Sometime in 1999 I became enlightened to the concept of organic foods. For several years prior to that point, my conception of food was, at best, pedestrian and, at worst, uninformed. What I knew about food was limited to what I experienced being a child of my mother (a purveyor of classic American cuisine, through and through), as well as the very limited exposure I chose to allow myself while living abroad in the Air Force. I tried eating vegetarian as well as vegan for a period of time in the hopes of carving a niche in my food-related life. Although each lifestyle succeeded in populating my culinary blank slate, they did not provide me with a solid foundation for what I was ultimately seeking: reconnection. I sought reconnection with the foods that provide us as humans our sustenance to continue. I also sought to understand the production/consumption circle of which we are an integral part.

Farmer's MarketAs I was driving once, Kim read something to me about organic foods from a magazine. She was reading it while we were running errands around the Detroit area. I don’t recall the entirety of the contents within the article, but I do remember all of a sudden reaching an understanding that the produce that I chose to eat (because I was still a teensie-weensie afraid of most produce) was not real. They were the resulting crops of strange, Frankenstein-like experimentation with the fruits of the earth. I could reasonably assume that everything I ate was tainted with some sort of chemical or, even worse, some sort of chemical cocktail. Now, I’m no chemi-phobe, but I understood that the foods we were consuming were not the foods of my parents (my parents are about the age of your grandparents, FYI) or their ancestors. Something was amiss and I knew it, but it took this article to help me articulate it to not only myself, but to everyone else.

So began my odyssey. As a culinary hobbyist, many facets came into play in considering where I wanted to migrate in respect to food. Did I want to eliminate fast food? Eventually, yes, I came to realize fast food plays a major role in the breakdown of the culture of food. Did I want to fully comprehend the impact of the production and consumption of food? Yes. Did I need to understand the economics of each apple I purchased? Of course. How would I manage to come to these desired points? I had no idea.

The mere fact that the label “organic” had to be put to use at all should have clued everyone into the fact that what we were consuming was probably not ideal food fit for human consumption. No matter what you may theologically believe, or not believe, what the earth provides for us in its own pure form is what we are meant to eat. Arguments can be fielded to the stretches of our imagination concerning questions such as: Cooked or raw produce? Meat or no? Farmed seafood or wild? The levels of debate are philosophically endless, but the answer I sought was in general terms. I needed to know what it meant to be a responsible consumer – someone who ate good food while also giving back.

Over almost the last decade, I’ve seen organic food move from small CSAs and “specialty” markets to mega-mart health food stores and, frighteningly, to Wal-Mart. Is this a good thing? Is the widespread availability of organic foods a victory for everyone who wanted to see the organic philosophy thrive?

No.

And yes.

Read: Organic Evolution