Archive for November, 2009

I don’t understand…

… why some people buy organic foods but insist that other people should buy chemically grown food.  Why would you choose to purchase organic and sustainably grown food, yet want other people to have the option to spend money on food that isn’t sustainably grown.  Perhaps these people are making these purchases for status reasons?  I just don’t understand.  What is even more confusing is when chemical/conventional farmers choose to purchase organic foods for their family?  Why would you choose organic but grow conventional?

Can anyone help me understand this?


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This is an article that was written for The Matter Daily.  You can find the original article here.  When you read this you get an honest sense for Nic’s personality.  He’s a soft-spoken man who chooses his words.  I’m glad to know him.  Enjoy.

Farming Romantic: An Invitation to Come Home and Eat

I don’t have any statistics to convince you that our food system needs some repairing or any studies that tell us for the umpteenth time that food and exercise affect our health.  What I do have is a love of farming.  I’m a farming romantic, and an idealist.   I have soil on my hands, and hours hunched over a hoe.   I have boxes of produce on my shoulders, proudly carrying the bounty.   I have sun-warmed water melons broken on my knee, juice dripping down my chin.   I have cold fall mornings, wool cap, and red hands bunching the sweet greens.  I have a glass of Colorado wine after a true full day’s work.  Sun up to sun down.   I have a life drenched in home, and soaked in the people, the food, the art, and the industry of this place.



I am a vegetable farmer.  With my partner I farm between 2 and 3 acres of rented land.  Our farm follows the Community Supported Agriculture model. We also sell at farmer’s Markets and have a few local wholesale accounts.  I love to grow food, I love to feed people, and I can’t think of a more fulfilling way to live.  Farming is an enchanting life, a raw and direct relationship with the earth.   We, as farmers, are engulfed in abundance and nourished literally by the fruits of our labor.

But, in our current food system, we struggle to make a living.  We are uninsured, undercompensated, and without land.  We, collectively as a society, are acting as the feudal lords of the farming people, paying a fraction of the worth of their work.

We have been duped into believing that food should be cheap and that farmers are less valuable than other professionals.  We pay exorbitant fees for a visit to the doctor and we pay our mechanics over 100 dollars an hour, but I get insulted at least once per farmer’s market for the price of my vegetables.    Last week a woman scoffed, accosting me with the most belittling stare exclaiming disgust at the price of our spinach. I think about the work that went into getting that spinach to market; the water, the seed, the tractor and truck fuel, the bending over, the long hours kneeling, the cramped fingers, moving of irrigation pipes, the refrigeration, the washing, and myself.  I am in the food that I grow.  My intentions to nurture, to steward, and to learn are all there.  I crawl on hands and knees, literally bowing to the ground caring for these plants to ultimately pass that care to the community.  Food is elemental and essential, but we won’t pay for it.  We place a higher value on knick knacks and gadgets than we do on our food—so much so that I as a full time farmer am classified as living below the poverty threshold as set by the U.S. government. Annually, I earn below the $10,830 poverty line.  During the growing season I work an average of 60 to 70 hours per week, my partner works both on and off the farm, we have two unpaid apprentices, five working members, and an average of 15 volunteer hours per week.  Our production numbers are high, our quality is excellent, and our food is in high demand, but still we scrape by.

But, that it is not to say that the small farm isn’t a viable option.   And I don’t bring up our economic conditions for pity, but rather to inform and to encourage action.  Small local farms need the support of the community.  For small farms to survive eating locally needs to be embraced by the everyday people.  To become a part of the average person’s average meal, local foods must move from the plates on the fringes to those in the center, from novel to obvious.

I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of efficient, intuitive, and inventive producers, and that both producer and consumer play indispensible role in solving the food crisis, however I believe that the solution falls with more weight on me as a consumer than me as a producer.  We producers are here working the soils of your land and grazing cows on your pastures.  We’re milking goats and making cheese.  We’re picking berries, collecting eggs, slaughtering pigs, and planting orchards.  We are fortunate in Fort Collins, we have a choice.  Food produced on our soil and under our sun is at our finger tips.

So, what is the value of food, of integral, locally and thoughtfully produced food? Do we value preserving farm land and what’s left of our pastoral landscape?  Do we value the ethical treatment of animals, and a Poudre river free of agrichemicals?  Does their value not profoundly transcend a mere economic value?   Right now we pay very little for food that is riddled with huge costs but that is often void of nutritional value.  How can we be so obsessed with diet and so clueless about food?

It’s a question of values.  Clean local food, functioning communities, water we can drink, and air worth breathing are all invaluable and to try to label them monetarily is demeaning and unfruitful.  The answer lies in changing our definition of value and bringing back the art and essence of living, the joy of eating, and the grounded heart of home.

As I mentioned prior I’m classified as living below the poverty line, but that is a poverty based on one parameter.  There is an art to life, an admirable thoughtfulness in frugality, and a means to live a secure and fulfilling life living with less.   Let me relish in my poverty.  I’ll start with my poverty stricken dinner of roasted potatoes with fennel and basil, my poverty stricken frittata with heirloom zucchini and fresh eggs, my poverty stricken lunch of arugula with blue cheese, western slope peaches and a glass of Blue Mountain Wine.  Should I mention my poverty stricken month long travels gallivanting on bicycle tasting my way around the hemisphere, or my poverty struck forays to hot springs, my poverty struck guitar lessons, college degrees, and other frivolities?   I am not poor, and more importantly I am happy and contented by this life living within the means of this place.

I wonder if in fact we with our fractional income, our second hand clothing, and our meager rental house are living in a more realistic way.  We have plenty.  Perhaps we need to reassess, and rather than bringing everyone up to an unrealistic high, we ought to adjust our standards.

We are basing the value of our planet, our town, our community, and ourselves on the human construct of currency.  How many idioms can there be about the fool’s paradise that lies in the fanatic quest for the mythical pot of gold?  Let’s bring our values back home.  It’s time to deemphasize the false security of money in the bank and emphasize the true security of a tight and functioning community built on relationships.   Bringing our web of necessities back home creates true security.

Relationships must be built. Local is not the answer alone and local is not synonymous with good.  Relationships must be built.  We mustn’t let local become the new organic, trusting that all is right just from the presence of a sticker on our apple.  We don’t need a certification to tell us what’s local, we need a relationship.  Enough with our complacency.  Reach out and meet the people working in your community.

There was a time when community came together to bring in the harvest.  When people knew about food and cared about farmers, when bartering was common place.  A time when social gatherings were centered around food getting; shucking corn, digging potatoes, hulling beans.  Not as a chore but as a celebration of the harvest, with no sharply drawn distinctions between work and play.

They say we are what we eat and right now we are scattered around the globe with no roots, homeless, ungrounded and anxious.    We are fat featherless butterballs, we are cows standing knee deep in our own feces, we are genetically modified corn, and we are hydroponic tomatoes with feet dangling, longing to touch to the soil.

We can ground ourselves by becoming our place.  Together we can begin to build a gastronomic identity as a place known for its support of local farmers.

Adapting to a life of local food is a challenge.  It takes work and patience.  It takes appreciation of the present and planning for the future, but it is not a sacrifice of our quality of life; it is enrichment.  It is the answer to our empty hearts and our appetites to build relationships and to relearn the true art of living.  It’s time to let go of fluffy aspirations and grasp tightly what is literally right in front of us.  We are homeless but this is an invitation to come home and eat.

Written by Nicolas Theisen
Photo by Dave Woody

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