Is Organic Too Expensive? How Much is Organic worth?

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Let’s Face it. Organic is Expensive.

When I marketed Organic food to few consumers, they nodded in agreement about the goodness and health benefits. But the one question that I squirmed at was, “I heard its expensive, what’s the difference?”. At the end of the day it all boils down to the economics.

Before I entered the business, people said, that the difference would be 20%. Its only when I got about selling Organic produce that I understood the true value. It shot up to be 50% to almost 100% more expensive than the regular produce.

I could not sell. The mere thought of a consumer, “I get food for half the price in the super store with air conditioner and parking facility”, cannot compete with my humble room that held wooden shelves and bamboo baskets of organic produce. The inquisitive ones never returned and the regulars picked up a packet or two to satisfy their guilt. For weeks I went under loss and could not bear the sight of rotting vegetables and bug infested grains. I closed.

What is the benefit of making something that’s good but will not sell locally? Export is not an option I wish not to take to promote being local.

When I started to look for reasons for the exorbitant prices here are a few causes:

Organic Food is not subsidized food

After World War II countries who took to Green Revolution satisfied hunger and famine with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Governmental policies till date stand in favour of them. So you might pay lesser for a regular veggie in the market but you still pay for the fertilizers through your taxes. There is no such subsidy for organic manure or bio-inputs.

It is labour intensive

Farmers do not use herbicides, so they control weeds by pulling them out. Many organic methods use lesser or no machinery and require great human care during seeding and plucking.

Low yields initially

Those who convert to Organic Farming lose 3 years as conversion period and yields reduce drastically. The soil is dead with chemicals that have killed essential micro-organisms. It takes that long to revive the earth and diminish the residual effect.

Misconception of niche audiences

A middle class man asked me to leave his grocery store and said “Take your organically grown rice and feed the elite, upper class who will agree with your ideologies”. People look at Organic Food as something that is delicate, precious and to be admired at a distance, but impractical for living.

Retailers are out to get your money – wrong!

Most retailers do not keep high margins on their products just because it is “Organic”. Infact those who sell Organic products know that they can never hope to make great profits and do it for the passion and dedication. When they buy it from the farmer, they procure it at the cost that you find on the store shelves of non-organic produce.

Hype on Organic

Right to the farmer level, the hype of Organic Food has also contributed to price increase, but these are proving to settled down with more competition and expansion of the market.

The need for change

Its easy to convert the soil to Organic but not the Human mind. We are conditioned to such sub-standards and mis-conceptions of science for years in the argument of feeding the masses. Organic Fields have proven this wrong with better yields. Governments are no longer dependable as they yield to the giants of agro-chemicals, bio-technology and eat up more cultivable lands for industries.

Consumerist behaviors have to change and its time we bow down to and support the producer who provides us good health.

I invite people to give suggestions to make this change happen.


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The Six Classic Books on Organic Growing

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It’s Sunday night and I’m on my laptop to begin this passionate subject – Organics!

My mind was whizzing with random topics and bits of information to write on this column. I realized then that the best way to start is with history. The past can reveal so many hidden secrets that the world is now re-discovering.

It is only a matter of a hundred years that such change has occurred — and thankfully grandmothers still exist to tell us to treat a cold with honey and basil!

For every problem we recognize with our current living system that is incompatible with nature, we need to look into old knowledge banks.

Our ancestors, wore clothes, cooked food, had shelter and traveled extensively, sans technology. We struggle to do the same in this generation of automatic, disposable culture without harming the environment.

Organic farming is rooted in ancient knowledge passed down through generations.
–David Suzuki

Hence I’m going to suggest some reading material to begin with. The books are by pioneers who were disturbed by the technological high and finally found their ways to a better and greener living.

Though the books are based on Agriculture, we need to understand where our food comes from and make right choices. Personally, reading them has taught me to respect the existence of matter, living and non-living in this chain called LIFE.

The One-Straw Revolution – Masanobu Fukoka
A Japanese Agricultural Scientist was in dilemma with his spiritual principles and the science he was practicing. He left his job and went back to his father’s farm and practiced Agriculture. The author takes you through a journey of revelation. He went on to become the Father of Natural Farming and Do-Nothing Farming. This book is a must for all those who wish to understand the difference of Organic and Conventional Agriculture.

Silent Spring – Rachel Carson
By the conventional practices and hazardous pesticides like DDT, we destroy several eco-systems that thrive and survive in farms. This natural historian writes on how pesticides have affected birds and the environment. She chose to call her book so, as the birds of the Spring season, were no longer heard chirping.

Ancient Roots, New Shoots : Endogenous Development in Practice – Bertus Haverkort, Katrien van ‘t Hooft & Wim Hiemstra (eds)
The Present global problems of poverty, ecological destruction and loss of cultural diversity call for innovative solutions. This book presents a number of field experiences of endogenous development, or development from within, in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. With a good balance of theory and practice, this book can be immensely useful to development practitioners, researchers and policy makers, especially in the fields of rural development, agriculture, natural resource management and health

An Agricultural Testament – Sir Albert Howard
The author worked in India when the country was still under the British Empire. He came to spread the use of chemical fertilizers but after 25 years, left with the understanding of nature. By working with poor farmers he understood a great deal of traditional farming practices in relation to the soil fertility that a healthy eco-system survives on.

Agriculture: An Introductory Reader – Rudolf Steiner
Steiner is the father of Bio-Dynamic Agriculture that revolves around the science of the cosmos that play a major role in the time crops are planted. This natural science is related to Vrikshayurveda (Sanskrit term to mean the Plant Life Science or the Science of Plant Life) – (Vriksha = tree + Ayur- Veda = science of life). In the Organic Revolution, Bio Dynamic Agriculture is gaining more ground and is the present trend.

Look to the Land – Lord Northbourne
Northbourne coined the word “Organic Farming”. Chapter 3 contains the differences between Organic Farming and Chemical farming. He teaches that the farm is an organism, a living entity that has a balanced organic life. The eco-system is interdependent and every creature has a role to play in this balance. He was inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s work on Agriculture. To Northbourne Organic Agriculture determines the quality of food we eat, “Food of better quality is food which has vitality, individuality, freshness; food which is grown right, not only food that looks right; food which is effective as a vehicle of life and is not either mere stimulant or mere filling”

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Organic Perspectives — Writing and Essays on Organic Living and Lifestyle

Hello and welcome to the first installment of ‘Organic Perspectives’ here on 21st Century Citizen!

My name is Poornima Ravi and I’ll be writing on Organic issues on this blog each Monday. I also write my own blog, but I’ll be writing here as well. This first post is to introduce myself.

I wished to reach out to a bigger bunch of people, to spread the good word and interact on issues related to Organic. I’m glad to be a 21st Century Citizen!

About Me

For starters I’m a graduate of Visual Communication, from India. After the Bachelors, I wanted to explore the mass media and set out to get a job in the big city. In a year I switched 4 jobs, an ad film director’s assistant, creative head for a radio channel, copy writer and as an instructional designer.

It’s not like, the work was uninteresting nor that the companies were unfit. There was this question itching my nerves and eating my head at the end of the day: “So what?”. The work might have given my creativity a squeeze or challenged me to be accepted but there was nothing left for my soul. I did not feel “Good” and would have made no difference to the society. This is when my mom came to the rescue and said “Why don’t you sell Organic Food?”

Media and Organic Food?

Well it didn’t come out of the blue. My mother produces Organic Manure for the local estates and the lil’ company has existed for 15 yrs now. We decompose agricultural waste which enhances soil fertility and as an initiative to promote Organic Agriculture.

I’m now hardly 4 months old in the Organic Field but have discovered A Whole New World. Now I’ve found not just Soulful work but my soul itself. It has taught me fragile eco-systems, natural balance, patience and given me a purpose to exist.

So what’s the whole noise about “Going Organic”?

The term Organic can mean so many different things, from Carbon Compounds to fundamental laws. In my world, Organic is a bond between human and his natural surroundings. Today we live in a world where we find ourselves standing apart from the rest of the planet, when in fact, we share 98% of our DNA sequence to a chimp. But this 2% has made a world of a difference to the earth we live in.

The human brain has the same intelligence today as it had 200 years ago. After industrialization over the last century in its thirst for invention, discovery and luxury it has brought about the dramatic destruction of the planet. Agriculture is one of the major sectors that is affected by technology, that substitutes natural growth patterns, with that intended by man, for higher profits. This has introduced chemical fertilizers, pesticides and intensive cultivation methods. World Resources Institute states that 15%, of the world’s GHGs (Green House Gases), are emitted by Agriculture.

Due to these non-organic methods over the years, the soil has lost its fertility, crop yields have dropped and the pests have become immune to pesticides. Human immune system has deteriorated and cancer rates are on the rise. Pesticides are blamed for male infertility levels and the residual effect has seen its way through women’s breast milk. This scenario cannot continue to grow, we can’t eat our computers and television sets!

Hence the shift from Intensive Farming practices to Sustainable Agriculture has occurred. This will help us build our soil structures and encourage a flourishing eco-system. We will finally get to eat “Good Food” that will help us live a healthy life. It has been proved that Organic Food has 50% more nutrients than conventional food. Take it from me, I’ve been eating it ever since I started and feel light and energetic through the day.

That’s for the introduction. Look out for my column every Monday for a full update on current trends in the Organic Market and conversion rates in Agriculture.

Eat Organic and stay healthy!

Introducing “Organic Perspectives”

Today is a big day for us at 21st Century Citizen. We’re introducing a new feature and a new member of our soon to be growing family of contributing writers!

Poornima Ravi will begin today writing an ongoing feature we’re calling ‘Organic Perspectives’. I’m excited to welcome her to 21st Century Citizen!

Poornima lives in India where she is a seller of Organic Foods. Here’s a post from her personal blog describing some recent trips she’s taken in India to learn about organic produce and faming. She’s an intelligent, passionate person who’s on a personal journey to make a difference in our world, and we’re fortunate and excited to have her here!

Please welcome Poornima Ravi!