Friday, April 8, 2016

I did it! I wrote THAT letter.

It seems as though every where I turn, this organic lifestyle is promoted as the simple answer the health. I read a lot of blogs, and in almost every post that answers something about health or healthy living, they answer it so simply: I eat organic. Well, I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and sent over a lengthy email to one of these bloggers in response to their organic lifestyle:

Good Afternoon,

I wanted to write an email to you clarify a few things that I read on your blog. First of all, I just want you to know that I mean absolutely no disrespect in writing this, I just feel that you have been ill-informed about some things and I wanted to clarify them for you. 

You write frequently on your blog about organic and clean eating habits that keep you healthy. I feel as though you have been mislead on organic living. Organic certainly does not mean healthy, and healthy does mean that is has to be organic.

I strongly believe in healthy eating, and certainly strive to do so myself. I have three young daughters that I am trying my hardest to teach them healthy habits and provide nutritious food for them. I can relate to cutting out sodas and sugars, as I struggle to cut out Mt. Dew from my diet. However, I also know that spending more money on organic food does not mean that I am providing my girls with any more nutrition or even safety. Food nutrition, balanced meals, moderation and exercise are much more effective and important when it comes to living a healthy life, not the label on the package.

To give you some background, I am a farmer from NW Wisconsin, but I also spend much of my time talking to consumers about their food: how it is raised and grown and where it comes from, and I wouldn't be doing my farm justice if I didn’t take the time to clarify these things for you.

Now back to the organic or clean eating. A strawberry is a strawberry no matter how it is grown or what label it has in the store. It still contains the same amount of nutrients and vitamins no matter how it is grown. Many consumers then associate organic food with no pesticide use, well that in fact is not at all true. There are over 400 organic pesticides used in organic farming practices, many of which are much more harmful to you than the synthetic pesticides used by conventional farmers, and much of which is used at a higher dosage due to lack of other conventional practices used to reduce weeds, insects and disease on the crop.

Another good example of this is organic tobacco (yes, there is a HUGE market for this!) Is organic tobacco any more healthy for you… certainly not! It still causes cancer, it still rots your teeth, it still stinks just the same. But many consumers are lead to believe that it is safer for them simply because it says that it is organic. I know that this is an extreme example of label marketing, but it applies to almost every item in the grocery store. Take the hormone free label for example. You will quite commonly see this on poultry or pork in the meat department. And around Thanksgiving you will see a 'hormone free' turkey costing a significant more than the one without this label. This is very misleading to consumers, because it is illegal to give any pork or poultry ANY hormone, and animals are tested before it goes to market. So now that company just receive a significant more money simply by adding a label on the package.

The organic label was created to market products. In fact, in order for a product to carry the organic label it only has to contain a percentage of organic product. That percentage varies depending on the product and can contain as much as 100% or as low as 25% organic product to still have the organic label on it. Eating organic chocolate or smoking organic tobacco certainly does not mean that it is any better for you.

It is wonderful that we have an abundance of healthy food in our country, but marketing tactics are making it harder for consumers to decipher what is healthy or what is not, and that is why I share my passion for agriculture with consumers. Many consumers have no connection to their food, other than it came from the grocery store, and I strive to be that connection for many.

 I apologize for the lengthy email, and I hope it was worth the read for you. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I am always open to conversation and answering any questions that you might have about food or farming. And as stated before, I certainly mean no disrespect in writing this, I just feel as though 'organic' is used a trigger word for you making it automatically healthier. I really enjoy your blog, your faith and grace certainly show through in every word, and I appreciate the encouragement that it brings in my life.

Warm Blessings,

Rebekah Gustafson

And to my surprise I received a lovely email in response:

Now this blogger is someone with a wonderful message that she shares through her blog, and I truly enjoy the encouragement that it brings me. We have shared some more communication since, and I am so glad to see that I was able to connect with a consumer that has the potential to reach a very broad audience through her own blog. I may not have fully changed her mind, but I brought it to her attention and opened communication between this blogger and the farming/foodie community.

This is what advocating is about. Writing an email like this is completely out of my comfort zone, but there was something in me that just could not leave this alone. Not all of my efforts get the same, well- received response, but I like to rejoice in the small victories.