According to just about all known polling data, the number one reason people switch to organic food is concern for their family’s health. It may be a surprise to you, but health concern is not a leading reason conventional farmers decide to convert their farms to organic production methods.
More often than not, it’s economic. They see that through organic they can earn an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. In fact, health concern is normally the number one reason farmers give for NOT converting to organic. They fear that their animals will not make it without antibiotics and other tools of conventional farming systems.
A smaller subset of organic farmers convert from conventional methods as a direct response to the dangers of pesticides—they have watched older generations get sick and die of cancer, or they’ve suffered a horrible accident when pesticides contaminated livestock feed, and these farmers had to watch helplessly as their cows suffered and died en masse under a summer sun.
But invariably, no matter the initial reason that sent them down the path, after converting to organic methods, farmers point to better health—of their animals and their families—as the number one reason they love organic farming.
What lesson should we take from this? That food production and poison don’t mix very well? That many farmers are trapped in a farming industrial complex? That antibiotics on the farm are not necessary when cows are treated to fresh air, sunshine and organic pasture? All of the above, if you ask me.
However, if you ask me, understand you are not asking a farmer, just an observer. I’ve never experienced, nor can I really understand, the zillions of daily pressures farmers are under nowadays. You’ve heard it said that farmers wear many hats. Everything from vet, to economist, to mechanic, to mother, to father, to manager, to boss, to worker, to owner, to agrarian, to gambler, to debtor, to psychiatrist, to, well, you get the picture, farmers take on a crazy load of responsibility. It’s a wonder they aren’t all in the nearest nervous hospital.
So when I listen as a farmer answers my question, why do you farm organically?, by saying that organic has returned health and love to the things she carries to, and takes from, her craft, I have no further questions.
These are the words I want my family’s food to grow out of.