Reader found portions of food pioneers story disturbing

I was disturbed by a couple of things published in your “Asheville’s Food Pioneers” coverage in the Oct. 22 issue of Xpress.  You give very nice publicity to Blue Ridge Food Ventures (a local sacred cow) in “From Palates to Pallets,” with special attention given to UliMana, the largest Food Ventures client.

All well and good — how swell it is to push local small businesses — but then, on page 38, you feature UliMana staff happily making their raw truffles with bare hands, which anyone with any background in the food industry knows is a serious breach of health codes not only here, but anywhere in the country. …  Are the staff of UliMana really completely ignorant of food-handling provisions of the local health code? Is Chris Reedy, the Blue Ridge Food Ventures executive director (shown on page 37 with UliMana staff) ignorant of these codes?

On page 44, the article “The local grocer” gives a deserving plug to John Swann of Katuah Market.  I do take issue with something Mr. Swann is quoted as saying: “Having relationships with farmers is more important than the word ‘organic.’ Places like Hickory Nut Gap Farm, they’re not all-organic, they’re not all non-GMO, but they are working hard to make that happen, and we want to support that.”

Really? “Working toward” being organic and not utilizing GMOs, but not actually achieving those goals, is rather like saying Monsanto really wants to produce healthy, environmentally safe products. I’m absolutely certain you could find any number of Monsanto execs who would, in fact, say exactly that.  But this desire alone is not necessarily enough, is it?

Surely, Mr. Swann, you have heard the old saying about the path to Hell being paved with good intentions? It applies here. In order to be the grocer that most of you customers probably think you to be, then you must seek out producers of local, organic, and non-GMO produce and meat. Organic IS important, non-GMO IS important. To state that these crucial considerations are not as important as a vendor relationship is to minimize very serious ecological and social concerns that affect the health and viability of our planet.

Joe Bianculli
Candler
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3 thoughts on “Reader found portions of food pioneers story disturbing

  1. Ben

    Mr. Bianculli takes “issue” at the quotation, “Places like Hickory Nut Gap Farm, they’re not all-organic, they’re not all non-GMO, but they are working hard to make that happen, and we want to support that.” But organic certification doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a complex, expensive process that takes 3 years at a minimum to complete. My understanding is that Hickory Nut Gap Farm has initiated this process – and, therefore, is already transitioning toward or completely following organic practices – but has not reached final certification yet. (And, in addition to all the other strictures of USDA organic certification, reaching that benchmark will bar them from giving most GMO feed to their animals.)

    So, the claim by Mr. Bianculli that “‘Working toward’ being organic and not utilizing GMOs, but not actually achieving those goals, is rather like saying Monsanto really wants to produce healthy, environmentally safe products,” is in fact as hyperbolic and overblown as it sounds. Working toward being organic, because of the rigors and expense of the certification, is, well, a lot of work. Local farms engaging in this demanding process – and the local grocers who support them – should be affirmed, not demonized. (And yes, “the path to Hell being paved with good intentions” is literally a demonizing phrase…)

    • Matthew

      Well said Ben! I was scrolling down to leave a similar comment and saw what you had stated. I have several friends who own coffee farms and the testing can require sometimes as many as 5 years. In order to be certified they must fly scientists and inspectors (in the case of a coffee farm at least) in from usually a foreign country. While not exactly the same, it still demonstrates that this is an expensive process that doesn’t happen overnight. I think people should feel lucky that so many producers are going through this process and be supportive of how much work it is and not insult them in the meantime while they invest their hard earned money into this.

  2. Kelly Boodram

    Very well said, Mr. Bianculli. The local media is blind to the antics and ethics of certain local businesses because said entities tout the “local” flag. I, too, want to know whether my purchases of local items are organic and GMO free. Most local food purveyors fail to make any claims regarding this. I join the ranks of those who want to know whether the growing of local produce contributes to the depletion of bee and butterfly populations . I join the ranks of those who want to know whether I need to use an abundance of water to clean and scrub pesticides off of produce. And I join the ranks of those who want to know whether the word “local” has been cheapened by cheap practices.

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