Saturday, September 23, 2006

Smart and friendly spinach

If you've been listening to the USA news lately you know that there's been an E. coli outbreak that's been traced back to spinach from a three-county area in California.

USA farmers are alway trying to develop smart systems for growing and marketing their crops. California spinach growers developed a smart system, banding together to cooperatively process and market their spinach. It was a smart system because it reduced costs and increased demand for spinach.

But organizations thrive not only have smart systems but smart and friendly systems. The spinach marketing system did not prove to be friendly because it spread E. coli, sickening 166 people in 25 states. The E. coli bacteria have been traced back to nine possible farms but because the spinach from all the farms are combined, it has improved impossible this far to pinpoint the exact source.

"There is going to be a need to examine the system -- what's working, what's not working. At this point I wouldn't want to rule anything in or anything out," said Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer for the FDA's Food Safety and Applied Nutrition branch.

The dominant system in the USA involves trucking fruits and vegetables all over the country. That's how tainted spinach from three counties in California made people sick in 25 states.

But trucking food from vast warehouses is not the only system.

I live on a farm that, for the most part, uses a smarter, friendlier system. Grow it and then market it locally through farmers markets.

Farmers markets are a smart and friendly system for getting your spinach. Most farmers markets require sellers to grow the produce what they sell. That means that while you may pay a little more at a farmers market, that friendly man or woman you're buying from is the farmer who grew the spinach. And it wasn't combined with produce from dozens of other farms and trucked half way across the country.

I'm not a farmer but I've enjoyed eating Plow Creek produce for many years. Today for lunch I had seedless watermelon. I know Neil and Jim who grew the melon.

Now that's a smart and friendly system.

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