White House Garden Not Organic? Doesn't Matter.


Over at GOOD, Andrew Price notes an AP report that the White House isn't calling its vegetable garden organic. "Does it matter," Price asks "if it's not organic?"

The original AP report quotes Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass: "To come out and say (organic) is the one and only way, which is how this would be interpreted, doesn't make any sense. ... This is not about getting into all that. This is about kids."

We have to remember that organic doesn't mean good. Folks use it to mean "healthy" or "sustainable" when the truth is you can get organic junk food. And while the back-to-the-earth movement that pushed organic into the mainstream (take a look at Oregon Tilth, which has been certifying things organic since 1982), had an encompassing vision of what organic means for our relationship to land and food production, the organic certification that your Whole Paycheck Foods apples receive comes from the Feds, and it's not cheap for farmers to obtain. The upshot of that is that not all farms can afford to be certified, even if their practices are what we would recognize as organic. And, let's remember, organic most certainly doesn't mean better labor practices.

The presence of gardens, the types of vegetables planted, the focus on closing the gap between people and food -- that's what a truly progressive food movement should focus on. My favorite sentiment on the question of organic came from a Robert Burns at The Food Project, which runs gardens and markets in Boston. When I asked if they were certified organic, he replied, "That’s not as important to us. We’re in the community; folks can just come by and see our practices. It’s about transparency."

--Phoebe Connelly

(White House/Pete Souza)