Maggie: Before we started beanstory, I thought this was all was more cut and dry − buy organic certified produce and you’re eating chemical-free food. Buy non-organic and, well, you’re not. I didn’t realize how many uncertified farms are farming in complete accordance with nature, using zero chemicals. Conversely, I didn’t realize there are some large, industrial farms that are organic certified and, while I’m sure they’re farming organically by definition, their intentions are all profit oriented. I get it, farming is a business of course. But, I've come to believe that intentions matter and not just from a philosophical perspective; they affect the quality of what is produced. How do you see things now?
Katherine: I’ve also come to appreciate that there are different flavors of organic farming. You could technically be certified organic, but not necessarily improving soil quality. Our partners rotate crops and are out there experimenting and trying new things to continually support a healthy ecosystem. This adds cost and complexity, but builds better soil. I liked how one farmer said that he “grows soil first and then crops.” In the end, I think labelling and standards are important - we need that - but I want to get under the label to understand what's really going on.
Maggie: The topic of soil seems to be coming up a lot these days. And for good reason. Conventional farming has been extracting nutrients from the soil for a long time (Article). And there’s a lot of research that suggests improving soil health is not just good for us, but good for the future of the planet.
I still think organic is great, but it's no longer enough. I want to know how soil is cared for, how workers are treated, and where they get their seed, for instance.
Katherine: Totally. I'd always assumed organic farms used organic seed. But we've learned that's not always the case.
Maggie: Learning about seeds was incredibly revealing (NYT Article). Asking if a farm uses organic seeds is not something I would have done beforehand and now it’s something we ask all our farm partners.
Katherine: There’s clearly a lot of nuance here and not using chemicals is just part of a bigger picture. We’ve chosen to support farms that are going above and beyond what is required to get certified.
Maggie: Given all of this, what do you think about the pushback around organic in general?
Katherine: The term's been watered down over the years and the reality is, buying organic is simply too expensive for many families. But, the cost of soil erosion, polluting our lands and waters, and harming workers exposed to chemicals are real costs that aren't factored into price.
So, I think we do what we can to buy and support organic farming wherever possible - and specifically farms that are committed to regenerating the land. It’s hard to envision caring for our communities and the world without caring for our land.
Maggie: Food influences so much beyond our own health. We're not saying that eating organic will solve our world problems. But, when we change what we eat, other shifts happen.
Katherine: Exactly. I used to eat organic simply for my own benefit. Now it's about so much more than me.
A good life lesson all around.