1. Sam

    Ugh. This is too much of a fallacy-generating mess, but a couple items are worth addressing.

    Detective Dunning’s approach to the subject is partial (both senses of the word) and misleading. And his conclusions are just eager premises fast dipped in some see-what-sticks “research.”

    This guy creates the image of a corporate oligarchy on organic food production in California (let’s assume this is true?) and thinks he’s uncovered a contradiction in the philosophy of naturally grown foods rather than a frightening reality that corporations have knocked off so many family farms. Perhaps the author will be a lucky shareholder in the corporation buys California in toto. This is obvious: one can be against corporations despite being forced to buy from them.

    “Shoppers appreciate [Trader Joe’s] image of healthful food in a small-business family atmosphere.” He made that up. No one thinks Trader Joe’s is a small business via branding scams. The company is very open about it’s business model. Hence the radical popularity and business growth. Trader Joe’s is a big business –and don’t skip this– that actively seeks out small-time vendors, often local. (The income of the family that owns Trader Joe’s is a stupid red herring.)


    That is how customers at Trader Joe’s support small business in a practical way.

    One basic problem in his grasp of healthy food production and consumption is he focuses on the plant instead of the whole farming system. People support organic food production methods because they are sustainable, unlike “conventional” methods that deteriorate the soil with toxic pesticides (requiring more aggressive fertilizers ad infinitum). Such farming methods, while offering high yields and fast profits, are nevertheless farmland destroyers. Organic farms rotate their crops and use less aggressive natural pesticides because they maintain the health of the soil, which produces normal yields, but ensures future yields.

    Focusing on the food eating in isolation of the entire methods of production is also how the author pulls off his only victory claim – the fact that organic food consumption is not proven to offer the eater immediate health benefits over “conventional methods.” But the reason for this is the impossibility in forming a reliable study because of the unmanageable variables in making a fair comparison. Much less forming any long-term studies. Despite this problem, the philosophy of organic food and small business is far more expansive than the single plant and eater; it believes in the total production cycle including the health of farmland, livestock and local economies. Corporations, by their profits-at-any-cost constitution, have little interest sustainability (i.e. “see you later when shit hits the fan”). Not so with family farms personally invested in their land.

    As far as the author’s health scare attempts, just do your own research on E.coli (and pesticides) from multiple sources, not a small bio-tech advocacy group like the Center for Global Food Issues. More accurate information on organic food is so ubiquitous –Google is your friend– one must actively dodge it to maintain the cast of mind Dunning holds.

    For starters:

    Earlier I made a pitch for reading Wendell Berry.


    Ms. Mullarkey a priori wrote him off as a mischievous Romantic dealing drugs of popular ideologies. I’d have a go at that if I knew what it meant, but this read is probably good enough:


    He’s actually an experienced farmer and foremost expert on the relationships between agriculture, ecology and local economies. Books abound. Whatever doubts one might have about natural farming, it’s worthwhile to hold them up against some serious reading. Berry or not.

    Why did I write all this? I don’t know. I like the earth and God was clear in commanding us to be its stewards. (I’m also avoiding the real work I have to do in the studio.) Thank you for reading all this if you did and to Mr. Mullarkey for publishing it if she does.

  2. PainterJoe

    No one “wrote off” Wendell Berry. That’s a crude description of the post. Sam’s overheated respons takes us out of the realm of discussion and into the land of True Belief. Not a reliable place to be.

  3. Karen

    What a beautiful image of Frog and friends! Now I know why the Caldecott medal deserves its name.

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