What an interesting statement I thought, someone who does not enjoy food, that under the United States Department of Agriculture definition is generally free of synthetic substances, contains no antibiotics and hormones, has not been irradiated or fertilized with sewage sludge, was raised without the use of most conventional pesticides, and contains no genetically modified ingredients.
This little incident was typical for a row of reactions from people who regard the concept of organic food production as superfluous and laden with leftist philosophy.
Though some visitors focus on other delights like pork sandwiches or soy milk cakes depending on the type of show there is a broad range of friends we make during tastings and fairs Farmers markets to me always are enriching: People tell me what they like or dislike about food, they allow me to become part of their lives, when they paint a picture about their father loving our bread chips or how they would fly in bread from Boston because it was the best, crunchiest Italian bread ever. They fill me in on their fears as well. Fears about chemicals from plastic containers leeching into foods and about gluten allergy or celiac disease.
I take those statements seriously and do my homework.
I research the background of informations passed on to me (what is gluten allergy? How did celiac disease come about), but I rarely come across information judging organic food as damaging for the body. Yet, there are numerous customers who in very clear words judge organic food as bogus.
I can relate to that: the very first encounter I had with organic food was during the shopping spree for a michelin star restaurant I worked in many years ago. Back then we used the best ingredients possible, but not organic ones, those were almost unknown back then in the early nineties in Germany. Together with the executive chef of said eatery I went to an organic market to purvey all the goods needed for an organic dinner for 45 guests.
Big surprise as the food tasted pretty much the same as it always tasted. It was stupendous, but not more stupendous than usual. so why buy organic then, I thought.
In 2010 I know the food was not contaminated by pesticides which is an advantage I learn to appreciate.
Then there is the issue of season:
Now I find organic glasshouse tomatoes raised in Seattle in February ( if there is such a thing) do not actually fit into a growing season and so I wouldn’t expect them to be outrageously great tasting.
Season is king, was king, will be king forever as far as fruit and veggies go.
Another contributor to food quality is the amount of chemicals used when growing fruits and veggies.
This are the ones most sprayed:
Peach, Apple, Sweet Bell Pepper, Celery, Nectarine, Strawberries, Cherries, Kale, Lettuce, Grapes-imported.
The least contaminated are:
Onion, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Mango, Asparagus, Sweet Peas, Kiwi, Cabbage, Eggplant, Papaya, Watermelon, Broccoli, Tomato, Sweet Potato
Absence of chemicals in farming sometimes means higher presence of nutrients:
Rutgers university found higher levels of minerals like Calcium and Magnesium in organic food. Vitamins in the form of pills are no substitute for fruits and vegetables since there often are hundreds of healthy components interacting within a single apple or a pear.
Organic to me also is important and welcome when it comes to meat: Torture factory farms add animal feed with unnecessary chemicals and after a life in a constant nightmare the meat of said animals is sold for a bargain. I get what I pay for.
This all comes from a consumer’s perspective. As a manufacturer of organic breads (and we will turn all organic with our dips by fall ), we use all organic ingredients, source the best flour possible from Montana, where the ideal soil conditions and climate make for the best wheat. In addition to that we finally found a small, family owned mill which stone grinds our flour. This means that the cylinders run at a low temperature, thus preserving flavor for the consumer to enjoy. Stoneground flours are very rare since it is cheaper to run big cylinders involving heat to grind the flours.
Yet we can not write “ Organic” or even “made with organic ingredients” on the bags we sell, because we are not a certified organic operation. At this point we can not afford to become certified since we do not own the bakery we produce in.
When I talk to famers they come up with similar comments: Certification is too costly for many a small business and even if they become certified they face massive regulations, outlined here, a page by the Minnesota department of agriculture about going organic.
A loophole exists however; I am allowed to put the name “organic” on the ingredient list. This is a small consolation prize and keeps me on track to become certified should I ever be able to afford the fees. Consumers should have a reference point looking at a certified label and should access information about what they eat. This is the reason I find the current USDA organic program useful.
Having stated this, I admit to love the produce of many friends who are not certified. I am also glad to know that the herbs in our garden are organic like all the mushrooms, berries and wild veggies we collect in the North.