Our Position on Organics

As a family-owned and operated farm and market, families who visit are surprised to learn that we’re just not into the “organic” or “natural” food campaigns against modern industrial farming and food handling methods.  We don’t agree that GMOs and pesticides and preservatives are “bad”.  We believe that they are necessary for people living voluntarily in certain conditions.

When we consider that modern society has ordered itself around dense suburban and urban population centers that produce no food, we can’t criticize the necessary food production measures that must be taken to support that social arrangement.  Unnatural quantities of food must be produced by small numbers of men and the only way for that to be done is by the use of machines and chemicals.  To suggest that we revert to pre-industrial “good ol’ day” farming methods ignores the reality that the large-scale, pre-industrial farming that was done was powered by slavery…not small, family farms.  Cities and suburbs must be supplied by industrialized farming methods.

Therefore, if the suburban/urban social arrangement is taken for granted, we refuse to criticize the methods without which millions of people would starve to death.  Food with chemical preservatives are not to be compared to food without preservatives because that is not an option.  It must be compared with no food, and food with preservatives is healthier than starvation.

When we come to question of “natural” foods, we must first settle the question of “natural” social order.  The modern industrial suburban/urban order is not “natural” and, therefore, cannot be served by “natural” food production and handling methods.  An unnatural food supply source must exist to supply unnatural living arrangements.

On a self-sustaining farm, for sure, none of these supermarket issues even arise–but we live on that farm.  Transportation and preservation are not necessary.  Fresh eggs and milk come in from the farm twice daily.   Garden produce is picked and brought in for use in the kitchen the same day.  Waste food–never more than a day or two old–is fed to pigs, chickens and dogs.  This is “natural” food production and use.

Herbicide before Round-Up…Were these the “good ol’ days”?

On the farm, though, modern conditions don’t allow the same methods to be used that were used 100 years ago because the labor conditions are not what they were.  In 1940, a field would be filled with workers who hoed the corn and cotton, often made up of the farm owner’s children and day laborers picked up in town in the morning…in place of herbicides.  My older neighbors had to have the cows milked before 8:00 when the school bus arrived.    Children in large families (which were desired for the sake of the real-life labor benefits built into them by God) worked from sunrise to sunset with Dad on the farm and Mom in the house and were not required to attend school as they are today, often to the detriment rather than advantage of their families.  Moreover, the propaganda of the civil rights movement and reckless over-reaction it led to made all simply labor to be viewed as slavery, affording day labor help became impossible for farmers.   So, when a farmer has the “natural” free labor (i.e., his children) and the available unskilled labor on which the agricultural econony was built taken away (not to mention the World Wars), with what Monopoly money should begin paying unskilled workers wages and benefits dreamed up by career politicians?  He must, necessarily, find an alternative, and that alternative is machinery and chemicals.

Let’s be fair here…what does your business do?  Do you have an answering machine, or do you employ a secretary to take messages for you?  Do you drive a car instead of a horse to your suburban office, store, etc.?  Of course you do.  Farmers have done the same thing, for the same reasons.  The alternatives are unsustainable.  The conditions are not the same today as they were, and we can’t pretend these major social changes can be ignored when it’s time to grow food.  Why are transportation, communication, lighting, heat, clothes-making, etc., not questioned, but only food production?  It is because the people complaining aren’t responsible for food production and the farmers whose industrial methods fed most of these people throughout their childhood have now become scapegoats for shallow blame-shifting adults who want to imagine that their consumer-living is not the cause of the problem.  The hypocrisy of this criticism, however, reveals the deeper problem that is being denied.  If you have principles, you’ll need to keep them in all areas, not just in those that are other people’s business.  The Amish are good examples of an effort in consistency, but “natural” suburban/urban people are not.  Their complaints really make no sense when we step back and look at their lives.

So, when we ask the questions of food production, storage and transport, we have to be aware of our historical situation.  We do not live in 1900 America.  Rather than complain about societal issues or industrial practices, we are free to mind our own business.  If we, as adults, want “natural” foods, we accept the responsibility of growing that food ourselves, or paying more for to have farmers grow it for us.  It’s our own private responsibility, not the government’s and not industrial farmers’ responsibility, who have to serve real-world demands and wouldn’t be in farming if those markets did not exist.  They are not responsible for anyone not having “organic” vegetables or unpasteurized farm-fresh milk.

We agree that natural foods and organic methods are ideal, but we do not believe that anyone has a right to complain about what other farmers do or suggest that anyone who adapts their methods to be sustainable in real-world conditions is bad for doing so.   Let us mind our own business and live in peace.

William Michael
Beatitudes Farm

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4 Responses to Our Position on Organics

  1. mhazellc says:

    What a great post. Thanks for this article…a very reasonable assessment. I will have to reference this each time some one tells me to boycott x,y, and z….

    • wmclaa says:

      I don’t know when choosing to not buy something became a “boycott”. Besdes, “boycotts” don’t work when the producers don’t want your business in the first place and don’t care if you don’t buy from them.

  2. Devin Rose says:

    William,

    Are those the two options for “society”: food from slavery or GMO/pesticides? I don’t think so.

    The central claim behind this dichotomy is here: “To suggest that we revert to pre-industrial “good ol’ day” farming methods ignores the reality that the large-scale, pre-industrial farming that was done was powered by slavery…not small, family farms.”

    Is that true? I would like to see the evidence for it. And is that in the 1800s and 1900s or also all through the middle ages, etc.?

    What percentage of pre-industrial food was grown on large-scale versus small-scale/family farms? That’s one metric that is important as well. Did the small family farm dominate throughout most of history?

    And apart from that question, I think that we can and should oppose GMO crops, even if you are the Michaels Family Farm and largely independent of the world and industrial agriculture. If for nothing else than the fact that GMO crops cross-pollinate non-GMO ones, such that even a farm like you that wants to grow some grain winds up with GMO grain.

    • wmclaa says:

      The reality is that we live in a democratic society and the majority of people live in suburbs and cities. It doesn’t matter what they think…they will have no food unless unnatural methods are employed. The people complaining about GMOs are a statistically irrelevant minority, so it doesn’t matter. The problem was created 100 years ago and there’s no fixing it now.

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