I think all of us at sometime in our life have played Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide some issue in life. My husband and I will always remember that in the middle of our wedding, our pastor after realizing he hadn’t asked who would go first reading our “Statements of Intent”, suggested that we play RPS. We did and I won. The idea of Rock, Paper, Scissors is that nothing is better than the others. Each one can beat one of the others and can be beaten by one of the others. There is no real strategy to the game or way to win other than luck. You play a game or best two out of three and you move on.
It seems to me that there is a large game of Rock, Paper, Scissors being played with food these days. Except the words are Local, Organic, Conventional. Just the same as in the game, no one type of food or farming practice is better than the other. Each one is part of the food dynamic but you can’t just place one over the other and solve all the issues that people have with food.
Local- Can be a great way to connect consumers with their food beyond the grocery store isle. Consumers can get the freshest of the fresh in produce and that is fantastic. However we don’t all live in a temperate climates and living on hoop house grown greens all winter here in Wisconsin isn’t very practical.
Organic- Offers consumers who’s personal beliefs and ideas don’t connect with current practices and technology a way to continue to eat. However the price and availability of organic is a major limiting factor for many Americans. Add in the rest of the world the relies on American farmers to produce affordable and abundant food and Organic can’t be the only way to reach our end goal.
Conventional- Large farms and small farms working together to produce the safe, affordable and abundant food you and the rest of the world eat every day. However this sector of food production is also the worst about reaching out to consumers and keeping the lines of communication open.
If you play Rock, Paper, Scissors every day and you always throw down rock, it won’t take long for your opponent to beat you. Likewise if you choose only local or organic or conventional food choices you are choosing to ignore other vital factors to the food system that keeps the world running.
I have my own personal beliefs regarding each of these things. I tend to be biased against organic because I feel the rules involved are confusing and not always in the animals best interest. However I do believe that it would improve modern farming to adopt some of the ideas that come from Organic producers. I can tell you I have never looked at a bag of fruit at the grocery store to see where it came from but I do love going to our local farmer’s market. I choose to farm conventionally but I know we can do a better job of addressing consumers fears about the products we make.
Let’s keep the game playing to Rock, Paper, Scissors and not play games with our food.