Here is a mystery of the modern world… if organic farming is so good for us and it is going back to how things used to be done, why on earth is it so expensive to buy enough organic veg to actually FEED a family?! I am not talking about the half dozen carrots, half a dozen apples, and a cabbage which some people assume is enough for a family of four. I am talking about enough veg for everyone to get 8-10 fruit and veg a day, never mind the 5 a day we are supposed to be aiming for.
I have had one week of a delivery of veg, fruit and meat from a well known UK organic supplier. Having done extensive research, I thought I had got a good deal. I had done my sums and I thought we could afford it. Well, even after one week, it is entirely clear to me. We just can’t. We have a choice of either eating like birds (which is not going to happen in a house of healthy appetites) or increasing the food budget in the house by 3 times. We simply cannot afford that. Needless to say, we are not having 2 weeks of the organic fruit and veg box.
I am cross. Actually slightly more than cross. I get that organic farming is labour intensive. I have had an allotment. You need sweat to get it right, with a bit of blood and tears thrown in. But, to my simple accounting mind, if you are not throwing expensive fertilizers or pesticides on the produce, how come it is so expensive? I am pretty sure organic farmers still use mechanised equipment to plough the fields and furrows, just like the agribusiness farmers do, and I know that organic farmers can actually get higher yields than their non-organic counterparts. They have a greater risk of blight and disease, but why am I, the innocent consumer, paying a premium for a risk that might not effect the farmer in the first place?
Am I being naive here or am I missing an important part of the organic farming business model that I know nothing about? I am pretty sure they don’t have highly paid people working in the fields weeding and harvesting. And to be honest, labour costs have to be the only cost which is bigger for organic than for non-organic agriculturists. I would be delighted if someone could tell me otherwise.
I think the problem comes down to what my Dad used to call “perceived market value”. Somewhere in the late 80s at the dawn of the organic revolution, someone somewhere said to themselves “Ooh… hang on… we can charge people an absolute fortune. There are fewer costs here, but if we charge them more, people will pay it because they want organic.” And the really annoying thing is that people actually DID that. We bought the hype.
Well, for my family, we are going to HAVE to go unorganic and get our vegetables at the supermarket with all their chemicals and pesticides and food miles. Either that or attempt to start a market garden ourselves. That might be a little much for even me to bite off and try and chew. I really don’t wear my underpants on the outside of my trousers (despite what you may have heard!) … as long as I can grow some stuff to supplement the groceries, I will be happy.
Still cross. But happy.