Portraying a Dream?

Published on: 12:18PM May 18, 2011


Conventional vs. Organic…a debate that will plague agriculture for the rest of time. 
Is there room for both? Organic farmers are farmers too, they have great marketing skills and they provide food for their neighbors, but can we feed the world on small organic farms? Personally, I don’t think so. While these farms claim to be sustainable, it is a fact that they are not. Small organic farms are not sustainable in any of the three segments of sustainability: environmental, economic or social.
What I consider the elephant in the room is social sustainability. Why aren’t small organic farms socially sustainable? They aren’t because small organic farms are not modern agriculture. We have to stop painting the picture of who we want to be, who we once were -- red barns, picket fences and small tractors -- because we are not those things. Modern agriculture is concrete, stainless steel and economy to scale. That is how we will feed the growing population. When we pretend to be something we are not and consumers see how their food is truly produced, they are horrified!
Will we ever be able to convey these facts to consumers?
I hope so, but consumers today do not understand modern agriculture or organic production. A perfect example is a story that a friend of mine told me recently.
He was sitting in an Ivy League classroom and the professor decided to poll the class using remote polling clickers. The first question asked of the class was:
"Does organic produce have pesticide residue?"
88% of the class answered yes and 12% answered no.
The next question asked:
"How many of you purchase only organic products?"
89% of the class responded no. 11% said they only purchase organics.
Is there a correlation between those numbers? I wonder when we, the agriculture community, will realize that we have to be transparent about who we really are and quit portraying a dream.