Organic markets spark debates, controversies

Organic+markets+spark+debates%2C+controversies

Brittany Cornelison

Photo illustration by Muhammad Al-Rawi

It’s 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and the sun hasn’t come up. Soundlessly, sophomore Molly de Jong slips on a t-shirt and jeans, eager to start her day. She pulls out of her driveway without breakfast, excitedly awaiting the new products she will taste.

While getting up this early on Saturday may seem out of the question, for about 4,000 people going to the Farmers’ Market is well worth it.

“I’m an early person so I get up that time anyway,” de Jong said. “It’s just a fun place to be.”

The Columbia Farmers’ Market, which sits between the ARC and West Jr. High, is one of several organic markets in the area, all serving a healthy alternative to conventional grocery stores.

Vendors also sell artisan goods. On selected Saturdays and Wednesdays, an individual walking into the Farmers’ Market can find anything from homemade soap to hand-crafted jewelry.

Despite the products’ differences, they all share one detail: the simplicity of their origin. The fact that most of the products are organic is one of the Farmers’ Market’s claims to fame.

Among the nearly 70 different farmers and artisans, Liberty Hunter comes from Ashland every Saturday to the market, where she receives most of her business, to sell more than 80 different types of vegetables. Other market vendors include retired Hickman High School teacher Dorothy Canote, who gardens full time to showcase her herbs, and fellow farmer Derek Bryant, who sells certified naturally grown vegetables, eggs, birds and flowers.

The market creates this unique atmosphere for de Jong, but sometimes she still wonders if organic foods are worth the time and money. An advocate against Genetically Modified Foods, Southern Boone County High School senior Kadie Crivello is no stranger to the benefits of organic foods. Spending her free time working at Clover’s Market, she believes there is a key difference between the two.

“Organic food has more nutrients, vitamins and minerals … than conventional foods,” Crivello said. “You don’t have to worry about the toxicness of eating, you know, pesticides and stuff.”

Crivello seems to have statistics on her side. In 2003, the Organic Trade Association came out with new information on organic food tests, showing an increase in vitamins and minerals in organic foods opposed to traditional produce. The same year, the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found a 52 percent increase in vitamin C in organic corn as compared to non-organic corn, suggesting a difference between the two production methods.

RBHS sophomore Cannon Hackett disagrees. An avid current events reader, Hackett constantly checks up on controversial topics, including the organics versus non-organics debate.

“I don’t think there’s much of a difference at all. I remember reading an article where they did taste tests and the foods tasted exactly the same,” Hackett said. “I don’t really know of any harm that conventional foods would have caused opposed to organic food.”

Hackett’s not the only one to take a stand against organic foods. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the United Kingdom completed a study on organic foods, stating on their website that, “Consumers may choose to buy organic fruit, vegetables and meat because they believe them to be more nutritious than other food. However, the balance of current scientific evidence does not support this view.”

The study, which the FSA conducted on 50 years of research, is one of many that contradicts the world of organics. Other than studies such as these, the disadvantages of organic foods are obvious—price. The cost of organic food averages to approximately $1.15 per organic item, an amount that can add up fast. But for many, this is a small price to pay for what they believe to be both beneficial for their own health and the health of the environment.

“You don’t have to worry about the water polluting. We don’t have, you know, water to spare­­ — it’s better for the air,” Crivello said. “No chemicals or anything in the air that needs to be purified … and then, just the health [of] soil. Our earth is happy when we go with the organic standards.”

Regardless of whether organics are a scam, the Farmers’ Market remains, selling some of the freshest produce in the area. Perhaps this is why Columbians keep returning weekly to the Farmers’ Market, where the community comes together for just a few hours. But for de Jong, it’s more than that; it’s tradition.

“I come back because it’s something me and my dad do together,” de Jong said, “and he took me there when I was little all the time, and so it’s something that we just [do].”

By Ashleigh Atasoy