Monday, May 6, 2013

An Odd Place for an Epiphany

You just never know when a moment of enlightenment might happen….or where.

I must admit, it sounds more than a little strange to say that “I had an epiphany at the veterinarian’s office. Oh, and it had nothing to do with animals!” 

But, I did! ...and yes...I DO know the definition of the word.

For the record: “An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, "manifestation, striking appearance") is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.” (wikipedia)

I guess I should begin at the beginning…

Well-puppy vet visits are not unlike well-baby pediatrician visits.  They tend to involve a lot of bored waiting, a whiny baby and a cursory exam by the doctor.  During the bored waiting period of one of Jed’s puppy visits years ago, I happened on a magazine that completely captured my attention. I nearly missed the doctor visit. I even took notes and had the Boss check it out online when I got back home!

The premise of the article was that Organic was not the “gold standard” that it had once seemed to be and that maybe something else was in order.  Maybe there was some other way to point consumers to produce and other products. Surely there should be other considerations...carbon footprint, time in transit, and post-harvest handling, among other things.  Food purists everywhere were having lively debates over the benefits local versus organic.  (change comes late to our corner of the world, so this was news to me)  hmmmmmm…..

Back in 2002, the USDA began the Organic Certification program.  Before that, each state had its own standards and inspectors.  When the USDA took over, regulations were put in place to keep folks from using the “O” word without USDA certification. Anyone doing so would be subject to a civil penalty up to $10,000. Tiny producers (under $5,000 in sales) would be exempt.  This left medium to large producers (we fit in this category) scrambling for words that would describe their products and growing practices.

After much discussion, both among ourselves and with our customers, we decided to let our Organic Certification expire when the USDA took over.  Our customers didn’t care…they knew us…knew our practices…in short, they trusted us.  We felt that the whole Organic certification could prove limiting to the farmer and some of the rulings were often arbitrary.  We did need a easily understandable way to describe our products.

I read the article with great interest, thinking the whole time….THIS is the marketing word of the future for farms like us. This concept could change everything.

This is the next BIG thing.

Here is the article in its entirety. (I warn's fairly long)

It seems I was right. 

Since the article’s publication in 2007, “the whole world has gone LOCAL”. Yes, I am being facetious. You might want to read  this... Some folks think the whole world is going "organic" and I really don't see that, either.

LOCAL food is hot. Just try googling it.  Last time I checked, there were over 2.5 BILLION entries.

LOCAL food is trendy.  Just check out a few restaurant menus.

LOCAL food is growing exponentially.  Seems everybody is talking about it, looking for it, wanting to get it, grow it, and eat it.

LOCAL food has gained a huge following.  Many assume that because it's LOCAL, it's greener, more sustainable, more environmentally friendly, better for you and free of any sort of "bad stuff".

LOCAL food has absolutely NO real definition. Presently, it's a vague, cool, uber-trendy marketing word with  NO guarantees or standards...

No one seems to be able to identify exactly what makes something local.
A two-hour drive, 100 miles, the same time zone, zip code,…what?  Wait...someone says 185 miles.  ?

As a shameless plug for the Staunton/Augusta Farmers' Market  …when you shop with any of the vendors…you are getting LOCAL…by a specific definition.  While it seems that a lot of folks may not know this…anything sold at our Market must have been produced within 50 miles of the Market.  The committee agreed to this limitation as a guarantee to the consumers that the produce they buy is indeed local. This was put into the rules back in the early 2000's, long before LOCAL became the desirable definition for everything.

While I instinctively knew that LOCAL was going to be a big deal, I had no idea that it would become SUCH a big deal.  There are cities discussing getting LOCAL food for all the residents, universities and school systems wanting to serve only LOCAL food in their dining facilities, and food hubs popping up in hopes of distributing all this LOCAL food.

LOCAL food is being heralded as some sort of savior for the economy, social justice and health and well-being of citizens everywhere. It is hoped that by going LOCAL, our food system will become safer and more  nutritious. It is thought that communities will be more vibrant and interactive as small gardens spring up everywhere. Proponents dream that childhood obesity and hunger could become things of the past with the abundance of fresh, LOCAL food.

The only limiting factor to this phenomenal growth and interest is going to be… well…LOCAL food.

But, that’s a topic for another day.

Maybe I need to plan another trip to the vet for another bit of enlightenment.

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