I'll admit it: I'm a very crunchy conservative. I believe in organic foods (even if we don't have money to buy them), I don't feed our dogs food made with a lot of preservatives, and I try to avoid packaged or processed foods when I can. I drink water instead of soda, I can name several grains to substitute for wheat, and I've even made a loaf of spelt bread, though it didn't turn out like I wanted.
I'm not alone either. Americans are now consuming far more organic food than we produce, leaving us importing everything from almonds to blueberries to brown rice syrup to feed our new-found health consciousness. Even though organic farmers reap big profits, the cost of converting farmland is often prohibitive. Combine this with declining farmlands (Utah has lost over 2 million acres in the last 40 years) and we're heading for a new trade deficit of a vital commodity. With retailers like Walmart getting in on the organic feeding fenzy, the supply problem is bound to only get worse.
But what if Utah farmers started going green on their farms? Salt Lake City already sees a plethora of organic goodies in restaurants and farmer's markets, so we know the demand is there. We have more Wild Oats stores than Las Vegas, a city almost twice our size, a sure sign that Utahns are already on board the all-natural bandwagon. Could it be that our rich farmlands are destined to fill America's pesticide-free breadbaskets?
Farmers will win big on the switch to organic. It's very profitable and the reach of the Internet makes it possible to directly sell products all over the country. Environmentalists and granolas will swoon at purging pesticides and cleaning chemicals from our diets and habitats. Small business supporters can jump for joy at stopping big agribusiness in its tracks while preserving a truly distinctive way of life. We could very well turn our state into an organic foods powerhouse, making Utah to organic foods as Wisconsin is to cheese.
This is far more than the "Utah's Own" campaign in our local grocery stores. This is about turning lagging agriculture into a force to be reckoned with nationally. I'm hoping that industry groups and state leaders will jump on this train before it leaves town.
UPDATE: I'm not quite sure how it happened, but it seems that I was logged in as Shauna somehow when I posted this. Whoops.