It’s taken me over four years to write this article. I suppose I held onto it for a number of reasons. I don’t like calling out other farmers. I can anticipate the push back. And, quite frankly, I didn’t want this farmer to know her comment shocked me so much.
I was speaking at a local women-in-agriculture conference. It was a smaller gathering where everyone knew everyone (or quickly became acquainted). I was presenting about my work as The Farmer’s Daughter USA. I told the group that one of my biggest goals was simply to make grocery shopping much less scary for people. That includes shoppers who only purchase organic produce because they’re afraid that all the conventional pesticides will harm them or their families (that’s not something you need to worry about). I want people to learn about facts, not fear. I want people to understand and appreciate modern agriculture.
It was around this time that the organic farmer spoke up. She arrived late and had boldly walked up to the second row without worrying about her tardiness or interrupting the proceedings. It was a little obnoxious, especially with such a small group, but I tried to let it slide. Looking back, I’m sure this behavior was on purpose, because it wasn’t long before she interrupted me.
“Why should we tell them these things? So what if they’re afraid and spend more on organic produce?”
I was stunned. So was everyone else in the room. I honestly don’t even remember my response. But a million responses flew through my head. Because we don’t lie to people. Because we’re better than that. Because fear-based marketing hurts people. Because we’re proud of what we produce. Because we want others to appreciate that we have one of the safest food supplies in all of human history. Because, last time I checked, being ethical is still a good thing.
Now I wasn’t shocked that someone had this opinion. Plenty of organic organizations and advocacy groups share her sentiments. They don’t care whether they tell people the truth. They have an agenda and lying to people about food production is how they reach those goals.
No, I couldn’t believe she said it for another reason: she’s a farmer.
I’m not naïve enough to think her kind doesn’t exist. We’ll call them “true believers.” The farmers that are legitimately scared of conventional farm practices or think they’re saving the world one organic pesticide at a time. Of course they exist.
But I wholeheartedly believe that isn’t most farmers. There’s obviously not a lot of data or polling on this type of thing, so I can’t offer you numbers. However, I’ll bet most farmers who grow organic crops commercially are likely doing it because it’s economically advantageous. Some of these farmers have both organic and conventional crops. And there’s my disclaimer to the people mad about this article–I don’t believe most organic farmers are happy to spread fear and misery to the masses.
Yet there I was face to face with an organic farmer who was content to increase sales with fear and lies.
Let me tell you something. There is absolutely no place for someone like that in our industry. We’re better than that. We have more integrity than that. The food sector as a whole may play these games and compromise their values and rob Peter to pay Paul. But not farmers. Never farmers.
As far as I know her and her husband are still farming. Hopefully she’s changed her attitude, but I doubt it. I sure haven’t forgotten her comment in the last four years though.