Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Apologizing for our Rudeness

This weekend, I was reading the New York Times Magazine published in the Sunday times (September 2) there was a short section, about a study that came out a couple months ago, titled "Naturally Awful."  You can read the paragraph about why organic consumers are rude on the New York Times website.  I know, given Melissa's post yesterday, it will seem that Connecticut NOFA has decided to argue every point made in the New York Times, but this little column by Hope Reeves did seem especially unfair.

The study was carried out by Kendall J. Eskine, a professor at Loyola University, and of course organic advocates have objected to the press' spin on the findings, the research methodology, and the unfair generalizations made about those who consume organic foods.

I'm going to defer to the Eatsblog by Kim Pierce on to discuss the research methodology and "Do Organic Consumers Shop Exclusively at the Jerk Store?" on by Baylen Linnekin. Linnekin interviews Eskine who admits that he himself buys organic and believes it "is the environmentally and ethically superior choice when one has the resources and access to such products."

However in "Naturally Awful" Reeves asks: "Still wondering why that creep at Whole Foods ran over your toe with his cart and didn't apologize?" This is a misrepresentation of the study (much like the organic vs. conventional nutrition study and the organic versus conventional yield study!) My main objections to Reeves are:

1. Not all organic consumers are Whole Foods customers.  All of my summer organic purchases have been at markets where a shopping cart was not an option - in fact I happen to remember another study about how farmer's markets are the most social way to purchase food.  You talk to other customers, you talk to farmers, families attend, it's an exciting way to connect to more people and farmers in your community! This Examiner article from August 2012 again discusses this dynamic.  I know, not all farmers at the market are organic . . . but an increasing number are.

2. In some areas, organic is only accessible to wealthier customers - and you can't help but wonder if this sense of superiority is related more to income and lifestyle than food choices.  I would like to stress that this is not true everywhere in fact, consumers can find more reasonable prices for their organic produce at farmers markets and by buying directly from farmers!

3. Are there any studies on the attitudes and personalities of consumers who have no interest or regard for the process by which their food was produced or distributed and the impact this process might have had on farmers, farm workers, livestock, and the environment? That might add some perspective to the allegations against organic consumers. In the meantime, maybe all of us just need to check our grocery store etiquette.


P.S. Check out this article about the same study Melissa wrote about yesterday.  Is all this spin making you dizzy yet?

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