needed to feed the world. (Source)
This is wrong on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin. I'm assuming the "organic" farms he referred to are NOT organic (we only have a couple of certified organic farms in the area, one of which doesn't even sell food). The farms I think he means call themselves (we're in this category) "chemical-free" and "sustainable." We never call ourselves "organic" because we are not certified organic nor do we want to be. However, after reading these minutes, I realized that farms like ours are the traditional farms. The majority of the farms should be called "industrial" or "chemical." You cannot call yourself "traditional" if your history only goes back about 50 years - compared to the rest of agricultural history which goes back thousands of years. 

Another thing that bothered me about this (if you exclude the idea that Big Ag is spying on small sustainable, traditional farms), is that the board that is supposed to be representing ALL agriculture (the board members actually point this out) has set up an "us versus them issue". And that our advertising and educating is "troubling" is...troubling to me. Also, funny thing is that not one single board member represents our kind of farming - sustainable, chemical-free, traditional. Don't even get me started on the "responsibility of feeding the world" when 1) most American crops go to feed animals, not people and 2) 70% of the world's food comes from traditional, not chemical/industrial production. Besides, it's not our responsibility. Unless there's a crisis where we step in to temporarily help in a time of crisis, countries can and need to feed themselves. All this shipping food and agricultural inputs and tools around the world is NOT sustainable.


David said...

Cherie, living in a big Ag farm state, all the attention is given to them. Roundup and GMO rule the fields here in Nebraska. I don't have any facts or statistics but I would say that even the farmer markets here use chemicals to produce the perfect blemish free vegetables that their customers want. I have to say though the taste and texture is still better than store bought that has to be shipped across the country. A substantial amount of corn grown here is used for ethanol production which is another whole issue. People would rather drive their car than eat I guess. The way the food chain has evolved into big business is a sad thing. For the system to change with any significance, I fear it will take a major food event.

Have a great food educator day.

Cherie said...

David, as an acquaintance said of the state she lived in, you're in the belly of the beast. We do encourage people to buy local, even if they do use chemicals. Many of the "chemical" farms around us use synthetic fertilizer but not the herbicides and pesticides because they know they eat their own food and don't want to ingest chemicals. Thanks for the reminder about ethanol. That is definitely not "feeding the world" nor are the cattle who consume the grain. I think between the avian flu and growing health problems, we will see changes in how people eat.