> Bart Hall's comment, as well as the use of Fred Kirschenmann' concern,
> indeed other attempts to question the validity of organics and it's relation to
> sustainable ag strike me as mean-spirited attempts to knock those
> producers who have made a committment to sustainable agriculture, rather
> than thoughtful concerns about the threats to organics on the horizon.
I have to admit having had a good chuckle about that one.... I might even
forward a hard copy to Fred. Those folks who know Fred and me are already
aware of the depth and connection of our commitment to organic agriculture.
Each of us is an organic farmer, and each of us has been intimately involved
with organic certification for over a decade (Fred with FVO and I with OCIA).
*Commitment,* however, does not imply a blind and unquestioning adherence
to some sort of 'party line.' On the contrary, commitment *requires* asking
In case anybody missed it, my comments were in *support* of the dedicated
organic farmer, and challenging the current tendency to duplicate the
present corporate and industrial concentration of profits in the food
Organic certification, in theory, is a system of institutionalised trust
whereby the consumer can identify and reward in the marketplace those
farmers making a genuine attempt to act as conscientious stewards of our
common heritage. In the emerging system, however, even if the consumer
can *identify* the farmer (through certification), intermediaries are
grabbing onto 90%, 95% or even more of the 'reward' the customer thinks
is going to the farmer.
Imagine you have received a $50,000 research and development grant...
only to discover that the Post Office is going to charge you $49,000
for delivering your proposal, delivering the check to you, and then
sending your final report to the granting agency. Does the fact that
the residual $1000 is more than the $750 you used to get really help
you change things in any significant way...?
> Perhaps there is the impression that money hungry opportunists
> are constituting the majority of organic enterprises, with little regard
> to soil health etc. Indeed, I have observed the pressure on local markets
> by California products, forcing me to meet LA dock prices. Yet, I am also
If you think it's bad in the vegetable business, just remember that for
produce the farmer's share of retail price is usually on the order of
The so-called 'commodities' are another breed of cat, and I would include
vegetables or fruits for processing in this category. The money being made
in this business is being made by turning corn (or whatever) into some
manner of "Greasy-Crunchies" (in a *conventional* plant, I might add, in
the vast majority of cases). The fact that they are "ORGANIC Greasy-
Crunchies" most decidedly is of far greater financial benefit to the
processor, trader, and distributor than to the farmer.
Intermediaries, nearly all of whom work on straight margin, really don't
need to care whether a product is organic or not, or even whether it is
real food. It shows, too, in a majority of cases. An organic "Twinkie"
is of no significant benefit to either the farmer or the ultimate consumer,
but everyone in between (operating on margin) makes extra money off the
deal, which is why we're seeing a proliferation of so many organic
food-oids, while most organic farmers struggle to find enough profit
to give back to their land and support their families at a modest level.