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Support Your Local Farmer, Craftsperson, and Shopkeeper

It looks like if there is a common thread running through recent posts it is the idea of buying local. My concern was originally in the way of food. I feel a bit leery of the commercialization of the organic movement. Call me a “Luddite” but when the big Agri-Business takes over “Organic” food, I tend to not believe they have anything other than money in mind.

David St Lawrence in his blog this morning had this to say:

Why buy locally, when you can get things cheaper from overseas?

It’s really simple. When you buy directly from an artisan or from a farmer, there is a sense of connection that matters. If the artisan and farmer have pride in their work, you take part in a transaction that validates the quality of the goods you have purchased and you have obtained something you are proud to take home.

You are not just buying a cup, a jug, or a head of lettuce. You are buying the careful effort that went into producing what you just bought. Afterward, you will find yourself telling others about your purchase and sharing your joy at finding something that was just right for you.

You have made a connection between yourself and another human being with a meaningful transaction.

I agree with David. By buying locally you are supporting your local economy. If the local economy grows there will be more opportunity. Think of “opportunity” as the real crop you are helping to grow with your support. Now, David (as the new director of the Jacksonville Center) has a vested interest in getting people to support their local craftsperson and artist, but, the only way this country is going to make it in the “Global Economy” is if we change the paradigm on what we buy.

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The Blog of Henry David Thoreau

The Blog of Henry David Thoreau:

Thursday, June 22, 2006
Thoreau’s Journal: 22-Jun-1851
As I walk the railroad causeway, I notice that the fields and meadows have acquired various tinges as the season advances, the sun gradually using all his paints. There is the rosaceous evening red tinge of red clover,—like an evening sky gone down under the grass,—the whiteweed tinge, the white clover tinge, which reminds me how sweet it smells. The tall buttercup stars the meadow on another side, telling of the wealth of dairies. The blue-eyed grass, so beautiful near at hand, imparts a kind of slate or clay blue tinge to the meads.

What a great idea…go be inspired.

Saturday, June 17, 2006
Thoreau’s Journal: 17-Jun-1854
Another remarkably hazy day: our view is confined, the horizon near, no mountains; as you look off only four or five miles, you see a succession of dark wooded ridges and vales filled with mist. It is dry, hazy June weather. We are more of the earth, farther from heaven, these days. We live in a grosser element. We [are] getting deeper into the mists of earth. Even the birds sing with less vigor and vivacity. The season of hope and promise is past; already the season of small fruits has arrived. The Indians marked the midsummer as the season when berries were ripe. We are a little saddened, because we begin to see the interval between our hopes and their fulfillment. The prospect of the heavens is taken away, and we are presented with a few small berries.

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‘Organic’ Loses Its Freshness

‘Organic’ Loses Its Freshness: Until recently, organic practices were sneered at by those in academia, in government and in chemical agribusiness — now called ‘conventional agriculture.’ Thanks to a fast-growing demand for organic food, the sneers are now reserved for those who practice organics on a small scale. Long accustomed to being marginalized, unsubsidized and told to ‘get big or get out,’ small organic growers stubbornly plug away at their work, but the ‘O’ word that once gave them a special niche now means something entirely different. Currently it is used to lend credibility to ‘industrial organic’ food produced on large, factory-style farms, and while its newfound popularity may have brought some of those do’s and don’ts into the mainstream, I think more of agribusiness has rubbed off on organics than vice versa.

The meaning of the organic label rests on a shifting balance between what the corporate lobbies want and what the watchdogs can prevent. Most organic brands are now niche labels of larger food companies that have no interest in the finer, more holistic aspects of the grower’s craft. And many who practice that craft are scratching their heads and asking, ‘What can I call my product instead?’

Barbara Damrosch has written a good piece laying out the changes that have occurred in the Organic Foods area. And her main point is very salient, buy fresh, locally grown, organic preferably, food produced by someone you know. Once the relationship between producer and consumer has been re-established, both will benefit.

My grandfather was an early convert to the J I Rodale school of gardening. By the time of his retirement he was gardening almost an acre organically. I grew up reading Organic Farming & Gardening, and for years I kept a stack of back issues for reference. I have watched as “Organic” has gone from “health food” to mainstream supermarket fare. Unfortunately, the definition of the word HAS been legislated into oblivion by the Corporate Ag group.

Maybe we need a new word. Europe seems to favor “biological” (as in the French “biologique”). It evokes the plant sciences more than it does the chemistry lab. Some committed growers describe what they grow as “beyond organic.” Others have proposed “real food,” “authentic food” or “food with the farmer’s face on it.” One I know sends his produce out with the trademarked slogan “Earth Passionate Agrarianism” and the tag line “Taking Organic Seriously.”

This all relates back to “know your farmer”, if you know your farmer, and trust him or her, chances are your food will be produced in a manner that you approve of… If not you will go somewhere else to buy your food. Since you are familiar with both your farmer and his farm, you will be aware of the general health of his farm and able to trust the products he is selling.