At 08:59 AM 11/17/97 -0600, you wrote:
> I'm new to this list and haven't yet waded through the archives, so
>excuse me if I'm not up to speed on this thread, but I want to interject
>a thought or two. Forgive me if I'm repeating old info or stating the
> The perceived high price of organic food is a very real problem and
>organic farmers have struggled for years against accusations of elitism.
>But, when discussing the economics of organic food production,
>particularly when comparing to the cost of conventional products, it's
>important to understand that we're not comparing tomatoes to tomatoes.
>When a customer visits the grocery and sees an organic tomato for
>$1.50/lb next to a conventional one for $.75 they cringe at the added
>"expense", when, in reality, that conventional tomato is outrageously
>more expensive. The problem is hidden costs, or what the economists call
>externalities. Not reflected in that $.75 tomato are very real costs
>such as public sector research for input-intensive production systems,
>groundwater contamination from misuse of those products, increasing
>health care costs and rising health insurance premiums due to toxins in
>our food chain, soil depletion from unsustainable farming practices,
>etc. Certified organic products don't incur those costs or if they do
>(giving credit for the miniscule amount of useful,"appropriate" Land
>Grant research trickling down to organic farmers) it's a small amount
>compared to conventional products. The single item which drives my costs
>higher than conventional growers is labor, primarily for weed control
>because I won't use "cheap" herbicides. The difficulty, as economists
>are quick to point out, is that it's very hard to put a dollar amount on
>those costs and attach it to that tomato. If we could, that conventional
>tomato would be seen as the exhorbitant product it is and the organic
>one would be seen as a bargain.
> Unfortunately I don't see "real pricing" happening anytime soon. In
>the meantime, the solution for low-resource folks who recognize the
>value of organic food but can't pay the price is to deal as directly
>with the farmer as possible via CSAs, PYO, farmers markets and preserve
>to take advantage of seasonality. A large amount of the cost of
>products, especially perishable ones, is added after the product leaves
>the farm. Most organic farmers recognize the importance of getting our
>products into the hands (and mouths!) of those who need it the most and
>we do what we can to make that happen. I farm in an economically
>depressed area of the Ozarks and, in addition to PYO and road side
>sales, we open our fields for gleaning at the end of the season and many
>people who couldn't otherwise afford it are able to fill their freezers
>and canning kettles for nothing but their labor. This not only benefits
>me by removing produce from the field that would otherwise not be
>harvested thus minimizing insect and disease carryover, but it also
>builds goodwill in my community and loyalty among my customer and labor
>base. That's hidden profit!
> Best regards,
> Gordon Watkins
>Karen Mundy wrote:
>> >Dear Karen,
>> >Yeah, it's a heck of a quandary. Your friend is lucky it costs her only $10
>> >per week more! the small store nearest my house is, thankfully, a "natural
>> >foods" store -- lots of organic produce and dairy stuff, sugar alternatives
>> >etc. But it is real pricey! Nonetheless, I do 75% of my shopping there.
>> >Two reasons: trying to limit (tilting at windmills) the toxins, chemicals
>> >and carcinogens that fill my children's bodies, and providing bottom-line
>> >support for organic farmers and og-transition growers whose produce and
>> >products I buy.
>> >My struggle isn't how do I justify the extra expense -- it's how do I
>> >justify my supermarket chain shopping when I do it? We're on a tight income,
>> >we don't own a home and likely never will, wear worn out clothes and drive
>> >funky old vehicles. But if I'm not willing to lay my money on the line
>> >where my values are in the small way I can, what's the point?
>> >It's not easy, these aren't easy times, and to stare down the beast takes
>> >courage, conviction and determination. But I think the storm our kids are
>> >headed into is gonna get far worse -- environmentally, economically and
>> >politically -- than where we are today. So it's the least I can do. And we
>> >need to validate and support each others choices and commitment every chance
>> >we get, because it DOES matter and it IS worth it.
>> >Betsy Toll
>> >betsy toll
>> > ____________________________________________________________
>> >| |
>> >| lowTECH EarthWork USDA Zone 8 |
>> >| Organic Lawn & Garden Care Portland, OR |
>> >| |
>> >| ...because the Earth matters |
>> >| (503)281-2354 eMail: firstname.lastname@example.org |
>> Karen Mundy
>> Rural Economic Analysis Program
>> Dept. of Ag. and Applied Economics
>> Virginia Tech
>> Blacksburg, VA 24061-0401
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Rural Economic Analysis Program
Dept. of Ag. and Applied Economics
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0401
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