Organics good for body and soul

By 
  • August 28, 2007
{mosimage}It’s not just about avoiding pesticides any more. In fact, if you choose wisely, the food you eat can help to ensure more than just your own health. According to Community Sharing Agriculture farmer Heather Lekx, choosing to eat organic foods should also help to put your conscience at ease.

“We are responsible for how we interact with each other and with other creatures, which includes how we take care of our land and livestock and the plants that we eat. If there is a way for us to do that without doing harm, then we should be doing it,” said Lekx.

Lekx runs the Community Sharing Agriculture (CSA) program at the farm on the grounds of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph. The CSA program allows community members to buy shares in the farm’s vegetable harvest, an organically grown crop that generally yields enough to feed two vegetarians or five omnivores for six months of the year. By purchasing shares in the CSA, Lekx says, customers participate in both the bounty and the risk of the harvest.  

But what about the cost? A quick stroll through your local supermarket makes it pretty obvious that buying organic food has become a pricey trend, and Lekx agrees.

“The ‛organic industry’ is coming in to capitalize on fear rather than people’s values in terms of the right way to produce food,” she said.

The price of shares in Lekx’s CSA works out to be on par with the price of organic produce in the supermarket, which is more expensive than buying conventional produce. But, Lekx points out, if kept in perspective, the cost of eating healthily is not difficult to justify.

“We tend to spend money on luxury items rather than on doing things to reduce medical bills.... Is it more important for you to eat healthily and to care for the created world than it is for you to have a nice car? This is a question of priorities and where we choose to spend the money that we do have,” she said.

Of course, that’s not to say that the poor are immoral for eating on a budget — but according to Lekx, there are still organic options available.

“In terms of families that are barely getting by, our CSA has a working share option where people can work (six to nine hours a week) for their food instead of paying.... You can (also) barter or make arrangements to divide payments. You can’t do that at a grocery store.”  

   Like most people, Lekx would like to see a fair trade label on the food that she buys. In fact, if forced to choose between locally and organically grown food, she said she would likely choose local products.

“I have no influence over a farmer in California if I don’t like his practices.”

At least if food is grown locally, she said, “I can go to a farmer’s market and talk to the farmer about organics and reducing pesticide use.”

Lekx also points out that small-scale farming is hardly a lucrative business, and that by supporting a CSA program, customers can support the local economy.

“Farmers aren’t making a living farming, and they are going under. If you don’t have a community supporting the farm, the farm cannot support the community.”

Beyond making sure farmers stay in business, buying organic food promotes a healthy working environment for agriculturalists.

“If I’m forcing a farmer to get cancer because of overexposure to pesticides, why would I want to (do) that as a consumer? On the other side, as a grower, would I want to subject myself and my creatures to (pesticides) when there’s a better way to maintain that ecosystem?” said Lekx.

To Lekx, eating organic food is about accountability. It is a responsibility to ensure the well-being of our farmers, our environment, our communities and ourselves.

“It’s just funny that (organic food) is a fad,” said Lekx. “It’s such a no-brainer. It just makes sense.”

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