Farm Photos

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Soulstice Gardens Poorganics

I’ve been on many sides of the food argument, from apathetic to radical and beyond. I'll admit it, the following words have come out of my mouth: “I don’t care about organic, I’ll eat Western Family all day long!” 

Given, that was a long time ago. When I said that, I was coming from a perspective where it seemed like only fancy people bought organic stuff. I couldn’t afford it, and I’d eaten the so-called “regular” food my whole life already. Why spend more on it? I didn’t know why some people made it a big deal.

Over time I learned more about the dangers of eating pesticide and herbicide residues and the ecological consequences of continuing to farm this way, and I came into a new perspective. First of all, it wasn’t just all about me. It actually made me feel selfish not to buy organic food when I could, because who was I to deny the Earth respect? I am not the type to care more about myself than the Earth, I hug trees and s***t. I don't want animals or people suffering and I don't want to turn a blind eye to it all. This was one choice I had control over, I should make the right one.

These farms are scenes from nightmares, and the folks in charge of them are cashing in on the glory of being the ‘good old American farmer’. But, they do an injustice to the homesteaders and turn of the century farmers who grew this country. The consequences of industrial agriculture have caused thousands of direct deaths, it is the world’s top industry for slave trade and labor…yes, today. The number of slaves currently stuck in the agricultural system is higher than the number of slaves on the planet at the start of the civil war. This business is the business of slavery and exploitation, it represents the worst of human character. Here we are, able to change things in a first world country, and I’ve got the nerve to say something like “I’ll eat western family all day long?” That makes me want to vomit now.

Then people started getting sick as we all grew older. Gall bladders, eye problems, allergies, cancer, and diabetes…it started becoming ever clearer that no one should be denied healthy food = medicine = health. It is a basic human right like clean water, shelter from the weather, and freedom. In a couple of years of study, I flipped my role in this producer/ consumer game.  I became the crazy hippie chick who thinks everyone is going to die unless they switch to 100% organic!
But, on that other extreme end I wasn’t getting a good response from people. I was overly passionate, came off a little crazy, and tended to scare more people than sway them. As I preached organic, I was also a poor student who already spent ½ her (very small) income and $200 worth of food stamps monthly on food…If I wanted to commit to eating all organic it meant eating nothing but rice, beans, and pickled cabbage. Not that it wasn’t healthy, but it certainly wasn’t the rainbow, flavorful, Instagram-worthy, eclectic diet that I dreamed about…and it wasn’t going to convince anyone else to eat this way.

So, how could I tell people to go organic, achieve the flavorful diet I wanted, and also sympathize with being unable to afford it? The answer was to grow it myself. I am committed to having the best of the best food at the price of my own sweat, blood, and tears and no one else’s. And, I decided that since it was going to take a lot of my time to do this, I should probably make it a job and grow enough to share with those around me. So, Soulstice Gardens is just this, a homestead style farm where I am trying to get the most flavorful and nutrient-packed diet I can from the land herein. That which we cannot produce we purchase or trade for after all, ‘self-sufficiency’ is a misleading phrase that dooms many to drudgery and self-imposed poverty. Through growing organic produce which I can sell, I will be able to purchase the additional organic products we would otherwise be unable to afford…all the while keeping on that organic train.

Looking at this from the side of producer, it’s a funny situation. Farmers, gardeners, and people who are familiar with the food system want to know exactly how all of their food is grown. Now I have conversations about whether residue from conventional produce will survive decomposition and show up in your finished compost, a much better topic than whether or not RoundUp is safe.  They want to know if we are certified, what our chickens eat, where our water comes from, what our soil tests look like, what temperature the compost heats to, how we control pests and disease, etcetera. It started to become overwhelming in the other direction; too much concern over possible contamination from “the big bad industrial world.” A better place to be than among the shelves of grocery store poison, but how to become an organic producer without having to wade through endless concerns of ‘questionable practices’, ‘knowledge battles over who knows more sustainable techniques or certifications’? I feel that I have a genuine commitment to treating the Earth, and my animals ethically. No chemical spray or fertilizer ever touches my plants or soil. Now, that being said, I feel absolutely no need to seek out inspection or certification, especially from the very institutions who have failed to protect our food system already. This is when we came up with “Poorganics” as a term for what we might describe as: organic, for the real person. I know that it's been out in the ether and there have been others' who use it with similar meaning, this is what it means to me.

Poorganics applies to both the consumer and the producer, and all types of enthusiasts of organic living. It is a philosophy that represents a dedication to knowledge, integrity, and information, while also recognizing that we live in a world where contaminates are everywhere. The best we can all do is minimize our exposure and work toward a life that is healthier. Poorganics obviously speaks to the fact that most of us don’t earn an income worthy of supporting an all organic lifestyle, but we can learn to buy organic when we can. We can learn about which products contain the highest amounts of residues and choose organic options for those things while saving money by purchasing other items conventionally. In produce, the 12 vegetables and fruits that test the highest for pesticide residue after harvest are called the ‘dirty dozen’, and it’s becoming popular now for restaurants to shop organically for the dirty dozen yet conventionally for others, such as the ‘clean fifteen’. 

As consumers, we can research the issues that affect us most: animal treatment, soil degradation, corporate greenwashing, or whatever you care about. We can choose to avoid products that directly support these practices. One of the first real commitments I made was to go organic for my dairy and eggs because I was concerned about the treatment of animals and the bioaccumulation of toxins within them. Through raising a few chickens, I am able to save money on eggs and purchase organic dairy products.

From the perspective of the producer, Poorganic is how we like to describe our produce to buyers. Certification is something for large farms, farms whose practices are industrial enough to be of concern. We grow food like the pioneers grew it because we like to eat good, fresh, unsprayed, nutritionally dense flora. Like real American farmers, we protect the land we grow it on, because it must serve us for generations to come. Poorganics, from any perspective, is about getting real. I grow tired of hearing people snuff their noses, or laugh, at the word ‘organic’ because it has become too commercialized and too stigmatized. It’s not about who has the best brand at the dinner party, it’s about realizing how industrial farming treats the ecology of our planet. It's about going inside yourself and deciding where you stand on this issue and what you want to eatNo one has to ask the waiter whether the parsley in the chutney on their fancy, wild caught salmon is organic. Or, be the guy to request the name, hometown, and date of birth of his roasted chicken. However, we should be subtly aware of what is really on our plate, what it went through to get there, and what it’s going to do upon entering our bodies.

 I don’t waste my time counting calories, and I’m not bitter enough to refuse to eat the grilled American cheese sandwich at the neighborhood picnic. I am idealistic enough to take action in my own life, to grow fresh vegetables and share them, and to offer to cook for the next picnic.