Purists and essentialists - what’s the difference?

I attended the National Good Food Network conference in New Mexico in late March.  One of my favorite lectures was by Michael Rozyne who stated that there is an important difference between being a purist and an essentialist about organic foods.  This was new territory for me because I believe (or did believe) so strongly in being an organic purist.

Michael wrote a book, “What are we Fighting/Collaborating For?  He had three main points in his lecture:  Survival, The Story First, Why Collaborate?  In Survival, Michael explained that he has a dear friend, John Lyman, a local apple and peach farmer who became allies in their stance on IPM (Integrated Pest Management).  In New England, it is almost impossible to grow organic fruit so both of these farmers use synthetic pesticides (IPM).  Because of their solidarity on this issue, Michael was unsettled when he learned that John believed in intelligent design and a young earth, because Michael believed in evolution.  They came to an agreement, and it wasn’t just to agree that they could disagree but it was to listen to the other person’s perspective.

In these days of polarization on everything from politics to potty rooms, I was elated to hear this.  I long for actual discussions of topics without opinions defying opposing viewpoints. Michael went on to explain how this transpired, by stories. I’ll discuss reframing through stories next week. Back to purists and essentialists. While it is great to have organic food only, 1% of all produce grown in the US is organic, so what’s everyone supposed to eat?  This attitude doesn’t take into account what it means to be a responsible grower. There are plenty of growers who maintain sustainable practices, they use cover crops to create more organic matter. They may not be able afford organic certification but they are still producing good produce. Customers that are more interested in prices are okay to look at conventionally grown produce if it responsibly grown.  

Michael ended this section of his lecture by saying that we live surrounded by synthetic products but people are against using synthetic pesticides. I read a book a few years back called Essentialism, I think it’s time to check it out from the library for a refresher. I’ve been an “organic only” gal for some time now, I want to learn more about the farmers who grow sustainably and responsibly. That I’ll need to learn more about as well.