[Market-farming] ABC's story 'Truth about organics'

Allan Balliett aballiett at frontiernet.net
Thu Nov 23 19:07:47 EST 2006


Organic Food Really a Better Buy?
'World News' Launches Organic Food Series as 
Industry Moves From Small Farms to Major Retailers

MARIN COUNTY, Calif., Nov. 22, 2006 - - Marin 
County organic beef rancher Dave Evans stands in 
a pasture calling his cows, and it's a sight that 
could make an old cowhand cry.
Watch "World News" Nov. 27, 28, for our special series on organic food

"Hey boys. Hey girls. Come on," he said. They 
look and moo, then they come ambling in. No 
lassos necessary.
In Marin County, often called the birthplace of 
organic food, cows are so happy they come when 
they're called.
The lush seaside community north of San Francisco 
embraced organic farming decades ago and 
continues to promote the foods as the 
fast-growing industry expands well beyond the 
Propelled by food scares over mad cow disease and 
E.coli infection, organics have boomed 
nationwide, growing by as much as 20 percent 
annually. Americans spent $14 billion on organic 
food last year, according to the Organic Trade 
In some regions, the demand for organic products exceeded supply.
"Most people come into the organic marketplace 
and the key motivating factors are health and 
nutrition. That's the message that is really 
getting out to consumers," said Sam Fromartz, 
author of "Organic Inc." about the growth of the 
organic foods marketplace.

Setting a Good Example for the Industry

In Marin, farmers run successful small organic 
operations that sell to local markets and 
high-end restaurants, because the Bay Area, home 
to fresh California cuisine, takes healthful food 
seriously. The major selling point in organic is 
the lack of pesticides, fertilizers, growth 
hormones, radiation or bioengineered products.
Federal organic standards require that animals 
have access to outdoor pasture. Marin farmers are 
so committed to organic principles that they 
often go above and beyond basic requirements by 
giving their cows room to roam in fresh air and 
bucolic environs, and providing them with 
excellent nutrition and an overall good life.
Anita Sauber, who works for the county to certify 
that Marin's farmers uphold U.S. Department of 
Agriculture organic standards, said this group 
does not require a lot of policing. In fact her 
employer, the Marin County Department of 
Agriculture, has rarely had to issue sanctions 
for failing to meet organic standards.
Six years ago when they began issuing 
certifications, there were only a few hundred 
acres of organic farms. Today it's pushing 20,000 
acres, still only 20 percent of the county but 
growing rapidly.

Paying More 'Worth the Money

But who can afford organic food ?
A major complaint about these items is high 
prices. By one estimate some organic products can 
cost as much as 50 percent more than conventional 
grocery products, as the extra time and energy 
used to grow organic food combined with 
small-scale production leads to higher prices.
But that's not turning away all customers. Los 
Angeles resident Nicole Lewis is raising two 
boys, ages 1 and 4, and said she first began 
buying organic food after her first baby was born.
"Everything changes when you turn into a mother 
and you are 100 percent responsible for a human 
being," she said.
In a recent shopping trip to natural foods 
wholesaler Whole Foods, she discussed the 
difference between grass-fed and organic beef 
with the butcher before deciding to buy a cut of 
organic filet mignon for the holidays.
Looking at baby Isaiah in the stroller she said, 
"It's worth the money to know that I'm not going 
to be giving him pesticides. If there's an 
organic option I'm pretty much always going to 
pick the organic option."
Last spring megaretailer Wal-Mart began offering 
mainstream brand organic foods, signaling the 
products on the shelves with special green signs. 
Wal-Mart's idea is to bring the cost down for 
those on tighter budgets.
The company promises the best prices in the 
organic marketplace. According to Fromartz, this 
is evidence that "organic has really gone into 
the mainstream."
But megaretailers in the organic family are not 
always welcome by the organic diehards.
Dave Evans in Marin favors growing and selling 
locally, and worries that when organics go 
mainstream quality is lost and the environment 
suffers. "Does it make sense to fly an organic 
product 2,000 miles when you can buy an equally 
good organic product right down the road?" he 
He said local food distribution saves on fossil 
fuels both in costs and pollutants released into 
the atmosphere. He raises cows at his Marin Sun 
Farms, and also sells the beef at his butcher 
shop in nearby Point Reyes Station.
He estimates that his beef never travels more 
than 200 miles, allowing him to cultivate rapport 
with his clients. His farthest customer, Stanford 
University, buys hamburger patties
"I am a relationship marketer, which means I sell 
to everyone I know. I know my customers," he said.
And he promises that you can taste the difference 
in the meat he sells. Holding a slab of rib eye 
with a line of flavorful fat intersecting it, he 
said he also knows a great organic zinfandel to 
go with it. You can bet that with neighbors like 
the Napa and Sonoma wine countries, the grapes 
were also locally grown.

Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures

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