Monday, November 23, 2009

Cost of Organic Food

I feel like ranting a little.

As often happens I have talked to people recently who dont know that I am an organic farmer. I almost always get the comment once we are on the topic of organic food that it is simply too expensive. At one point in time I would get all riled up and make my points about the amount of work and lost revenue that goes into proper rotations, legume plow downs etc. This would totally blow my cover. Now however, I just politely nod and ask a few more questions as it fits in the conversation.
1)Where do you buy your kids clothes? The answer is inevitably some retail store like Lulu Lemons or Gap or Triple Flip (all great stores by the way).
2) What kind of TV do you own and how many?
3) What kind of car and how new is it?

It always makes me smirk inside when I hear the answers to these questions because it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. People are unquestioning when it comes to purchasing a new car every 3 years instead of buying a used one. Instead of doing a little research on reliability and economy they buy Lexus or Mercedes or Audi or as is the case with the latest person I had the discussion with...Hummer. All of these are good cars I am sure, but they are not as reliable as a Honda Accord or Toyota Corolla according to third party researchers and they certainly are not as efficient and they are certainly more expensive.

They are equally unquestioning when it comes to household electronics, clothes for thier kids, gaming devices, etc. etc. They won't think twice about spending $400 on the latest version of x-box or whatever is the latest and greatest gaming system.

What is wrong with people when it is normal to drop almost a grand on a couple outfits for the 9 year old girl in the family yet complain about paying $2 more for a quality loaf of organic bread without all of the processing, additives or preservatives. A loaf of bread whose ingredients were grown in a responsible, sustainable manner. What is wrong with our society when families have children whose bedrooms have multiple gaming systems, computers and tv's but we chose to purchase cheap, processed and plastic enshrouded snacks. I just don't quite get it.

Here's another way to look at it. Is the cheap Walmart food really all that cheap? What about the government subsidies that go into large corporations and large conventional farming and fuel systems? You and I pay for all those billions of dollars through our taxes. That has to be included in the cost of conventional food. The average family spends around $700 per year in government, food related subsidies...did you know that? All of a sudden, locally grown, organic foods are fairly resonably priced and nobody can argue about their value after considering all of the details.

I can see how easy it is for people with common sense to get caught up in the mixed up values that our society thrusts upon us. We are bombarded with the television commercials that make it a common occurance to buy your spouse a lexus for Christmas morning. I spend a good deal of my life feeling just a little bit guilty that I am so cheap and practical. Jeesh.


  1. If I may share in your rant, it seems status quo is often subsidized far beyond food, such as subsidies that favour our current system of energy sources (non-renewable resources), roadways, cars, shipping of imports undermining supply of local goods, etc. In many ways we live in an illusion of a "free market" where supply and demand are often secondary to other forces such as subsidies. Where do these subsidies come from?

    Us taxpayers seem at times lured by politicians who trick us into thinking we get more for less by hiding real costs in subsidies. And sometimes we pressure politicians to fulfill our self-bred illusions in this same way. And of course Big-Business has its ways of bullying the government into creating subsidies that protect their business interests, on behalf of their shareholders, who again are us, those who hold RRSP's and investments. Who is at fault? I guess we all are to some degree. There are ways we can all change to stop feeding this cycle. For starters, it would help if we could learn to accept the real cost of goods and stop trying to get something for nothing!

    Back to food, quality food seems highly undervalued in our culture, which is sad, though it seems there are trends of change. Don't lose hope!

  2. Yes! Excellent addition to my comments.