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Trust Your FarmerWhile reading at David Gumpert’s The Complete Patient blog the other day, I took note when he, too, mentioned the call to "Trust your Farmer" that I’ve been hearing lately — along with various similar sentiments: trust your local farmer, farmers need a break, etc.

When I first heard this phrase, it was in the context of doing our produce shopping at our local Farmer’s Market … that, because it is so difficult and costly to obtain an organic certification, one should simply ascertain from the farmer whether pesticides and the like were used in the production of the produce — or, for dairy farmers, whether hormones, antibiotics, etc. were used on the cows.

Sounds logical. This is based on the idea that, if one "knows" the farmer, then one knows what’s going on at the farm.

Unfortunately, it’s not really practicable in the real world for us to sail around inspecting farms.

Now, it’s not that I was distrusting of farmers, or assuming out of hand that a farmer might misrepresent what he’s selling. My own operating basis for our business is that I give our clients and customers the best advice I can even if I would make more money by giving them different advice. I feel best taking this approach — which, incidentally, is one of the foundations of ensuring that our own "product" is of high quality.

However, while I don’t want to assume without proof that anyone is dishonest, neither does it make sense to presume that everything is at all times above board without my ascertaining that it is so. No matter what the topic, I simply can’t get with the idea that I should cast all doubt to the wind and make blind assumptions about who is doing what.

Case in point: we are looking about for a source of raw milk in (more or less) our area … but I’ll note that in California, our milk was not only raw but certified organic. Here, it makes no sense to assume that the fact that milk is raw ensures that the cows were hormone and antibiotic free, and that the milk was dealt with in such a manner that it is healthful. Factually, these are different issues.

As to the case in point I promised, I’d located a dairy farmer — or, at least, I’d located his website — who offers raw milk. The website looked nice — but, as a website designer myself, I noted that the photos were stock photography (which is easy enough to get — here’s an example). As you can see, the photos are far nicer than photos that I, for example, might take. Of course, in order to make a good website presentation, one might hire a professional photographer. Our California dairyman has nice photographs, too … but he’s also in the picture.

Then I popped over to Google Maps (and Microsoft’s Bing.com Maps, too) where you can search for an address and, most conveniently, get a satellite photo view of the area — and did a search for the dairy farmer’s address. There it was. I could see the house, what looked like a barn, and acres of land, some of which looked to have been cropped pretty closely. I should have been satisfied with that — the photos has revealed that it’s not a factory farm, but I found myself returning to the Google and Bing.com maps and pouring over them.

It’s funny that it’s easy to see what’s there, but sometimes seeing what’s not there can be hard to spot.

Finally, I spotted what was bothering me.

No cows.

Between Google and Bing.com it was clear that the satellite photos had been taken at different times … between the two sets of photos, different acreage showed cropping (or mowing?). Not only that, but the twin silos appearing on the dairyman’s website did not appear in the satellite photos.

Then I tried the address of a dairyman (certified organic) in upstate New York … and there you could see the cows.

So, that’s my story. Rather than make assumptions based upon what could, in fact, be some kind of coincidence, I think what we’ll do is take a drive down there. There either are cows, or there are not.

And that is precisely my point … assumption is not the greatest gauge. And if what we really want is clean, wholesome food, it’s up to us to do our best to ensure that we’re getting what we want.

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7 Comments for "Trust your farmer, she said"

  1. George Vigil

    The idea is to control what we eat so that we can steer reasonably clear of chemicals and toxins that are permitted in our food. We should take care and verify what we are eating.

    Case in point: Earth Fare is a reasonably good store here in Charlotte NC. It carries a lot of Organic food. I was looking at the brand name milk they are selling. Bottled in glass, it had the USDA stamp of 100% Organic. The only problem is that the milk was pasteurized! How can pasteurized milk be organic? The answer is that it can’t! This is a case of false advertisement or the USDA has relaxed their standards, which is entirely possible. Pasteurized milk is nutritionally near useless. Yet there it is being sold as ORGANIC. It’s a good idea to verify that we are not being lied to.

  2. Diane Vigil

    I agree. That’s just one of the "little" issues with living in North Carolina — it’s anti-raw milk.

  3. George Vigil

    Yes! I visited another store by the name of Lowe’s, which has a number of organic products that it sells. Although they sell some products that we use, the USDA 100% “organic” milk they sell is also pasteurized. This is false advertisement or relaxed rules by the USDA. Or it could be both. It pays to read the labels on the food and know what Organic actually means.

  4. Lynn Cameron

    You guys might consider joining a milk buying club like we must do here in NY in order to obtain organic, farm-fresh milk from grass-fed cows. Check out realmilk.com to find out what might be in your area.

  5. Diane Vigil

    Organic, eh? That sounds awfully good. I’ll call you soon.

  6. Damon

    “…I give our clients and customers the best advice I can even if I would make more money by giving them different advice.”
    Bravo! I am a small business owner and will always abide by that. If someone else can make something better than I can, well I have to send my customer there right? I wish more people would have basic morals like this :(
    By the way your research process was impeccable…again, we need to really think about where our food originates and possible even prove it. Thank you for posting a good example to be followed.

  7. Diane Vigil

    Well, thanks, Damon. Actually, I’m a web designer and Internet consultant by trade, but that is the operating basis we work on. I find it’s the only way (and some of our clients have been with us for over ten years).

    Anyway, thanks. Some of your recipes do look yummy. :)

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