Promoting Organic: Are We Pushing or Pulling?

Posted on March 13, 2013

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Starting this blog has been in the back of my mind for a number of years, and I suppose it just needed the right time and the right nudge to make it happen. I’ll use this forum to react to fuzzy logic, illogical arguments, and misinformation, but let me tell you what I REALLY want to find time to talk about:

Generally speaking, I like to be optimistic. In my university years, I was quite involved in “environmental” groups on campus and also spent some time studying the history and evolution of the environmental movement. Eventually, I agreed with the notion that the movement didn’t address the roots of the problem because it was largely reactive and negative in its messaging. Most environmental campaigns are “anti” this or trying to “stop” that. Many others aim to convince people to “sacrifice” some aspect of their perceived quality of life for the sake of the environment. Very few, in my opinion, show an attractive, alternate path forward into a brighter future. (If you disagree, I’m certainly open to evidence to the contrary.) But one of the biggest reasons I became an organic farmer was the opportunity to be doing something proactive rather than reactive.

This is exactly where the organic movement has a real opportunity to be more forceful, in a positive direction. It’s OK for us to talk about the dangers of pesticides and GMOs, and we need to stand up for the rights of organic farmers and consumers with respect to these issues, but this can’t be our focus. Spending too much time and energy here is playing to people’s fears instead of their hopes, and it can alienate those on the “other” side. Instead of talking about what’s bad about the conventional/industrial food system, we should be talking about what’s better about organic food. And there’s lots to talk about!

When I attend organic/biological/ecological farming conferences, the most inspiring and energizing talks are the ones that demonstrate the power and potential of organic agriculture, to the point where synthetic chemicals and GMOs are not necessary, even counter-productive. And these gatherings, from large conference to small meetings, are hotbeds of positive attitudes, youthful energy, and mutual support. Farmers who make the switch from conventional to organic agriculture talk about the sense of independence, the thrill of solving their own problems, the camaraderie of their fellow organic growers – in essence, that farming organically is more FUN – to people used to doom and gloom messages, that’s incredibly powerful stuff! But there’s more: more studies every day showing the positive environmental benefits of organic farming, from biodiversity to soil health to water quality. More evidence that organic food is healthier for the people who eat it – more vitamins, minerals, beneficial fatty acids, phenolic compounds, you name it! When we think about becoming more forceful, we should be thinking about *pulling* people towards organics, rather than pushing them away from the alternative.

Simply put, organic agriculture is the better path towards a brighter future. We can grow more food, of higher quality, while restoring the health of the planet and its people. We’re doing it right now, and we’re getting better at doing it with every passing day.

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Posted in: Agriculture