Why I Will Pay More for Organic Food

This blog is the first in a series written for Stacey Fokas’ Freshalicious website…

Organic food. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?  As farmers who are in transition from conventional farming to growing organically, my husband and I answer a resounding “Yes!”

When most people think of organic food, they think “no pesticides, no herbicides, no chemical fertilizers”. While true, that is just scratching the surface of why organic farming practices are so important, to our health and to the planet that we all share.  It also does not contain any genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), and it has been produced in a sustainable manner, with consideration to everything from paying fairly for wages, to using our natural resources wisely and respectfully.

One of the most frequent complaints I hear about organic food is that “it is too expensive”.  I feel that in North America, we actually spend a very small percentage of our disposable income on food. Cell phones, cable television, and eating out (usually processed food) take a huge chunk of our weekly pay. Isn’t nourishing food that will sustain us and keep us in good health more important than some of these social niceties?

But back to the issue of “costly” organics.   As a rule, yes, organic food does cost more.

hensOne reason is that most organic farms work on a small scale. Our 80 laying hens are free to run around on the grass, to eat bugs, and they are fed an organic ration we make ourselves.  Most commercial laying operations  have barns filled with tens of thousands of birds, with minimal space requirements.  If we make a profit per bird on our 80 chickens, it’s good, but it’s certainly a lot less than the profit that can be made on 40,000 chickens in one barn. The same with organic pork or beef.  These animals live on pasture and large herds are not the norm. They are not packed into factory farms, to live on concrete floors, and rarely see the light of day.   If you want to read an eye-opener on factory farms, I suggest “Righteous Porkchop”, by Nicolette Hahn Niman.

A second cost factor is labour. Because organic farms can not and do not rely on sprays such as RoundUp to kill weeds, there is a lot of hand weeding and hoeing that needs to be done.  This all takes time.  Time is money.  Also, timing is everything.  Weeds that are just emerging are much easier to deal with than when they are 4 inches tall.  Bad weather or other priorities sometimes mean the weeding is going to take longer, adding the time expense again.  Much faster to spray!

When I plant my vegetables, the first thing I do is make sure the soil is healthy.  Healthy soil makes healthy plants.  Healthy plants mean better nutrient uptake, fewer insect problems, and better yields.  We do not use any chemical fertilizers on our gardens.  Instead, we use our mushroom compost.  It is chock full of micronutrients and composted organic material which will feed the plants.  Anyone who has ever had a backyard composter or compost pile knows that it takes a bit of work, often with a wheelbarrow.   Faster to use the popular Miracle Gro – but no thanks!

And it when it comes to bugs, I only use organic pesticides.  Most are concoctions I make up myself, using natural plants and herbs.   I feel secure in the knowledge that none of the food I eat from our gardens will have anything harmful on it.  Most organic sprays need to be applied several times, and at the right time.  Did you know that many large commercial potato growers rely heavily on sprays?   First to kill all the weeds, then to fertilize, then to kill bugs, then with fungicide and finally, after harvest, to keep them from sprouting in storage.  When we get potato bugs at home,  it’s Ralph’s job to spend half an hour or so – every day until they’re gone – in the patch, picking them off.greenhouse

And it’s not only the pesky insects which are affected by heavy chemical spraying.  Our pollinators (bees, moths and butterflies), our songbirds looking for their meal, all creatures who visit the garden are affected by pesticide use.

Most organic growers see themselves as stewards of the land.  We want (and need) to earn a living, but we strive to do so in a way that will leave a small footprint on our planet, and will provide us all with healthy delicious food.  Hopefully, the next time you are deciding whether or not to spend that extra money on organic food, you will think of  the reasons it IS a better choice!

Until next time, thanks for reading and thank you to Stacey for inviting me to her website!

 

** April 1 – Found a great website with “A Dozen Homemade Organic Remedies” !

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