Co-op Member Owners gets Op-Ed published

Co-op Member-Owner Dawn Ashbridge had this letter published in The Post Standard:

Thanks Dawn!

Post-Standard Letter
Monday, February 06, 2006
To the Editor:

Recently, The Post-Standard did a small article highlighting Consumer Reports' investigation into whether organic food is worth the higher financial price.

Organic has, in fact, become a buzzword these days. Even places like Aldi's and Wal Mart have jumped on the organic bandwagon carrying products like "organic" milk.

Once these companies realized that there was a consumer demand for organic products, a demand that warrants consumers to pay a higher price, a market was created for them.

Of course, every consumer wants to get the best price they can whether we are purchasing organic items or "conventional" (i.e., not organic).

This brings me to my point. I had the pleasure of attending the recent Northeast Organic Farmer's Association of New York (NOFA-NY) conference at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool and I walked away with a new understanding what "organic" really means.

Seeing this vast number of farmers all come together for the cause of organic was interesting to me. Why are they farming "organically"? Why are many of them taking a loss year in and year out?

Why the back-breaking labor when large-scale farms both within the United States and abroad are producing food on a much grander scale? Well, they told me why.

Organic, despite what I believed, does not simply mean growing without pesticides. Organic was founded years ago as an ethic. An ethic with roots deeper than conventional, profit-driven agriculture. Organic does mean not using chemical pesticides on crops, but it is more than that.

It is a reverence for the land and a commitment to health - the health of the soil, the health of the workers, the health of the families that the farmer feeds, the health of future generations - both human and otherwise. It is environmental stewardship in every facet of the term.

Organic means paying farm workers a wage that they can live on, even if it cuts into the profits that the farmer takes home. Organic means social justice and every person's right to be able to support themselves, while doing honest work.

Organic means local food for local people, and not using limited fossil fuels to ship products from across the United States, or farther, like Mexico and New Zealand. Organic means lower pollution, not pre-packaged produce in the grocery store that is laid on a Styrofoam tray and shrink-wrapped in plastic.

No, despite the labeling out there, none of this is organic. And all of it weighs heavy on the hearts of the farmers that I met at the conference.

These are people who put their souls into the ground and grow the life on which we feed. I know my farmer. I looked him in the face and told him that I was proud that he grows my food. I'm thankful that his ethics feed my young daughter, so young and so vulnerable.

Sadly, though, our tax dollars are providing huge subsidies for farmers to grow large, monoculture crops. Monoculture means they grow one thing - literally; all other ecosystem life dies.

This is completely unsustainable. Why do they do this? Because the chemical manufacturers want our growers to become increasingly more reliant on their chemical pesticides. We, the taxpayers are forced to fund this because Monsanto and other large chemical companies have strong lobbies in Congress.

On guard, folks. Food has become political and our choices at the store are our strongest voice. It may be more expensive to buy organic food - true organic food, but what is the dire cost otherwise?

Shop your local farms; shop your coops like the Syracuse Real Food Coop, which is also ethics-driven and not profit-driven.

Let's take back our food. For more information on Communty Supported Agriculture, go to www.localharvest.org and search for CSAs around Syracuse.

Dawn Ashbridge



Jennifer said...

What a great piece! This is the kind of piece that should be running as editorial content and not just on the Op-Ed page. Thanks Dawn!

Dawn Ashbridge said...

I would encourage everyone who wants to promote local, sustainable agriculture to write into the Post Standard and comment on my piece. It's about time we took back control of our food and halted the marketing of "organic" by big agri-business. We CAN vote with our dollars!!

Yours in Health,
Dawn Ashbridge