Reads for 5/12/08

  • In the New York Times Magazine from 5/04 Arlo Crawford’s
    Cold-Comfort Farming
  • Yahoo Finance on the increasing costs of food, how long it might last, and why its happening. Shocker: American’s only spend 10% of their income on food. Is it really expensive or was it just too cheap before? Of course the point is completely missed by Chris Hurt, agricultural economist with Purdue University, when he says:

    “I expect greater use of technology to increase crop yields and better use of genetics to create drought-tolerant crops,” he said.

    Why do we keep banging our heads on this stuff?

  • An article on Yahoo Finance from last month about the decline in the popularity of organic food items and the reasons as to why it is happening. Overall I liked this article but it drives me absolutely nuts to read something like:

    Higher cost of organic products versus mass market alternatives is a primary deterrent to many consumers, especially during a period when families are already struggling to stretch the household budget.

    Many families are spending untold dollars on TV, cellular phone service, internet service, etc. which, while nice to have, aren’t as important as quality food.

    One interesting connection made is:

    To that end, Cummins estimates that 20% of organic shoppers are already switching away from grocery store purchases of organic items to buying locally from farmers markets.

    “It’s a lot cheaper to buy directly from farmers and I expect that trend to continue,” he said.

    “That end” refers to people wanting to cut food costs this year. I’d bet that cost may be one reason why 20% of organic shoppers might be looking local but knowing what I know about that market segment and the reading I’ve done I’d bet a bigger reason for the switch is because of the writing of Michael Pollan, Bill McKibben, etc. I suspect the people shopping at farmers markets are reading those guys and buying in to what they have to say about the environmental impact even organic food has when it is being shipped thousands of miles to get to your table. Is it better to eat organic berries that have been shipped a thousand miles or conventional berries that are from a farm down the street (metaphorically speaking) from you? I’d bet that 20% is voting on the local stuff because of the food miles as well as wanting to support local agriculture. I know where I prefer to spend my money.

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