I’m coming out of the organic closet.
Since starting my blog, I have tried to remain fairly neutral on the subject of organic food. I mention my preference for organic produce here and there, but I’ve never felt like I should force my views on others. After all, organic food can be pricey. It’s not always easily accessible in certain parts of the country/world and many can’t afford it. There is no judgement here… we are all doing our best based on our individual budgets and situations. I encourage my readers (through my recipes) to eat unprocessed, cook from scratch and enjoy a balance of healthy foods. But when it comes to organics, I’ve never taken a firm position.
Today, in the spirit of full disclosure, I feel it’s time to come clean. I admit it. My name is Tori, and I’m an organic food junkie.
I grew up around agriculture. My father was an agri-business professor (now retired) at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, one of the top ag schools in the country. I accompanied him to farm equipment shows and ranch tours. He grew up on a 1,000-acre cattle ranch in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. On my mom’s side my great uncle is also a cattle rancher. I grew up in California, where about 80% of our country’s produce is cultivated. My grandparents had a large garden at their home, which I helped them tend as a child. Needless to say, I learned a lot about farming produce and animal husbandry in my youth. Feeding the world’s growing population is a daunting task. Modern farming methods, including the use of pesticides and antibiotics, have allowed us to produce vegetables, fruit and meat on a massive scale, making affordable food available to all. But at what cost?
I lost my maternal grandmother to cancer a few years ago. It was a tough blow for our family; she was in her 70’s, young and full of energy, one of the most vital people I’ve known. The cancer came “out of nowhere”– no family history and she was not a smoker. It caused me to pause, take a step back and look at our daily habits… what we eat, what cosmetics and cleansers we use, how we clean our house, the air fresheners we use. When I began tallying up the amount of chemicals we’re exposed to on a daily basis, it was truly mind-boggling. Everywhere I looked, there was another chemical. Most of these compounds have come into existence in the last 50 years or so, which means we can’t really anticipate their long term effects. In our foods, there were pesticides and preservatives and artificial flavorings and food dyes. In our dairy and meat, there were antibiotics and hormones. So many unnatural elements… how can they help but have an effect on us?
I began the slow process of weeding out unnecessary products and finding more natural alternatives. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always cheap, but it was an investment worth making for me and my family. I can’t draw an exact line between my grandmother’s illness and our daily chemical load, but it does give me some peace of mind to know that we are living a cleaner, more natural life. I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed. If there is a cheese I love, and it doesn’t come in an organic version, I will still enjoy that cheese every once in a while. It’s impossible to get rid of chemicals entirely, they are literally everywhere… but I’m working hard to limit our exposure as much as possible.
When it comes to food, it’s becoming easier to find organic alternatives. Major grocery chains are carrying organic food lines now. Most cities and towns have farmer’s markets, where you can find affordable organic produce and meat. The more we vote with our dollars, the more we’ll encourage organic options.
At the end of the day, we are all making the best decisions we can for our families based on the resources available to us. I would never judge another person for what is in their shopping cart. I share my own experience here in the hopes that you might connect to it; perhaps it might even inspire you to work more organics into your life. I’ve even started doing things the old fashioned way, such as using natural homemade cleansers made from vinegar and lemon juice (if you’re interested in making these types of cleansers yourself, let me know and I’ll share them here!). I believe that the more we can return to unprocessed, natural food options… the foods our great-grandparents cultivated and enjoyed, without antibiotics or pesticides… the more our nation’s health will improve.
How do you feel about organics? Are they a vital part of your diet, or an unnecessary expense? Is it the wave of the future, or is it all just overpriced nonsense? I’d love to hear your thoughts.