I’ll start off this week’s blog post by saying, I REALLY enjoyed the field trip to Milburn Orchards.
Part of Milburn Orchard’s venture into agri-tainement—a somewhat recent trend of farm-based entertainment—is a well stocked petting zoo. There were pigs, chickens, roosters, guineas, goats, and a beautiful Lady Godiva-like cow.
They were all wonderful, muddy, and hungry. My favorite part was getting to feed them a mixture of what looked like corn kernels and my cat’s litter. The goat in the picture to the right, was definitely the head-honcho of the herd, and managed to get the bulk of the feed.
But after talking to the farmers, it was clear that if they had had their choice, the petting zoo wouldn’t exist. Since 1902, the orchard has been family-owned and-operated. It’s in its fourth generation of ownership, while most other family farms have died out or been encompassed by larger, corporate operations. Just-farming wouldn’t have allowed the Milburn’s to keep their orchard though.
The price they’re paid for their apples has stayed the same since the 1970s, so agritainment is their key moneymaker, as is getting out of the wholesale market, where they have less influence over what their produce makes.
After the field trip to Milburn Orchards, I am again conflicted on the best criteria to use when I shop. Since starting this class I’ve focused on purchasing organic foods, thinking that they would have less negative impact on the environment and the people who tend and harvest the crops. I also assumed there would be somewhat less pesticide residue on the produce, or less harmful pesticides used, in comparison to conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.
Talking to the farmers at Milburn Orchards, this did not seem the case. Though, making it clear it was their opinion, they offered a compelling argument against the perceived “panacea” of a USDA organic label. They stated that approximately 14,000 pesticides can be legally used on organic produce, and said that some of these allowed pesticides are worse than conventional options. They also said that research has found there is no difference in the amount of pesticide residue on organic and conventional produce.
I assume these people have far more expertise than I do, but never less, I didn’t want to take these bold statements just at their word. I wanted to get to the bottom of whether “organic” is better and if so, to whom and to what degree.