My appreciation for farmers runs deep. From my backyard garden, to my local green market, to the CSA I’ve belonged to for almost 15 years, I have a true appreciation the beauty of fresh produce as well as how hard farmers across this country work to provide it. I also realize that I have the gift of perspective – there is so much about farming Americans take for granted.
On a recent trip to Oregon and Washington sponsored by the Alliance for Food and Farming, I was able to shake some of the hands that feed this country every single day, in the face of unimaginable adversity. Here are some of my experiences, some spectacular photos and 3 things I wish everyone knew more about.
- Family farms still exist
I think many folks believe that all their food is grown on ginormous farms, where growers have no connection to the land and just pump out produce for places like Walmart. While farms like this may exists, most of the farms in this country are smaller operations owned by 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation farmers – and yes, they ban together with other farms to also serve the needs of giants like Walmart – props to that! These family businesses face tremendous obstacles and as many farmers have assured me – they aren’t in it for the money. From labor, to weather, to pest management to family dynamics, there is a lot to juggle aside from the planting, growing and harvesting! Despite the hardships, there are so many family farms getting the job done. If you are ever in Oregon – visit Hoffman Farms Store – an amazing family operation that started growing potatoes and evolved to growing berries. This operation is growing, packing and finding fun and innovative ways to share their love of food and farming far and wide – they even host weddings.
- New technology is helping to keep our food safe
I had the pleasure of visiting the operation at Mount Adams Fruit, just over the border in Washington state. I was fortunate to experience their state-of-the-art processing equipment in action. It was truly amazing to see how this machinery can run supply lines and help keep track of the quality assurance and food safety side of managing produce. What’s equally amazing – the human component! Despite these amazing technological advances there are still jobs that must be done by hand – BY HAND!! Such as harvesting and packing pears and picking blueberries. It was also interesting the see all the new cleaning standards in place to help maintain safety from farm to table. Consider that next time you complain about the cost of fresh produce.
- It doesn’t have to be organic
You should only eat organic produce ….organic produce is safer …organic produce is healthier …and other related MYTHS need some busting!
Many of the farms we visited grow some organic products, like the apples pictured above – as they should to meet market demand – but it does cost more for the consumer. The price difference is simple – organic produce production costs more because it costs more to grow and as it turns out, if may be more taxing on the environment #carbonfootprint.
The more we learn about conventional farming, the more we can confidently say that the benefits of eating produce of any kind far outweigh the need to opt only for organic. In fact, the FDA published a report earlier this week supporting that pesticide residues on produce do not pose a threat to our health and many products contain no deductible levels of residue anyway.
Just because levels are detectible, doesn’t mean we are at risk. Based on the data USDA tracks about pesticide residues, I could literally eat 850 conventionally grown apples in ONE day without any effect. This and more mind-blowing facts can be asserted using the Pesticide Residue Calculator from Safe Fruits and Veggies.