It's the last week of summer vacation here, and like the last few days of summer fun, my spark has waned. Maybe it's because I'm entering the hardest part of carrying twins. Maybe it's because I'm ready for a change. Maybe it's just because there are times I want to just beat my head against a wall because I feel as if I STILL can't advocate for conventional agriculture properly.
Case in point: yesterday. As I sat at a staff meeting at work, hearing all the great things our United Way staffers have been working on (have I ever mentioned how great it is to work for an organization that, with the help of the community and generous corporate matches raises roughly 12 million dollars a year? In just PEORIA, Illinois? That's pretty impressive.), we reached the point in our meeting where we discussed our rather large scale food drive that is organized in conjunction with our campaign's kickoff.
A very sweet lady on our staff raised her hand then and asked if we could please have the grocery stores and drop off points specify that we would prefer organic canned goods so that, and I quote, "healthy foods can go into our family's mouths."
As I sat there, with a few glances from some coworkers who know me well and read this blog…I froze. This was work. This was where I was a literacy project manager, not an agriculture advocate. However, my life as a spokesperson (well, the few years anyway) flashed before my eyes. Yet, I was frozen. FROZEN. Both of my bosses were there at the table, do I dare create waves? And was she SERIOUS? Isn't a canned tomato a canned tomato, and not a bag of Fritos? And weren't we feeding the hungry? Would they really turn down a food donation bag if it were all conventionally produced.
My head was swimming, and for what seemed like hours, I sat there, mouth agape, and still receiving looks like, "you're going to say something, aren't you?"
Finally, I pulled myself together and said something like, "As a conventional agriculturalist, I absolutely disagree with this, food is food."
And that was it.
Now, if you know me, I am rarely at a loss for words, but I hardly knew where to begin, and again, I WAS AT WORK. And since when did canned food drives become a battle ground for conventional vs. organic food? And WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Why couldn't I speak up for myself, our plight, our beliefs, research I have quoted…
I blame it on pregnancy, but in reality, it was because I felt painted in a corner. I wasn't sure how to approach the topic in a staff meeting. It wasn't the appropriate time to have a discussion about organic vs. conventional practice and choice and statistics, etc. Even though I was frustrated about my lack of a poignant statement in regards to the food wars, I guess what frustrated me was that what she was suggesting that we, as a staff, as a marketing campaign, to market a more "healthy" campaign to our very generous donors of food. A choice was asked to be set out in the forefront of the canned food drive, and it was one that was based on false pretenses.
Now, I'm NOT contending that you're not allowed to go out and buy canned organic tomatoes and give them to the needy. I'm not contending that organic farmers are any less of a farmer than we are, but to market it as more healthy is FALSE. A tomato is a tomato. Wash it, peel it, cook it, dump it out of the can. It doesn't take a powerful statement to plead the case that a can of tomatoes (organic or conventional) in a food pantry basket is more healthy for a family than Cheetos or shells and processed cheese. However, to market it as healthy from a non-agricultural perspective, just an emotional plea is FALSE.
So why couldn't I have said that yesterday?
Oh well. The food controversy wages on, my friends, and it's not just what you put in your basket for your mouth. We're moving onto the needy.
So much more work to be done…if I just had the energy.