I grew up in cattle country surrounded by wheat and red meat — so it was a surprise to my family when I not only became a vegetarian, but an organic vegetarian. They were confused, upset, surprised. What had they done wrong? I got questions ranging from “why” to “can you still eat cookies”? But the biggest question I got was “Why bother with organics?” They’re expensive. The fruit looks funny. It seems like a lot of extra hoopla. Do organics really matter?
So I wrote this blog post for my friends and family to explain to them why I choose organic foods for my family. I’m not out here to convince people to change their minds — what you eat is your choice. I simply want to answer that “why” question I had heard so many times.
A carrot is not a carrot.
If you look at two carrots, it’s impossible to say if one is organic or conventionally farmed — but that doesn’t mean they are equal. I was surprised when I learned that a carrot is not a carrot. They can have very different nutritional values depending on how they were farmed and what nutrients were in the soil. If I’m going to bother to eat something “healthy”, I want all of its nutrients… so that got me interested in investigating organics further.
You can’t wash off pesticides.
I was told by many people to simply wash off the pesticides — however that isn’t possible. Vegetables like potatoes and celery grab moisture from the soil and use that to water grow the veggie we eat. If there are pesticides in the soil, the potatoes suck them up and build the edible part from pesticides. The vegetable is literally made of pesticides, so you can’t wash them off! That got me thinking do I actually want to be eating pesticides? I wasn’t sure.
I couldn’t find enough research to satisfy my doubts.
When I started reading more about pesticides, I didn’t find enough research to convince me beyond a reasonable doubt that they are safe. There are plenty of findings that small doses to healthy adults don’t make a bit of difference. However, I couldn’t find any research about giving my developing kid pesticides — or the long term effects of eating small doses of pesticides over a whole lifetime. That kind of comprehensive research seemed to be missing. Did I want to feed my son something that nobody understood? Did I want to eat something that could have long-term adverse effects?
The system is broken.
For me, the icing on the Organic cake was that our system of farming appears to be broken. 100 years ago, people had a handful of livestock and a small farm. The two were self-sustaining. Animal poo enriched the soil. The soil grew food for the animals.
With pesticides and industrial farming, the self-sustaining cycle is broken. Farmers have to import tons of fertilizer to enrich their soil. And factory stockyards have tons of toxic leftover poo that is poisoned with antibiotics and other medicines.
As cliche as it sounds, I want to leave the world a better place than I left it. This big, pesticide-driven industrial farming doesn’t seem to be sustainable. Instead, it seems to be creating two new giant problems: the need for more fertilizers and stockpiles of toxic animal poo. As a result, I wanted to help an alternative, sustainable method of food production — the organic method. Every time I eat, I get to vote for my preferred method of farming. I wanted to use my vote for a sustainable method that will leave the planet in a better place for my son.
The exciting world of organics.
As I started to pay more attention to my food, I was surprised by how little I knew about it. I had taken for granted that every week I could buy strawberries from the grocery store — but when I went to my first farmer’s market I was surprised that they didn’t have any. I asked the farmer and he told me they weren’t in season. I had never realized foods have natural growing seasons. That’s why you have pumpkin pie and apples in the fall — they’re ripe then. I’ve tried to be more aware of food’s seasons since becoming organic.
I was also surprised by all the foods I didn’t recognize. I learned that there used to be 200 types of broccoli and thousands of different apples. But in the grocery store, we only see one broccoli and a dozen apples. I have really enjoyed trying purple heirloom tomatoes, zucchini with a hard shell like pumpkin and white carrots. Variety is the spice of life!
Whatever you eat, give it thought.
I don’t care if you’re a vegetarian, meat-a-tarian, organic or fast-food junkie. I think the most important thing to take away from this article is that food is important. Our bodies are built entirely from food. Food nourishes us and sustains us. Our life is food… so think about what you eat. Be thankful for the food on your plate and don’t ever take food for granted.