MORE RAIN

Another decent storm dropped significant rainfall last night. Great for the garden! The plants seem to have grown inches overnight and are filling out nicely.
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Is Whole Foods Wholesome?

… here’s another technical point that Whole Foods fails to mention and that highlights what has gone wrong with the organic-food movement in the last couple of decades. Let’s say you live in New York City and want to buy a pound of tomatoes in season. Say you can choose between conventionally grown New Jersey tomatoes or organic ones grown in Chile. Of course, the New Jersey tomatoes will be cheaper. They will also almost certainly be fresher, having traveled a fraction of the distance. But which is the more eco-conscious choice? In terms of energy savings, there’s no contest: Just think of the fossil fuels expended getting those organic tomatoes from Chile. Which brings us to the question: Setting aside freshness, price, and energy conservation, should a New Yorker just instinctively choose organic, even if the produce comes from Chile? A tough decision, but you can make a self-interested case for the social and economic benefit of going Jersey, especially if you prefer passing fields of tomatoes to fields of condominiums when you tour the Garden State.Another heading on the Whole Foods banner says “Help the Small Farmer.” “Buying organic,” it states, “supports the small, family farmers that make up a large percentage of organic food producers.” This is semantic sleight of hand. As one small family farmer in Connecticut told me recently, “Almost all the organic food in this country comes out of California. And five or six big California farms dominate the whole industry.” There’s a widespread misperception in this country—one that organic growers, no matter how giant, happily encourage—that “organic” means “small family farmer.” That hasn’t been the case for years, certainly not since 1990, when the Department of Agriculture drew up its official guidelines for organic food. Whole Foods knows this well, and so the line about the “small family farmers that make up a large percentage of organic food producers” is sneaky. There are a lot of small, family-run organic farmers, but their share of the organic crop in this country, and of the produce sold at Whole Foods, is minuscule
…. It’s likely that neither Wal-Mart nor Whole Foods will do much to encourage local agriculture or small farming, but in an odd twist, Wal-Mart, with its simple “More for Less” credo, might do far more to democratize the nation’s food supply than Whole Foods. The organic-food movement is in danger of exacerbating the growing gap between rich and poor in this country by contributing to a two-tiered national food supply, with healthy food for the rich. Could Wal-Mart’s populist strategy prove to be more “sustainable” than Whole Foods? Stranger things have happened.
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No Comments

  1. Brian says:

    Related article:
    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2006/3/21/954/50698

    Hat tip (and discussion of article) here:
    http://www.theoildrum.com/story/2006/3/21/14447/8752

  2. Joanne Poyourow says:

    At our weekly farmer’s market here in the Westchester area of Los Angeles, many of the vendors are certified organic (certification posted on their stands), and you can talk with them and ask how far your food has traveled. I get to know the vendors, and it is clear which ones are families and which ones are employees. Thus it can be the best of both worlds: organic and (relatively) local. While I realize the New York City area discussed in the snipped article might not have year round access to such markets, books like Deborah Madison’s recent farmer’s market cookbook _Local Flavors_ underline the growing popularity of these events. Here in California you can find your local market at http://www.cafarmersmarkets.com/search/ I looked all through that site and I don’t see any mention of a restriction on how far your food may travel, so I think it all comes back to being an Aware Buyer, in this as in anything. Oh, and the New Yorkers have their own farmers market miracles – see this article: http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2006/02/22/philpott/index1.html

  3. claire says:

    its difficult to get across to people the ‘airmiles’ thing, i feel like I am banging my head off a brick wall sometimes.
    and you like the rain? oh my, you ought to live here for a while!!

  4. Wildside says:

    Interesting that we both chose to somewhat post about the same thing on this day! (Really wasn’t intentional, I promise!)