Monday, December 04, 2006

Fairy-tail Farms

For those of you who missed the green-pasture-shattering article "The Organic Myth" in Business Week, here is a quick re-cap:

Next time you're in the supermarket, stop and take a look at Stonyfield Farm yogurt. With its contented cow and green fields, the yellow container evokes a bucolic existence, telegraphing what we've come to expect from organic food: pure, pesticide-free, locally produced ingredients grown on a small family farm.

So it may come as a surprise that Stonyfield's organic fam is long gone. Its main facility is a state-of-the-art industrial plant just off the airport strip in Londonderry, N.H., where it handles milk from other farms. And consider this: Sometime soon a portion of the milk used to make that organic yogurt may be taken from a chemical-free cow in New Zealand, powdered, and then shipped to the U.S.

. . .

Just as mainstream consumers are growing hungry for untainted food that also nourishes their social conscience, it is getting harder and harder to find organic ingredients.

. . .

As food companies scramble to find enough organically grown ingredients, they are inevitably forsaking the pastoral ethos that has defined the organic lifestyle. For some companies, it means keeping thousands of organic cows on industrial-scale feedlots. For others, the scarcity of organic ingredients means looking as far afield as China, Sierra Leone, and Brazil -- places where standards may be ahrd to enforce, worker's wages and living conditions are a worry, and, say critics, increased farmland sometimes comes at a cost to the environment.

. . .

Hence the organic paradox: The movement's adherents have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, but success has imperiled their ideals. It simply isn't clear that organic food production can be replicated on a mass scale.


At December 06, 2006 5:53 AM, Blogger Jane said...

Several years ago I found a paper clip in the bottom
of a 6oz Stoneyfield yogart container. I contacted the company and they asked me to send them the
container and clip. I did.
I never heard a word from them.

I tried to follow up a few months later but had difficulty reaching their customer service link on line and just dropped it.

I have, however, had a less than positive feeling about this company.


At December 06, 2006 1:41 PM, Blogger Jade said...

How odd. Too bad the paper clip was at the bottom of the container, as you probably didn't know about it until you'd eaten most of the yogurt.

Thanks for the story, jane. This just fuels my general feeling that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself (make your own yogurt) or buy it from a small local company (who would at least send you coupons or something).

At December 08, 2006 12:36 AM, Blogger ericswan said...

I was down to my plot in the community garden yesterday. The snow has put all my babies to sleep. I don't know what made me do it but I cut the raspberries down to an inch above the ground, then buried them with compost ummmmmmmmmmmmmmm. compost...

and then a foot of leaves. The strawberries were begged borrowed and blessed by one of my neighbour gardeners in October and by November, they were fighting for their lives under a blanket of leaves in minus 20 or colder and a foot of snow. The currant and blueberry bushes can take it and the rye grass was 4 to 6 inches high the last time I saw them before the huge storm we had in November. Some friends in the biz are bringing me a nectarine tree in the spring.

The food industry must be reeling with all the "recalls" for "organic" produce in the last couple months. Spinach, carrot juice and now Taco Bell is hit with a green onion issue. When I started out in "Organic" gardening, compost did not include livestock waste and that is the root to all of these problems. I have used manure in the past but upon reflection, this practice is not necessary and can have consequences. I've made a ton of compost from plant sources but this is the first year that I actually have it in my own space and not given it all away to help others get their garden growing.

Thanks for your blog Jade. I get distracted from this subject but it is the one with the most truth, fulfillment and benefit for me and mine.

At December 08, 2006 9:32 AM, Blogger Jade said...

Thank YOU, ericswan. While the rest of the world runs around in half to full insanity, I find the garden a very grounding place.

Last night we watched part of "An Inconvenient Truth." It made me think that all the geopolitical garbage going on is mostly irrelevant. We've ignored the real problems for too long and divorced ourselves for any ability to sustain our own lives, save begging or stealing (when the shtf).

Think about it this way: In nature diversity is key to survival, yet more and more we are consolidating our food growing/manufacturing/processing. Our consolidated food system (most of the greens are grown in CA) also explains why e-coli contamination is being spread far and wide. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket. And when chaos (political,envorinmental, and microbial) kicks up a notch, we are going to need diversified sources of food.

But back to your subject: when I was a child I frowned upon the use of manure in my parents' garden. They used to laugh at me because I didn't want to set foot in what I considered a contaminated plot of earth. I don't think using animal waste is necessarily bad, it just needs to be treated properly -- composted before use.

Even human wastes will compost given the proper amount of time. Though, no, I wouldn't ever apply human wastes to human food sources.

At December 10, 2006 3:22 PM, Blogger oblio said...

I think it's important to review the Stonyfield response as long as you're posting about the Businessweek article.

This is linked from their main page, your posting extended my curiousity about the whole bit:

At December 28, 2006 11:21 AM, Blogger Jade said...

Thanks for your input, oblio. It wasn't my intention to attack Stonyfield. Balance is always welcome. As in all things, buyer (reader) beware. Everyone has an agenda to promote. I'm not here to do any investigative reporting.


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