Saturday, October 24, 2009

Living Organically

For a few years now, I've been reading about the food industry and just how insipid its workings are in Fast Food Nation, In Defense of Food, Omnivore's Dilemma, etc.  I'd always been in the camp of observing on the sidelines, wondering whether these folks were just kooky left-wingers who were about to embark on "the world's ending" campaign, but now I think I'm ready to make a move.  I think these people are speaking the truth.  They're looking for food that is sustainable and locally grown, and really, it seems to be the most sensible, most logical way to nourish my body.

So the Bierker household is in transition.  We know just enough to be dangerous, but we're both excited about embarking on this new way of eating, this new lifestyle.  So here we go.

Early this morning, Eric headed out to the York Central Market where our friend, Dave Dietz, has an organic produce stand.  He came back with a box of goodies, along with a "receipt" written out on a piece of cardboard.  Yeah, we want to eat more healthfully, but we also want to know how much it's going to cost us.  And it's going to cost us a lot.  Here's the jaw-dropping list of produce purchased this morning:

1 pound of fair-trade organic Peace coffee from Sumatra  $10.75 
Bunch of Cilantro  $1.75
Loaf of Big Sky Bread  $5.00 (this is when my heart started pounding)
2 medium heads of Broccoli $4.00
7 small hot peppers $1.25
1 large beet  $0.80
1 large sweet potato and 2 med red onions $4.25
1 small head cauliflower $3.95
bunch of bananas $1.85
block of garlic & chive cheese $4.00
2 pounds of red grapes $8.70 (angina-inducing, man)

If we were to go to the supermarket down the street, we would probably pay half this amount, maybe even less.  The trade-off is that we would have no idea how many chemicals we would be ingesting and whether anything was even ripened appropriately before being picked and shipped.  But I would know how much it would be impacting my wallet.  And the thing is, consumers care a lot about the wallet.  Money is a huge motivator; you see obvious and immediate impact.  And yeah, health is something that almost everyone will put at the top of "things that matter to me most", but the impact is less obvious or immediate, and therefore, less of a motivator.  

While the large farms of the country are being held hostage by Big Agra, who in turn, lobby for enormous subsidies, which pump out very inexpensive, but freakazoid, poisonous food, the farmer who wants nothing to do with it sits out there all alone, without governmental help.  Their only hope is that people continue to buy their goods to stay afloat.  My fear is that increasing demand will only increase cost in the short term since I'm not sure how well the supply side will be able to catch up.  

But while I ponder the economics and health issues, I'm snacking on the very expensive organic grapes.  They're plump, juicy, and with a sweetness I've never tasted in a grape before.  It's simply delicious, and occasionally, I'll stare at a grape, wondering why it tastes so good - is it truly because it's organic? 

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