I have been brewing on an issue for a while and I feel the urge to express it. At the peak of the E.Coli outbreak, reports from the FDA insinuated a farm in transition to organic as the source. As if organic methods was the real issue. The key word here is in "transition" but they failed to include from conventional. If anything, responsible farmers will tell you that e.Coli cannot exist in soil that is alive with natural organic bacteria. It just bugs me that there a few pests out there, influenced by special interest groups, who will use the power of their position in the media to "insinuate" to their benefit. Of course, at the cost of smaller responsible organic farmers.
In the CA legislature, there a movement that will highly regulate the production of leafy greens requiring that all products under this label be grown only in the industrial-agricultural model. Anyone producing leafy greens using sustainable, integrated and organic practices could be prosecuted! Small farmers are dependent on revenues generated by leafy greens and good restaurants like ours, depend their high quality and diversity to put flavor on our plates. But, we can thank Senator Dean Florez, big friend of big Ag (and big proponent of GMO’s in CA agriculture) for this narrow political view and "attack" on small farmers. He’s a already big pest in my book!
Risk Management departments, trained in laboratories without clue as to where our food comes from, are scrambling to put in place their own supplier requirements. Well intentioned and much needed in large industrial operations. But these requirements don’t scale down as being viable to the smaller operators. It’s hard for me to say if there are pests in this group. These are people who know how do to business one only way and it’s based on the large industrial model. Unfortunately, that model is proving to be more deficient then advantageous from many perspectives…thus the growth of a more sustainable food chain. No doubt the risk management folks are encouraged by lawyers in fear of lawsuits. There must be some pests in this group.
Last year Bon Appétit spent $55M dollars in support of small responsible local producers. This represents a significant amount of ingredients that came through our kitchens, onto the plates of guests, produced using sustainable methods. The same methods that are being "attacked" as being dangerous to our health. Since we initiated our Farm to Fork in 1999, we have never never had an issue with food born illness related to our small supplier. Yet, over that same period we have had dozens and dozens of product recalls from the large conventional system.
What can I say, except pass me the pesticide please. Un-sustainable? Yes, but how do I get rid of some of these pests that are just bugging the heck out of me. I am open to alternative suggestions!
submitted: marc zammit: director culinary support and development