Apples vs. Apples in Gardens and Grocery Aisles

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To my inner gardener’s delight, I caught a television show that featured a city rooftop vegetable garden. I nodded through my lunch break as the resident farmer explained how she uses that plot to teach city children about the environment. We connected across airwaves as she shared the joys of harvest and the disappointments of detrimental weather. But at the end, she belittled me and my family in her reference to “non-organic” farmers whose food proves unworthy of her standards. I lowered my fork in pain from the knife in my back.

I should have expected the defamation because I hear it frequently in the media from organic messengers, who seem to want to elevate themselves above the rest of farmkind. My husband recently hammered the organic analogy as handily as he uses a drill driver: the Wizard of Oz. Organic’s message resembles the wizard, the seemingly all-powerful being with words that frighten action. When the curtain draws, we see a human as equally important as the rest of us.

Research proves that the intentional pitting of farm production styles roots from emotion, not science. We face potentially divisive emotional questions throughout life: Should dogs live inside or outside? Should parents or child care providers tend young children? Our freedom permits choices. In a global context, many of them rank as luxurious choices when you consider that some Americans literally pit apples against apples.

Food fighters seem to want society to discriminate against foods in the grocery aisles. Myths about GMOs, gluten-free, “natural” and the meaning of organic spark the temptation. In fact, contrary to popular belief, organic does not mean pesticide-free. Rather, when used, pesticides must classify as organic to maintain certification. Organic pesticides attempt to kill bugs and plant diseases with the same intention as the man-made ones used on our grain farm. Yes, farmers may grow pesticide-free, organic produce, just as I grow pesticide-free, non-GMO, non-organic vegetables and fruits in my garden. If nothing else, my garden indicates that single-word identifiers on food labels cannot justify the complexity of food production methods.

Among conversations I’ve held with farmers across 24 states, I find common themes. Regardless of our production methods, the farmers express their love for the land and want the best for their families and farms. They willingly communicate their efforts to produce safe, quality food, fiber and fuel as well as leave the farm better than they found it. Those farm families, including my own, often have sustained and improved on that livelihood for generations. From my vantage point, all safe farm production styles, including organic and conventional, dine at a table of equality, free of flying tomatoes.

1 Comment

  1. Tom Runyon

    September 1, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Joanie,
    THANKS for the great article regarding the debate (if only we had the chance to actually debate instead of just the shaming from the other side) about GMO, Organic, Non-GMO, Non-organic!
    Having grown up just down the road on a now Century Farm in Yates City I can relate to your frustration. Our family still has our small family farm, though the eight (8) siblings all are outside of production ag.

    Now that I have been in an equipment sales company for grain elev, seed plant and feed mill quality control equipment, I am still the ONLY person that has a farm background. Constantly attempting to explain farm life to these suburban/urban dwellers. Your articles have helped and also bring a bit of Knox county activities back to me. THANKS SO MUCH ! I will continue to follow with interest !
    Tom Runyon
    Seedburo Equipment Co

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