Jen-ai Stokesbary, the Marketing Director at Boulder Organic and Jamie Stein, the Marketing Coordinator, took a look back into why they began choosing organic for their lifestyle. Everyone approaches organic differently, so take a look below at how Jen-ai and Jamie did it!
Why do I buy organic:
Why I buy organic:
There are so many reasons I choose to buy organic whenever I can. I think the primary reasons I choose organic are because of the broader impact my food choices have on we humans and our environment. I’ve witnessed damage from conventional agriculture and I know organic is a better way. As an omnivore I buy organic across all foods including produce, dairy, and meat, because it’s easier than keeping all the details of which items are cleanest or dirtiest. I want to choose the better path whenever I can and choosing organic as a rule makes that easier.
In writing this post, I’ve struggled because I’m unsure of a lot of the facts behind organic vs. conventional. Indeed, most comparative facts are under debate, because the amount of conventional research dwarfs the amount of organic research. Also, who has the time to keep it all straight? (And I work in organic food!)
One thing I’m very clear on is that Organic is better for farm workers. I know this because I lived for a short time in the mountains of Ecuador, and witnessed the people in the land of long stem roses. This has proven to be one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in terms of encouraging me to choose organic food.
Northern Ecuador supplies much of the global rose market. When I lived there, it was common practice to fire rose plantation workers after about 4 years. 4 years in was often the time workers began getting very sick from over-exposure to the toxic pesticides. With this regular firing practice in place, the plantations were able to deny responsibility for work-related illnesses and did not have to pay the costs associated with poisoning their own workforce. Women in the region did their best to work anywhere but the plantations until after they’d had their kids, because it was well known that birth defects are common once you begin working in the plantations. Seeing such disregard for agriculture workers was impactful and sticks with me to this day.
Of course most agricultural settings are not nearly as dangerous for workers, but organic has proven to be better for farm workers. It is not better just because it requires less exposure to toxins, but also because it is a job. Organic farms employ more people. Not only that, organic farmers are actually profitable. It’s really good to know I’m contributing to a pretty darn functional part of the food system when I buy organic.
My second big reason for choosing organic is that it’s better for beaches and rivers. Ocean and river recreation are big parts of my life. Historically agriculture was really bad at cleaning up after itself. Agricultural run-off was something that routinely damaged beaches and rivers. I grew up in a beach town and I remember when it rained most folks would stay out of the ocean for a day or so because it was surely getting inundated with nasty toxins from all sorts of sources including from the strawberry and citrus fields straight up the watershed, 10 miles away. And then there’s the red tide that would often follow the rain and run-off. An imbalance in the nutrients available would create an unhealthy bloom of algae that made swimming and eating seafood risky. Not great for beaches or beach lovers.
Organic farming was focused on doing things better and popularized techniques like swales, no till, and companion planting to help reduce run-off. Today big ag has adopted many of the best practices that were developed within the organic farming movement and agriculture as a whole has advanced environmentally and is better for beaches and rivers. This too is why I choose Organic, diversity of thought (and food) is good for progress. More people working toward providing the world’s food is better for everyone!
Why I started to buy organic:
As a college student, organic just seemed like a hard thing to spend money on. Buying organic meant spending at least $10 more on produce than I normally would, and to me, that was unnecessary. I always knew organic meant something, but I had no idea there were benefits other than the simple reduced pesticide exposure. That also really didn’t bother me very much. I mean, why all of a sudden am I getting bombarded with the need to buy organic? I’ve been eating conventional my whole life and I am doing just fine. I truly think one of the most unfortunate parts of organic education is that there really isn’t any; it just doesn’t exist. Unless you purposefully seek out information about organic, how is the conventional consumer to know?
I almost wish organic suppliers would pay for merchandising on shelves to educate consumers why to buy organic, rather than letting price deter those who simply don’t know. I will add though, I have been a label reader since I started buying my own groceries. I always cared about what I put in my body and minimizing the amount of artificial ingredients in my daily diet. So, I guess moving towards organic isn’t a drastic lifestyle change.
It wasn’t until I started working at Boulder Organic that I learned the true benefits of organic. Last summer, I was tasked with finding organic facts that could be shared with our consumers and employees of the company to educate on “why organic.” Well, the small bit of research that it took to create that list made me think, should I be buying organic?
Working for a company who is dedicated organic also makes me question my buying decisions on a daily basis. Why did Kate choose to make her soups always organic with no exceptions? Well clearly if that decision was made for the benefit of Boulder Organic customers, it might be time for me to change my buying habits.
I can’t really say that it was a stark and complete change to buying organic for me. I began to change my habits one fruit and veggie at a time. I also can’t really say that there is fact behind my mindset, but I have formed a method to my madness in my head. I have certain types of produce instilled in my mind for being better organic purchases than others. Lists of the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” are out there, but I’ve really never even paid attention to those.
To be quite honest, many of my organic purchases are due to conversations I’ve had with my colleagues at Boulder Organic. For now, there are a few things that I have decided to buy strictly organic. In produce, I buy organic tomatoes (canned and fresh), spinach, apples, peppers, and carrots. There are a few decisions that I tend to make on the spot when grocery shopping, but I’ve been leaning towards buying organic eggs, yogurt and meat products as well.
The most interesting subconscious change I have seen in my buying behavior has been in tortilla chips. I know, weird right? So I have always loved Tostitos Hint of Lime, I mean who doesn’t? But lately, I have switched to Late July’s Sea Salt & Lime tortilla chips. I know this doesn’t sound like such a drastic, life changing event, but I have noticed a drastic change in the way I mentally grocery shop. It’s to the point where I don’t even look at the conventional chip section anymore.
Overall, I think there is a feeling of trust I have associated with other organic brands. Knowing a few details about the good things that come from supporting organic producers, and also working in an industry that thrives on it, has begun to inform my personal life decisions. I am now the shopper who is happy to spend $2.50 on an organic pepper when the conventional ones are four for $5, and I really never thought I would be!
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