(A U.S. Congressman to Dr. David Edwards, head of the Joint National Committee on Language, about the necessity of a modern commercial nation to be multi-lingual. Really. I am not making this up. It is just too good to make up.)
So it's fruit time in Dinuba as Ruth and I have made a quick trip north this morning to take care of some family and business items, returning to San Diego on Sunday. It is 102 degrees today and the fruit harvest has begun. Do I miss it? Not today. I will elaborate another time.
But for the moment can I say something about the nonsense of organic produce? Now don't get me wrong--you or anyone else is free to buy organic anything, as it is indeed a free country. (at least until this November) Knock yourself out--spend five bucks a portion for Belgian Endive, or for your peaches or potatoes. But organic pet food? Organic beef? Organic health care products? Organic cat litter? Really? Is this what we have become?
We seem to fixated upon issues of risk without conception of balancing other interests. (Can you say "optional childhood immunizations?") I just don't see the value of hauling produce 3,000 miles from South America where it is "certified organic" and bypassing regionally grown produce that is conventional. What is the carbon footprint on such transactions? Do you have any idea what the growing practices really are in other countries? Do you have any idea of organic practices anywhere? Do you know what causes the vast majority of food illnesses?
Oh, so the answer is buying at farmers markets like at Ocean Beach, right? Let me tell you my experience with farmers markets. Ruth and I survived the first three years of our marriage selling peaches and nectarines at the local market in Fresno with an old "green" pioneer by the name of Richard Erganian, who knew and knows more about fresh produce and people and community than most. So I know a bit about the topic from the "old days" to now. And my opinion is at least half of what I have seen at the farmer's markets these days is not organic. It is conventionally grown fruit purchased from commercial producers of various sizes and then the so-called "grower" (usually with long hair, overalls, smile and a generally rural look) hand writes a cardboard sign saying "organic peaches." And so I then watch the consumers, so eager to feel a part of being "green" that they line up and rave how great the organic life is. Just paying triple what the grocery store is selling the same thing for, just without the handwritten sign. (Note to self: talk to my marketing colleagues about dropping the in-store DVD's and sampling and give them crayons and cardboard instead.)
I have seen my own fruit grown packaged in my own box then re-packaged as "organic fruit" by farmers markets. My fruit is good stuff but it is not organic. I went up and asked the "grower" (holding my own Summertime Fresh box from Reedley) where he "grew" his fruit. Without missing a beat, he told me "about an hour north of here" and I just smiled as he filled up another bag of fruit for a few college students in line. Hmmmm....I have grown fruit for over twenty years and I know that nearly every variety requires the cold winters that only the San Joaquin Valley can produce---the Southern California area is simply too tropical to get adequate "chill hours." Ruth told me to "shoosh" and withdraw from the field. My face flushed as I wanted to shout out down Newport Avenue in OB that "Bongo Billy" was a fraud.
Should I have made a scene and called "Mr. Greenjeans" a liar? Stay tuned. I will revisit this topic.
But at the end of the day my understanding of community, and the responsibility to produce food for our world, and the economic abilities of people to pay for wholesome fresh food vs. fast and processed food, makes this entire discussion for the average consumer rather silly. Most food safety problems have absolutely nothing to do with pesticides, herbicides and production practices, but rather with e-coli contamination and poor handling practices at the consumption site. There is a lot more to talk about here but I need to take my blood pressure medicine or walk down to People's Grocery and get a deep-fried Chimichanga. That will show the organic crowd!