Conventional or Organic…what do you put in your grocery cart??

25 Feb

I am a farmer and I am also an eater. You could almost say that I’m addicted to it…that is putting things in my stomach. I’m also a very avid cooking not-so-much wiz, that loves to try new things and really go out on a limb at times with my experimental foods. I guess you could say I’m a farmer foodie that is just trying to earn her wings in the cooking realm. Because of this I’m usually the one that heads to the grocery store to choose what is going to be put in the cart, in the fridge and eventually on the table. So as I walk through the grocery store I’m always confronted with many many choices! As are most people in the United States, who receive the cheapest and safest food supply in the world (thank you farmers). I see a lot of organic options and conventional options. So what do I buy and why?

Conventional on Left, Organic on Right.
Pretty close to the same, minus a bug hole in the top of the organic.

The organic produce and conventional usually look about the same. Truth be told sometimes the organic does look a bit on the “under the weather” side of things. But that’s beside the point, I think that they both taste good, both have the same nutrients, and in the end both have the same result. So when I go to pick up my produce, here is why I’m more likely to pick-up the conventional…

  • I like to support conventional agriculture. I truly believe that it is still our future and we can’t feed the world without that technology.
  • I myself am a conventional farmer, so I understand how careful we have to be in the US to provide safe food. We don’t just spray to spray, we do it carefully and timely to keep us all safe.
  • The nutrients are not any different, I can still be a healthy person while eating produce that had pesticides sprayed on them.
  • Many organic sprays are not healthy either, and they have to spray more often because they are not as effective.
  • Pricing, conventional is usually much cheaper to buy.

Now I would write here the reasons that I would buy organic, but honestly I can’t say that I buy these products. I think that it’s for a lot of the reasons above and I feel very passionately about them. Plus I can honestly say that I’m very frustrated about the organic movement and what they have done to the reputation of farmers across the US. I come from a farm where all you neighbors are there to help, my agriculture involves lending a hand and some advice to make others also succeed. I come from an agricultural community where literally everyone knows your name and although many of our farms are “Incorporated” we are all still family run farms. With the onset of organic it seems like they are trying to take that away. They make my farm look like we don’t care about the land, like we just go out and spray without any regard to what is going on in the soil, in the air, or around our property. I’ll tell you one thing, we couldn’t care more for the land, because if we didn’t, we would be out of work forever, and this legacy that I’m a part of, I am working hard every day to make sure that it’s there for my children. Organic has hit the scene and they are becoming successful on the back s of farmers who have been here for a long time tending the land. They bad-mouth and accuse and send out false information that just quite frankly isn’t true. I hope that we can find a place someday where we can eat what we want, conventional or organic, and be happy supporting two successful industries!


This is what people think of when they thing “Corporate Farms”…


This is what our “Corporate” Farm looks like, It’s all about family and taking care of the land.

I googled “Organic vs. Conventional” today and came up with a mayo-clinic website. It had a chart of the differences between conventional farming and organic. I would like to point out a few examples of why this debate seems very mis-educated. They say that conventional farmers apply chemicals to promote plant growth. Organic farmers apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants. These statements are true, however they are not complete! As a conventional farmer we also apply manure and compost to our plants to help with plant growth and health. It also helps the soil. Basically through the whole list we conventional farmers look like all we do is pour on the chemicals, when in reality I can truly say that we have done all the of things on the organic side. We do them all year long, the difference is that we can’t produce at the level that we need to, to feed all the people in the world, by not taking advantage of the advances in technology that the agricultural community has worked so hard to make available.

I hope that when you go the store you can choose what you want to eat. That you can look and appreciate that we have so many choices that are safe and economical for our families! Thank a farmer either organic or conventional because we are both doing the best we can for you, for the land and for our families!

6 Responses to “Conventional or Organic…what do you put in your grocery cart??”

  1. Leslie C March 31, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Brenda – I found your blog through the article on you taking over your Dad’s farm; great story and you communicate well on your blog about very important things. Too many children are growing up thinking their food originates magically at the grocery store, and need to know more about the farmers without whom we could not survive, let alone prosper, as a country.

    I wanted to write to reassure you, at least from my perspective – don’t listen to the worst of the media crap about organics and assume that everyone lumps family farmers in with the big Agribusinesses that are being vilified. You obviously work to use the land well and take care of it, and to not overuse the chemicals you do. But even your poem speaks (however in jest) of your worry about your lifetime exposure to the chemicals you use – many of those pushing for change in farming tactics to move away from dependence on chemicals as much as possible are worried about YOU, too – farmers, harvesters, etc. and about the problem of whether these chemicals persist in our soils and water over time and what that will mean to future generations. And, worried about things like “terminator seed” technology that could prevent farmers like those you helped in Kenya from harvesting their own seed to plant the next year, but instead force them to buy more.

    I grew up in IL – corn and farmland everywhere. I know how important farming and farmers are – I want all of you to be healthy, and not have to buy chemicals and then more chemicals adding to the price of your farming and driving down your profits.

    As usual, just like with the “pink slime” issue the media of late has completely abandoned all sense of balance and reality and goes always for the extreme emotion and makes it more extreme, shows always the worst of human nature and over time people being to think the worst of people in general. It’s bad and getting worse in that regard – but because of the internet, I can find your blog and tell you that there’s just as much disinformation about people on the side of organics as there is on your side. In between, it’s just good people like you and me, trying to help each other and do what’s best for the future of our families and our planet. And all we can do is keep talking, keep communicating against the tide of media insanity.

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  2. D. Scott Smith February 27, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    Great post!

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  3. Evan K February 26, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    Back in the day, we used to wholesale a lot of cantaloupes. We had one buyer who would buy our conventional produce from us and somehow between our farm and getting to Central Oregon, they’d become Organic. He got a premium for them but paid conventional wholesale prices for them.

    It worries me that the people who support the organic movement with their wallets don’t actually consider a few things. First, consider that organic and ‘chemical free’ aren’t the same thing, regardless of how much the Organic Food industry wants you to believe it. The list of chemical pesticides that are certified for organic production is growing every day. Heck, I use some of them. When I tell people about this, they think I’m lying. I ask them to do their own research, and some of them come back quite stunned. Most people are concerned about pesticides, the Organic rules are more restrictive regarding fertilizer. The two interests aren’t properly aligned.

    Second, there is a trust issue. The organizations that certify organic production don’t have very much enforcement. Most of the ‘control’ happens on the front end, requiring plans to be submitted that show knowledge of how to keep contaminants out of the fields. Of the times we’ve grown organically for different buyers, we’ve never seen a touch of inspection. There’s a lot of trust to go around. And, with the premiums that some folks are getting for organic, I wouldn’t be surprised if a bit of chemical nitrogen or a conventional spray is sneaked in there just out of convenience. Hey, farmers are busy folks, organic or not. It is tempting to cut corners.

    I encourage people to buy food that’s grown by someone who also eats that food. I eat everything I grow. Yes, even a bit of alfalfa here and there, just to see if the quality is going to be good. (well, I taste that and spit it out, really) But, when the farm is in full production, about 80% of my calories come from my own farm. If it isn’t healthy, I’d be doomed. I am the test subject. I am the example. You can trust me.

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  4. Conor Bofin February 25, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    Here in Ireland, we suffer outrageous prices for our fruit and vegetables. Anything that carries the organic label (and the green colored packaging) carries a big %age price increase and all too often, no nutritional or taste benefit. I spent some time as an organic convert but, I have abandoned the cause on the basis of vague promises of benefit and outrageous additional cost.
    Best,
    Conor

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  5. Betty Marguth February 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    This is extremely well written! There is no “hidden” agenda here. Just the honest to goodness truth written by someone passionate about agriculture and proud to be a farmer. We often get side-tracked in the United States by zealots with agenda’s or Hollywood celebrities trying to get press headlines by vilifying farmers. If we did not have access to this plentiful and safe food supply (as many in the world go hungry), then, and only then, would we be grateful to the American farmer.

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