Thursday, September 13, 2012

week 17 - our organic soapbox

Lettuce            KALE              Tomatoes
Eggplant         Peppers           Watermelon
Onions                        Potatoes      Garlic     
Herb bag:          Basil        Parsley    Red Hibiscus

“A study claims insufficient evidence that organic food is healthy. But as the President's Cancer Panel reports, avoiding food sprayed with carcinogens still makes sense.”

~ Leah Zerbe, Rodale News

We keep up with National news as much as we can on internet and radio, when we have a moment, but this week, the news hit us hard.  Stanford University’s study on the health benefits of organic versus conventional food hit the Big Time.  Of course, there has been a firestorm amidst the community of organic growers and consumers since then. It is worthwhile to note their observations.  For instance, the Cornucopia Institute points out that though the study was not directly funded by large bio-tech companies, the Freeman Spogli Institute, whose scientists published this study, is funded by none other than Cargill, the world’s largest conventional agricultural business enterprise.  To top it off, “Dr. Ingram Olkin, a Professor Emeritus in statistics at Stanford and co-author of the organics study, accepted money from the tobacco industry’s Council for Tobacco Research, which has been described as using science for “perpetrating fraud on the public.””  Enough said. Here's Cornucopia's link

If you look closely at the study it was a study of studies and its conclusion was not a condemnation of organics but a statement that there was not enough research to validate any claims that organics is superior. The studies we know of have only measured the effectiveness of organics as an agricultural system, as opposed to their nutritional output (link here).

So, we feel the need to make a couple statements about where we stand on this issue. 
1) We don’t think of ourselves simply as adults making decisions based solely on our own health.  We are people who love children (and would love children whether we had any or not) and make decisions based on the overall health of the living system (containing people, plants, animals, and a generally amazing array of life forms) that surrounds us all.
2) We believe that the purity of water is crucial to the future of humanity.  This links back to the first point – it’s not just about US.  Conventional agriculture, whether it is producing vegetable, grain, or animal products, has proven detrimental to water quality.  Carcinogens, estrogen mimic-ers, nitrates, anti-biotics, and more chemicals pour from their fields and feed lots into streams, into the ground, into the air, and no one knows exactly what effect they are having, but we (personally) feel that this does not constitute good stewardship of water, land or air, which are increasingly precious natural resources.
3) Humility is a virtue.  What we are call “conventional” agriculture (the chemical means of food production) is actually a brand new innovation in the history of agriculture.  We often hear that humans have been cultivating food for about 10,000 years.  The dawn of chemical agriculture was less than 100 years ago.  Consider then that the nutritional value of food has taken a rapid decline in the past 70 years.  It may behoove us to look at the long term effects of this “miracle of science” that modern agriculture has become.  “Food grown in nutrient deficient soils lacks the nutrients to keep people healthy.” (NutritionSecurity Institute, 2006)
5) This point begs the question – if the soil is deficient, is organic agriculture necessarily better?  The answer is – It Depends.  Some farmers grow “organically” by neglect and default.  Others follow the same model as conventional farms, putting in just enough to make a crop grow, only using organic inputs instead of conventional.  These are little less than mining operations.  Unfortunately, this is part of what is considered USDA Organic.  However, there are growers who manage their resources wisely and work with conscious respect to the needs of their land.  They recognize deficiencies and work to heal them, and they do their utmost to leave the soil and environment in better health than they found it.  This, to us, is truly good Farming, and good Stewardship.  That’s what we strive to do, AND we firmly believe that food grown in this manner will be quantifiably more nutritious than conventionally grown food.  We are not surprised that Stanford did not find studies of this nature to include in their review. 
6) One more point: the proof is in the pudding.  For the most part, organic growing operations are good neighbors.  Often, the gardens are beautiful, the animals are healthy and happy, and there are places to walk or have a picnic.  This can’t be said of the thousands of acres in central California where farm workers wear space suits in the field.  It’s certainly not true of the miles of feed lots in west Texas and Oklahoma where cattle stand knee deep in their own excrement.  It’s not even quite true of the mega blocks of corn and soybeans in the mid-West, which may be beautiful to see from a car or a plane, but would not be desirable to live amidst.  We wonder – if we can’t live around it, why do we think we should eat it?

Thanks for reading our soap box!  We’ll step down now and celebrate the coming of KALE!

This first cutting is so tender.  We’ve blended it with parsley into salads like tabbouli, and steamed it just a little and enjoyed it with butter and balsamic.  The cool weather has been GREAT for the fall brassicas.  The summer squash, cukes and okra are stalled out.

This may be the last big haul of eggplant!  It has been an eggplant marathon.  Thanks for your good humor with that.  Get ready for the peppers now.  And, when it rains…

These are the last watermelons.  Next week we’ll have Paydon’s Heirloom Acorn squash.

These nifty tips of the Red Hibiscus bush can be thrown into salads for a zing, or made into a beautiful red tea.  Enjoy.

Multi Pepper Salad with Fontina, adapted from From the Cook's Garden by Ellen Ogden

1.5 pounds Sweet peppers, roasted and cut into 1/4 inch strips
12 black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and coarsely chopped
6 ounces Fontina cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 1.5 cups)
2 Tablespoons heavy cream                          1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard                              1 tspoon finely chopped cutting celery OR parsley
1/4 cup best extra virgin olive oil                 S & P to taste

Combine the peppers, olives, and cheese. Mix the cream, lemon juice, mustard, and herb in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil. Season with the S & P. Pour over the peppers and mix. Serve immediately.

Be well, eat well, and enjoy this changing season!                          Paul, Coree, Lulah and Levon

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