The pursuit for economical solutions to organic food is turning to capitalism and entrepreneurship in a big way. The same system that created the dreaded Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) is now part of the solution. I am not saying this in a negative way; I am saying the “Organic” or “Heirloom” Industry as I call it, is learning how to be successful in America. You don’t like the way things are being done, fine. But don’t make a sign and stand on the street demanding a company change their way because you don’t approve. I have no time for those who seek change by forcing change to others (especially through meaningless protests or worse legislation) instead of changing themselves. Especially when you are not forced to buy GMO products to begin with. If you don’t approve of the product(s), you have two options as I see it.
1. Stop buying them and find replacements you approve of and purchase those, or
2. Make your own.
What this expo did, and did very well, was offer replacement products for consumer. It also helped educate, encourage and empower business and consumers to make, grow and harvest food organically.
Before we go any further, we wouldn't be doing our job if we didn't provide links to pro-gmo articles, published research and major manufactures. So at the risk of turning away the anti-gmo readers, here are a few links.
Ok. Back to the expo! Successful business also offers a level of convenience to the consumer. I was very pleased by the convenience of having a host of like minded speakers and vendors, all in one great venue at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California. This is exactly what the Heirloom Industry needed to do in order to bring their message to consumers. Now, their challenge is going to be pricing, which has two aspects; Short Term and Long Term costs.
• Short Term: What will it cost me right now? Or how much can I save on my food budget with generic, processed foods?
• Long Term: What will it save me long term? Will buying more expensive heirloom/organic foods provide a healthier lifestyle thereby reducing medical health bills in the long term? And will this lead to a better quality of a healthy life, that cannot be measured in financial terms?
The Heirloom Industry is nothing new, in fact. It is very old and the overall goal of the industry is revitalizing age-old practices of food production into today's modern world with it's growing population and sprawling cities. This is where challenge number two for the Heirloom Industry comes into play: meeting the food demand of a growing population on reduced land available for agriculture. Modern farms boast of meeting growing consumer demands, on smaller acreage with less water, due to GMO technology. So, what is the right answer?
I believe that answer is different for everyone, and everyone needs to answer the question for themselves. My goal in this article is to share the resources I found helpful, interesting, unique or new at the expo while on my pursuit for the right answer, for me and my family.I have a feeling like many things in life, the answer is probably closer to the middle than it is one side of the pendulum.
One of the individuals I have learned a great deal from in improving our homestead is my aunt Cleta (one of Rosie's five sisters). She has been living a homesteading life for over thirty years and in addition to two daughters she has raised a countless number of livestock and produce. So it was no surprise to me when I arrived at registration, one of the first two ladies I met happens to know my Aunt Cleta. Ms. Lisa Cornett pictured below next to Leah Schreors are Baker Seed Company employees and volunteers for the expo. However, what I find most interesting in the picture is the large screen Apple computer. Could they have managed registration without a computer? Of course. But I'm sure it was awful convenient for them to not have file boxes full of per-registrations and the ability to process electronic payments instead of managing a cash box. There is one of those key words again for today's successful businesses, "convenience."
To help simplify the mass of material I gathered, I have broken it down into three categories, starting off with my favorite.
Most of the livestock was chickens as I expected. But they also had turkey's, sheep and pigs. I probably would have spent more time in livestock yard but we took the kids to the Madera Fair 4-H livestock show earlier that week, so there wasn't a whole lot I hadn't just seen. The Kunekune Pigs were my favorite. Amanda raised Jersey pigs in her 4-H days and we consume a lot of pig products, but it's one animal we have yet to add to our homestead. What intrigued me about the Kunekune breed is their pug nose that keeps them from being borers; which means less fencing needed for the pins. The problem then in the desert, is keeping them cool. That would require lots of shade and air conditioned space via misting or evaporative cooling.
We had the pleasure of having Sustainable Santa join us live by phone on our September 26th broadcast, you can hear the interview on the following link starting at the 2:15 mark.
Follow and support Sustainable Santa on his 2015 Farmer's Market Tour promoting his healthy, happy Santa message to America! http://www.responsiblefoods.org/sustainable_santa_hits_the_road.
I did enjoy three meals at the Heirloom Expo, including one complimentary media breakfast with fresh squeezed tangerine juice and a variety of pastries and fresh fruit. The two lunches I purchased were very good but this goes back to being price competitive. Naturally, at any paid to attend event (expos, fairs, ball games, etc), the food inside is more expensive. Because it was organic (of course) and because it's California (near the bay area) I expected it to be a little more expensive. But $13 for a burger, plus $1 for cheese and $2 for avocado, seriously? That didn't include the two $3 ice teas I drank to wash it down. I appreciate quality as much as the next man, however, that same week at Basha's, ground beef was $2.88 per pound and driving home I passed an avocado stand near Gilroy, Ca. with a sign 8 (whole) avocados for $1. It was a great burger but for the $16 bucks I spent, I could have made my whole family burgers for that same amount. The other lunch was a delicious buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with black-eyed peas for $14, plus $3 for a watermelon-lemonade. Whew! I couldn't sustain that cost of life style for long. In sharing this story with a few folks, no one was nearly as surprised as I was, on the cost; maybe I'm out of touch with the cost of eating out organically. Here we go full circle again on cost vs. value...and value can be a very hard sell against convenience especially when someone is hungry and may only have $10 on hand.
However, more surprising to me than the cost of meals was the lack of recycled products and recycling bins along the food court. Notice in the picture above both drinks and utensils are plastic. You would think with an organic focused crowd, a zero waste event would have been a significant selling point. It's possible I may have missed recycling bins, but I think it was an oversight and one area they could potentially look into for next year.
By the end of my time at the expo I found myself laughing because I felt like one of our radio listeners at this expo, getting a lectured from me, about ‘getting what you pay for.’ A high quality remodeling job is an expensive, slow process but done right can be timeless. Shouldn't the same principles apply to our food?