Local Trumps Organic... or do I have that backwards?

Part 1 of 2
by Glen Boudreaux
Jolie Vue Farms
Brenham, Texas

OK, so a bunch of Flower Children got together in their slightly herbaceous version of the smoke-filled room at Berkeley and decided that spraying chemicals all over our food was not such a bright idea. So they sent some words of support but no money to Jane Fonda, Che Gueverra and Ho Chi Minh, made a commune, threw out some vegetable seed, made love not war, despaired for a while, got exhausted, and mostly grew weed(s). They were pretty much ignored, except by J. Edgar Hoover, who soon gave them plenty of free time to work out their mistakes.

To call the inception of the organic era inauspicious might be an understatement.

Nonetheless, the FCs learned from their mistakes, got off of J. Edgar's dole (we called him Jedgar in Texas), and went on their merry organic way. Eventually, the more sober among them figured it out. Before you could say brussel sprouts and sushi-patushi, Whole Foods was raking in 5 billion dollars a year. (It must be in tribute to their ancestors that WF always sells flowers - daisies mostly.)

The 5 billion part of the story attracted a more traditional crowd, and pretty soon they got with some pals at the USDA. "It's not fair" they cried, "these darned love-making, pot-smoking, hippie-pinko whackos are growing a bunch of sissy food and killing our high-fructose corn syrup market, not to mention our DDT coated carrots. We told Jedgar he was letting them out too soon. Next thing you know they'll be spouting off about animal rights. For God's sake and the 'merican way, Nuke 'em!"

"Not to worry", said their friends at the USDA, "we are the protectors of the American Way - Jedgar told us so one night at The Princess' Ball. We'll just redefine a few words in the Merican Heritage Dictionary so true-blues can sell their food and call it organic too. We'll adulterate the standards so any idiot can grow it. We'll put our stamp on it and make those hippies get our approval before they can use that word again. Then we'll make the bookkeeping so burdensome only you true-blue'rs can comply." And they did.

So there was peace in the land, organic labels in Wal-Mart, melamine in Felix's bowl, and everyone prepared to begin living happily ever after.

They thought.

Yours in the local-but-not-necessarily-organic harvest,



Vegetables of Mass Destruction: Sneaky provisions threaten your food supply

Picture yourself eating healthy, fresh, flavorful foods, raised by local farmers who care for their land and their animals in a way that improves the environment, supports local economies, and promotes animal welfare. This vision stands in stark contrast to the current mainstream food supply, controlled by large industrial agriculture companies. In pursuit of the greatest profits, they have sacrificed people's health, environmental quality, and any trace of compassion for animals.

Growing numbers of farmers and consumers share a vision for change,one that promotes healthy people, animals, and the environment. But thelarge industrial agriculture companies are seeking government help to preserve their market control and profits in the 2007 Farm Bill. Beforeyour eyes glaze over at the words "Farm Bill," ask yourself whether youwant to be able to get local, grass-fed meats and eggs. Hormone-freemilk? Organic foods free from genetically engineered contamination? Achoice whether or not to buy genetically engineered foods? If any ofthese things matter to you, then the Farm Bill affects your life – it’s about your food!

Two sneaky provisions in the Farm Bill could force sustainable farmers out of business and cut off local control of food safety.

Read the entire article here


And Viola! A Garden Appeared

Thought you might enjoy this report. I have the great honor to have been involved in the design of this new edible school yard in Houston. Hopefully this will soon spread across the metroplex with the great leadership of Recipes 4 Success.

- Farmer Brad

And Viola! A Garden Appeared

The heat index soared above 100 degrees on Friday in Houston, but hundreds of PriceWaterhouseCoopers employees worked from 8:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon to transform an empty 1/4 acre of MacGregor schoolyard into our first Recipe Garden. READ THE STORY and SEE THE PICTURES.

Where Cultures Meet, Amid Coconuts

Here is an exciting new take on Farmers Markets! The future is now, and it's bright!!!

- Farmer Brad

Where Cultures Meet, Amid Coconuts

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 13, 2007; Page F01

Just when you thought farmers markets had become not only ubiquitous but maybe even a tad predictable, along comes one with surprising possibilities.

Such as fresh sugar cane. "Fourteen years in this country, and I haven't eaten that thing," Haiti native Emie Cadet shouts as she excitedly waves a juicy stalk in the air at last Wednesday's opening of the new Crossroads Farmers Market. "This makes my day." Behind her, two small Hispanic boys contentedly sip milk from green coconuts as big as their heads.

There are 4,400 farmers markets in the United States, more than three times the number in 1994, with an estimated sales volume of $1 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture. That includes 90-plus markets in the Washington area. But not one is quite like Crossroads in Takoma Park.

View the article, CLICK HERE


Local is the New Organic? What on Earth am I Supposed to Eat?

By: Leah Koenig

Imagine you are standing in the aisle of a supermarket in New York City. Two adjacent bins of peaches are displayed in front of you. The sign over one bin reads "organically grown, Mexico." Over the other, the sign reads, "low spray, upstate New York." Which of the peaches, if either, do you put in your cart?

Over the last several decades, "organic food" has morphed from a virtually unknown idea, to a buzz phrase favored by granola-eating idealists and, more recently, into a billion dollar business. Once confined to natural food co-ops, organic foods - those grown or raised without synthetic pesticides, growth hormones or antibiotics - are now common fare at supermarkets and restaurants. The USDA certified organic logo graces the labels of mainstream products like macaroni and cheese, mayonnaise, and even decorative cake sprinkles.

As organic foods have grown more popular with consumers (they now represent the fastest-growing sector of specialty foods in America), large corporations have begun to offer organic versions of their conventional products (organic Heinz ketchup recently hit the shelves), and have started buying smaller organic companies (Stonyfield is owned by Dannon, Seeds of Change is owned by M&M/Mars. These large companies have joined the organic movement - genuinely interested in using their corporate leverage in the world, but many others simply recognize that the joining organic food sector could increase their own profit margins.

Whether or not the attention from big business will ultimately equal a victory for the organic movement is still unclear. The emergence of "big organic" does mean that organic foods are now being purchased and eaten by more families in America than ever before. But whereas organic certification standards (like the USDA organic label) were originally created to assure customers of more sustainable growing standards, their connection to big industry renders them a potential source of consumer confusion. A USDA organic label on a peach is one thing, but organically certified Oreos or Tostitos? The organic movement was pioneered by small food producers that wanted to move away from conventionally produced foods. Should food items filled with saturated fat and processed sugar grown 1,000 miles from the factory be considered organic simply because the wheat in them was grown without synthetic pesticides? A number of smaller organic certifications (e.g. NOFA, Oregon Tilth, Pennsylvania Certified Organic), which are arguably more thorough in their certification standards than the USDA, might be reluctant to certify Oreos. But according to the USDA, which is currently the most widely-recognized organic label, organic Oreos are just fine (and will hit the shelves in the near future).

More recently, the concept of eating locally - which roughly translates to eating foods grown and harvested within about a half-day's drive from one's table - has begun to percolate into the American food conscious. (Though, people who remember eating before World War II, which marked a major turning point in American consumerism, would rightly point out that locally grown food is not a new phenomenon.)

According to Michael Pollan, author of the current best seller, Omnivore's Dilemma, (highly recommended by the Hazon staff!) local foods appeal to the consumer's desire for authenticity - the idealized notion that food is more pure if it was grown by a real, hardworking farmer or caught fresh from the wild. In theory, eating local foods also connects a consumer more directly with the place the food was grown ("Poughkeepsie! We vacation right near there!), and with the
people - typically small family farmers - who grow it.

READ more of this article, CLICK HERE >>