When in Lancaster I stay with Amish friends on an organic produce farm. So of course I partake of the delicious veggies- (and sometimes even pick a few) heirloom tomatoes, romaine lettuce, spinach and squash.

Taste-wise the stuff is hard to beat. However when not on the farm I rarely consume organic products. Price is one factor, but that’s not all there is to it.

Organic food seems to be one of those things where the people who are into it, are INTO it. Disciples, enthusiasts, evangelists–in any case something beyond mere consumers.

Case in point: my friend took me to a picnic sponsored by his co-op a couple weekends ago. The event, which took place on an Amish farm, was held on behalf of the co-op’s CSA (community supported agriculture) customers. Most were from New York or Washington DC, having made the long journey by car and hired coach.

After a tasty pot-luck lunch, the Amish growers, 20 or so, lined up to take questions from the crowd. People asked about the origins of seeds and whether a certain wholesome-but-exotic plant could be grown and whether more of the packaging could be biodegradable and so on. Clearly health and the environment were chief concerns for the urban visitors.

There was a lot of appreciation-and for lack of a better term-something like wonder radiating out from the audience to the assembled farmers and their families. And on that note another plus mentioned, both by the growers and customers, was the idea of community, and in particular supporting the small farming lifestyle (the Amish farmers, understandably, were big on that last point). Above all there was a sense of being a part of someting bigger than vegetables.

But while I appreciate organic food-if only for the fact that it helps my friends make a living- I’ve just never been able to get that excited about it. Not in any passionate way, in any case.

Perhaps I don’t care enough about the environment, or “sustainable practices” (a term I see widely applied, everywhere from farming to heavy industry to the corporate world, but am still not quite sure what it means). Or maybe I’m not sold on the health benefits (or the inverse of that-I’m not convinced my regular old conventional produce is doing me any harm).

I don’t mean to sound like an organic agnostic, but I think that’s what I might be. I’d love to hear some opinions from other veggie eaters though: do you buy organic? If so, why? (What am I missing?) And if not, why not?


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