Every conversation with a customer is an opportunity to learn something new when it comes to food. In fact, we should always approach our everyday conversations with an expectation of learning something new. When we do this, we replace our subjectivity with objectivity and spend far less time listening to ourselves and more time learning from others. As farmers, we need to be educated and open to education when it comes to agricultural topics. When someone says, “You have to spray, there’s just no choice,” an organic farmer needs to be equipped with a response against the status quo. Our response has to have more substance than, “It’s not good for you!”
“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
We can build this knowledge requirement through a love of reading or open-ended conversation that provides opportunity for discussions on issues of health and food. Organic farming, i.e., the way farming was done pre-industry, is a tried, tested, and true approach to managing livestock and produce. It has been researched exhaustively, defeated criticism, and is now on its way to becoming more and more accepted by food consumers. Conversations against pesticide sprays, chemical fertilizers, and anti-biotics need to focus on the natural defenses of properly managed soil biota and the inherent dangers of mono-cropping to our soils, for example.
As a teacher, sometimes you encounter questions from students that don’t have an immediate answer. Sometimes, it is better to listen than to say anything at all. I congratulate my students on asking a question that stumps the teacher. It is important for them to know that adults don’t have all the answers. Our society expects immediacy in everything we do. (Look at what the chicken industry has done to the meatking, for example. Meatking chickens have been selectively bred to go from farm to table in only 8 weeks, 8 weeks! This is done at the expense of numerous broken legs, heart attacks, dead birds, etc. in a conventionally managed poultry operation.) We shouldn’t set expectations of instantaneous response, it sets our children up for failure. We should allow time to formulate well researched and thought out responses. Let the intellectual juices stew a while.
I am always encouraged and enthused by my saturday morning market booth conversations. Conversations with local people about healthy eating, barefoot running, the minimalist movement, earthing, grounding, unpasteurized milk consumption, herbal teas, etc. lead me to the conclusion that collectively we possess a great deal of knowledge away from conventional thinking within our region. At one point in my life, I shied away from these conversations but now I whole heartedly embrace them and their significance in my life. They give me a voice that stands against the oppressive nature of factory farms and the blind faith in our current food system that so many of us have fallen victim to. I am confident that more and more people will give organic food a chance and at least find a chance to include it in their daily conversation.