Shelli Mader: Road to Ranching 1-21-13
January 22, 2013
Should I eat organic food or not? That's a question a lot of people around the country are asking themselves these days. I have friends who have strong opinions on both sides of the issue. And, each group of my friends can back up their convictions with some kind of research or evidence they've found.
Organic versus conventionally raised food can be a pretty sensitive topic with people — I've witnessed some heated arguments about this — but it is a topic that anyone involved in agriculture needs to think about. If you haven't noticed already, the topic comes up in the media all the time.
When I lived in Colorado Springs, organic food was popular amongst lots of my mom friends, partly because there was easy access to health food stores there. But even here in the small town of Scott City, organic food is gaining popularity. A farm located in Oregon has made a big impact on the availability of organic food here.
Azure Standard is a family-owned organic and health food company that delivers food from its farm and warehouse in Oregon to drop points across the United States. Customers order products online and then pick them up at a designated spot each month.
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A local health enthusiast hosts the local drop point at her house — sometime around the 15th of the month, a truck from Azure comes and drops off the ordered products and then customers go to her house to pick them up.
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Azure grows and sells many organic fruits and vegetables from its local farm. In addition, the company sells over 9,000 other fresh, frozen, refrigerated and packaged organic and health products from other health organic companies.
In the early 1970s the idea for Azure Standard started on the Stelzer family farm in Oregon. Like most farmers, in the 1950s the Stelzers started using chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on their 2,000-acre dry-land wheat and cattle ranch.
In 1971, the family became concerned about using chemicals on their farm, so they completely stop using them. At first their farm yields dropped and the family struggled, but after a few years they found a niche market and began commercially selling organic products from their farm.
Soon, customers began asking the family for more health foods, so they partnered with other organic and health food companies and began to distribute products for them. Azure Standard officially started in 1987 and has been making delivery stops in Scott City for about four years.
Azure Standard is a good example of the changing landscape of food all over the country. Organic food is on a lot of people's minds and people who aren't involved in agriculture have a lot of questions … I am glad there are lots of different niche markets and opportunities to be a part of agriculture. For me, there is not necessarily one right or wrong way. I just know that I support agriculture — whether it be conventional or organic.
In case you were wondering, I am not completely sure where I personally stand on this issue. I don't eat much organic food. I usually can't justify the extra cost (versus conventional food) and for me there is so much conflicting evidence out there that I am not convinced it is worth the cost even if I had the extra money to spend. I grew up on a conventional farm and studied agriculture — specifically cattle — in college. While I was at the University of Wyoming, and after I graduated from the Masters of Beef Advocacy Program last year, I couldn't find enough evidence to prove to me that organic beef was better, so I eat the cheaper conventionally raised beef.
I do drink organic milk though, but it's not because I am worried about recombinant bovine growth hormone, but because I honestly think it tastes better.
I am totally convinced though, that eating more natural whole foods (things like fresh meat, fruits, nuts, dairy and vegetables) is much better than eating processed foods. I can definitely say these extra 10 pounds I have didn't come from over indulging in steak and salads!
Shelli would love to hear your opinion about this issue. You can follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/RoadToRanching. ❖