Locally-Grown Farce

Prairie Gleanings

I'm disappointed with a rural Illinois magazine's portrayal of environmentally-friendly farming.

Published on: June 1, 2010
Just like you, I get a lot of magazines each month. Many are free, some I pay for. Most all have some connection to rural Illinois.

One I usually enjoy is Illinois Country Living, published by the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. It typically features a smorgasbord of topics relating to Central Illinoisans.

The May issue featured a cover story, called "Fresh off the Farm." Many of you are becoming increasingly alarmed at our government's bid to push local-grown food. The concern is that it gives folks the wrong impressions of production agriculture and what it means to feed the world.

"Fresh off the Farm" is nothing more but a swan song to promote this fairytale story of ag. Not only that, but it uses a tremendous amount of language to promote organic farming. Here's one of my favorites, "These farmers use sustainable or organic practices that build up the soil, reduce runoff, create habitats for wildlife, treat livestock humanely and produce safe, wholesome food."

How many of you are producing conventional food and can say that you're doing the exact same things?

The article goes on to say that we need to get more local farmers producing fruits and vegetables for our local communities because "they preserve farmland and reduce the amount of fossil fuels being burned."

Where did they come up with this stuff? Less fossil fuels for a farmers market, seriously? Consider this bit of factual information from Feedstuffs Food Link website (www.feedstuffsfoodlink.com).

"Buying 1 doz. eggs that were transported several-hundred miles to a grocery store in a tractor-trailer that can carry 23,400 doz. eggs is a more fuel-efficient, eco-friendly option than purchasing 1 doz. eggs at a farmers market, as that uses 4.5 times more fuel, or at a local farm, as that uses 17.2 times more fuel."

That sounds like conventional agriculture has the edge over locally-grown in terms of fossil fuels. Most of the information from "Fresh off the Farm" comes from a coop grocery store manager from Urbana: hardly an expert source if you ask me.

While we can see through the falsities in this article, I doubt the average consumer will. This is why I'm so upset. The average soccer mom in Champaign will read this and assume that you're doing something wrong by growing corn and soybeans in a conventional manner.

I wish Illinois Country Living hadn't given production ag such a bad reputation with "Fresh off the Farm." In fact, I'm a little shocked. The association they work for has ties to production agriculture. Many of these local electric coops have ties to hardworking farmers who are feeding the world.

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  1. L. Corzine says:

    I had a comment interupted by a the computer. I hope it made it to the blog. I was going to add is each system can coexist. The problem arises when the organic folks try to say traditional systems are unsafe or unhealthy because it is not true. They must have a problem if this is they only way they can sell their food. Environmentally and food safety wise our conventional food system is second to none.

  2. J. Flint says:

    I just wanted to add that I did speak with Duane Noland, president of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. He relayed that there were some portions of the article that should have been edited out. It was not intended to be critical of production ag.

  3. L. Corzine says:

    Josh is exactly right in his post. I have no problem with organic producers extracting extra dollars out of consumers in this niche market. The fact is we have a segment of our society that is affluent enough it does not matter what their food cost. It is also a fact proven by peer reviewed study organic production is not more environmentally friendly nor is it healthier or safer. There are a lot of folks who like to buy locally grown. Many do not understand “locally grown” does not mean “organic” and “organic” does not mean “locally grown”. For example the last time I checked a vast majority of the organic products sold in the United States are imported: not very local. New technology in autos, computers, medicine, air conditioners, water heaters, etc. makes these products more environmentally friendly and efficient. The same is true on our family farms. We produce more with less so we do not need to encroach on fragile lands while we lower our environmental footprint. It is unfortunate when some promote half truths or falsehoods and some of our publications who should know better print it. They are preying on the uninformed public. Hats off to Josh for calling them on it!