Organic Farming - Amyjo Johnson speaks at Google

Uploaded by Google on 16.07.2007


AMYJO JOHNSON: Thanks for coming to our talk.
I'll warn you, I have a laser.

How the hour is going to go is I'm going to talk first. My
name is Amyjo Johnson.
I am your nutritionist.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AMYJO JOHNSON: You're welcome.
Harold McGee is here.
And yes, we're very excited.

He's going to talk about fertilizers, and
fungus, funky bacteria--
lots of fun things.
Becky is also here from Happy Boy Farms. Thank you for the
farmers market today.

And we're going to have time for Q and A. If you have to
leave early--
another meeting, such things--
please feel free to email me,

All right.
So how does agriculture affect nutrient composition?
Two words.
Farming practices.
What kind of fertilizers are being used?
What's their soil management?
Are they using, and how are they using the 'cides?

Let's talk a little bit about chemical fertilizers.
Primarily nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium.
What do these ingredients mean to us as plant eaters?
Sadly, they mean a little less mineral content.
A little more nitrates.
A little more heavy metals.
More protein of lesser quality.
So why?

First, let's talk about mineral content.
So, soil management has everything to do
with mineral content.
Minerals have to be in the soil in order for the
plants to get it.
So I'm going to give human examples.
So you know when you have a bad bug and you take
They're fantastic at killing that bug and everything else.
Because we have really good bugs that live in our gut.
And they battle bad bugs every day.
So we want to make sure those good bugs are in the soil.
Why we want that is because those bugs excrete this really
cool enzyme that the roots of plants use in order to absorb
the minerals from the ground.

I think it's cool.
Here's a graph showing more minerals in organic food.
Conventional food is the zero base line.

You'll find different graphs that have different numbers.
This is one that I could use.
Selenium, off the chart.
Selenium is a little interesting.
It actually will come up again when I talk about
Because it works with antioxidant in your body to
fight free radicals.
We'll talk about that in a minute.
So chemical fertilizers are nitrogen rich.
So they use nitrogen to make the plants grow big and strong
really fast. That's great.
But they use a lot of nitrogen quickly.
And there's an abundance.
So there's nitrogen leftover.

What does the plant do?
Well, it stores it.
So pretend you go to a buffet.
You eat all you can plus more than you need.
What does your body do?
It stores it.
How does it store it?
As fat.
But you didn't eat just fat.
Your body converted it and stored it as fat.
Plants do the same thing.
They take that nitrogen.
They store it as nitrates.
Now nitrates in and of themselves are
actually not bad.
And they're found in small quantities in vegetables.
When nitrates get into your body and start changing,
that's when things get bad.
Nitrates are converted to nitrites.
like to do this little thing.
They saddle up to your hemoglobin.
And they say to that little iron ion that's carrying
oxygen for you, you don't really want to carry that
oxygen any more do you?
Come on.
All you got to do is change from that Fe2 to an Fe3, and
you don't have to carry that oxygen anymore.
You will be relieved of your duty.
It's like, great.
I'll do that.
So it does.
And now that hemoglobin no longer works for you.
That's not a good thing.
The other thing that nitrites do is they decompose into
Also not a good thing.

Good news.
Nitrates are lower in organic produce.
And a little side note--
the chef team here has put together food values.
We have decided we do not want nitrates and
nitrites in your food.
Because we want you to have as much oxygen go into that very
expensive brain as possible.

We find products that are really hard to find that don't
have nitrates and nitrites.
Our purchasers found people who wanted to make sausages
for you without them.
It's really cool.
I just want you to be really thankful.
Last but not least-- organic produce has more
antioxidants, period.
This really cool thing happens.
When plants have to fend for their own life, they figure
out how to do it.
They make a defense system.
It's called antioxidants.
Why do we care?
Well, those antioxidants are in the plants.
We get to eat them.
We get more antioxidants.
They've been studied extensively.
They're fantastic.
They'll solve world peace if we just give them a chance.
What do they do again?
Just a little slight physiology test. Not test.
Free radical.
Free radicals versus the antioxidants.
The free radical is necessary.
You have molecular breakdown.
Free radicals happen.
Your body deals with it.
It's really not that big a deal.
But when you're under a little stress,
your diet's not perfect--
like maybe, I don't know, today, did that happen?
We're under stress.
It's our culture.
When you don't have enough antioxidant, that's when
things get a little scary.
These free radicals are missing an electron.
That's what's going on.

Think of it as being really hungry.
When you're really, really hungry, your
feeling a little unstable.
And you will do whatever it takes to get food.
These free radicals are like that.
I call them hungry vampires.
These free radicals will take an electron from any molecule
that they can.
They don't care what molecule it is.
That free radical takes that electron so it feels better.
And you know what happens is that molecule
becomes a free radical.
That vampire--
what if that molecule was really important?
What if it was part of your DNA?
What if it was a cell membrane that now died because of it?

That's why free radicals are something that we don't want.
Vampire slayer comes on board.
That's the antioxidant.
Antioxidant has an extra electron to give the hungry
free radical.
It's so easy.
Antioxidant comes by.
Here you go.
Here's an electron.
I don't need it.
It doesn't turn into a free radical.
Everybody's happy.
It's great.
So, organic farming practices produce more antioxidants in
plants because they're made to protect themselves.
We benefit from it.
Moral of the story.
Same as always.
Eat at least five servings of organic fruits and
vegetables every day.
Booster mineral intake.
Decrease your nitrate intake.
And it increases your antioxidants
to slay free radicals.
Go organic.
Now, we are going to hear from Harold.
Now in case you didn't know, Harold McGee is our author of
On Food and Cooking.
And he is actually here as one of us.
Harold will be joining us periodically for talks.
And we got him to peel a bunch of shrimp the
other day in the kitchen.
MALE SPEAKER: And roll out some pizza dough?
AMYJO JOHNSON: And roll out some pizza dough.
So Harold will actually be joining me for a lot of these
types of talks.
This is the one of many.
Harold McGee.

HAROLD MCGEE: Thanks, Amyjo.
Thank you all very much.
And I'd like to thank Robert Nielsen, who invited me to
lunch a few weeks ago.
And then, we got to talking.
And then, John Dickman and Robert Morgan made it possible
for me to hang out here.
Which I'm enjoying and looking forward to
doing a lot more of.
I'm going to stay right here.
Can you hear me OK in the back?
OK, good.
All right.
So I started writing about food 30 years ago.
And I started writing about food on a
Selectric, not on a PC.
And back then, there was such a thing as organic food.
And it was pretty sad stuff.
I worked in a lot of food co-ops as a student.
And the organic stuff was always kind of
in the corner, wilted.
The carrots were limp.
The potatoes were green.
And green potatoes are really bad for you.
So organic produce was not what it is today.
And thank goodness things have changed as much as they have.
I mean, this stuff is gorgeous.
And so organic agriculture and produce have become mainstream
in a way that I never would have guessed 30 years ago.
And one of the consequences of that is that scientists are
taking a much closer look at what the differences are
really between organic and conventional production
practices, but also the products themselves--
looking at them very carefully to see what is the real
What I'd like to do today is give you just a taste of some
of the really interesting stories that are developing
out of that comparison.
Things that people I think would never have guessed, and
pretty cool stories.
So just to begin, though, with a very broad brush a
description of what these two things are.
What we call conventional agriculture in fact is a
pretty modern invention.
It was only made possible really by the invention of the
chemical industries, and has been around really since the
end of World War II.
And it basically operates by using external chemical inputs
to control the process of production.
So if you want plants or animals to grow efficiently,
you intervene with chemicals at various stages along the
way to make that happen as quickly and
efficiently as possible.
So you use concentrated fertilizers.
You use growth hormones to speed the process of growth.
You use, in the case of other creatures that are going to
get in the way of the growth of the things you're
interested in, poisons to kill off those other things so that
the things that you're interested
in can stick around.
And it turns out that's a very efficient production process.
And it's made cheap food readily available to lots and
lots of people.
But it's got downsides.
The major one of which is that those chemicals that you use
don't just go away immediately after you're done with them.
They stick around.
There are residues all over the place.
And they pollute the world in one way or another.
And that's a problem.
Also, there are other issues.
It depletes the soil, this kind of production.
And it's very energy intensive.
Making nitrogen fertilizer, for example,
is very energy intensive.
It takes a lot of power to make a little bit of
What we call organic agriculture is really
traditional agriculture.
It's what everybody did until 75 or 100 years ago.
And it works very differently and basically avoids inputs
from outside.
And it works pretty much within a closed system and
manages that system in such a way to make it sustainable
using what's available in that system itself.
There are exceptions to that.
But that's the basic plan.
And the problem is that it's not as efficient, generally
speaking, as industrial agriculture.
But it doesn't have as many side effects either.
And I think what we're seeing now is really a period in
which both forms of agriculture are learning from
each other.
We tend to think of organic agriculture as being
traditional, and therefore, in some way less sophisticated
than industrial agriculture.
But I think that's just not true.
If you look at it, you see that it's sophistication of a
different kind, directed toward different goals.
And it's going to be a really interesting few decades, I
think, ahead.
Let's see.

Just a really quick scorecard as far as I'm
concerned these days.
Once organic products became at all available, people began
to look at them and analyze them and see whether they had
more vitamins or whatever.
And depending on who's doing the looking and how they look,
you get lots and lots of different
answers to those questions.
So what I've tried to do is comb through the literature
and just get a general global sense of the differences.
And my feeling is, partly because of organic
agriculture's influence on conventional agriculture,
these days, the differences in flavor and nutrition and
general bacteriological safety are not that great.
It depends a lot, though, on particular cases.
And it makes a tremendous difference how things are
handled post-harvest.
And oftentimes, organic agriculture is local.
And so, more care is taken.
There's less space between the producer and the consumer.
And so, that makes a big difference in the quality.
But that's, as I say, a broad brush description.
The places where there's much of a difference at all comes
in mold toxins.
That's the one area where I would say conventional peanuts
in particular have an advantage over organic.
Because there are molds that cause the production of
something called aflatoxin.
Aflatoxin is a powerful carcinogen.
It's well known.
It has been well known to have been that for a long time.
And those molds are killed by fungicides, which are not
allowed in organic agriculture.
And so, when you do tests of organic peanut butter and
conventional peanut butter, oftentimes you find much
higher levels of aflatoxins.
It's maybe not that big a worry, because the level of
aflatoxins in any food is regulated by the government.
And so, unless there's been a real problem, a kind of
anomaly, there really shouldn't be a dangerous
level, even in organic foods.
But that is one major difference.
Then apart from that, the sorts of
things you would expect.
There are more chemical residues on
conventional produce.
And there are, as Amy was saying, more phytochemicals in
organic produce.
Why that is is an interesting question.
I'll come back to that too.
So now, a couple of stories about the kinds of science
that's being done on the differences between organic
and conventional agriculture, and the interesting things
that are coming out of it.
So one of the big problems or challenges for organic
agriculture has been that it's hard to grow good bread wheats
on naturally fertilized soils, on manured soils.
And that's been known for a long time.
And no one has really understood why it is.
And a lot of wheat is used to make bread.
So that means that you would be able to do a lot more with
organic agriculture if you could find a way of growing
good bread wheats on organic soils.
What you need for good bread wheat is a
strong gluten protein.
And gluten is actually a kind of composite of several
different proteins in the wheat gain.
And so the question is why it is that you can take the same
variety of wheat, grow it conventionally or organically,
and the organic bread wheat is not as good for making bread
as the conventional.
So the people at Rothamsted in England decided to look at
this in the most fundamental way you possibly can, which is
to look at the genes that are turned on and turned off when
these plants are grown on different kinds of soil.
And it's a pretty amazing set of experiments they did.
They looked at 10,000 different genes.
And they asked which ones are turned on, which ones are
turned off, and to what degree are they turned on?
How many copies of those gene transcripts are made under
different conditions?
The ends indicate different levels of artificial nitrogen
ammonia fertilizers.
And you can see that at those different levels, there are
various changes going on.
But they kind of look the same.
The one band going down that pops out his FYM, which stands
for farm yard manure.
And it's not just a difference in how much nitrogen the
manure holds.
Because it actually holds about as much as the N4 a
couple of lanes to the left.
And it doesn't look anything like that.
So clearly, for whatever reasons--
and they still don't understand why.
You grow these plants on manure, they turn on a
different set of genes in different proportions than
they do in artificially fertilized soils.
So then, they went further and they said, OK, that's
But how about stuff that we know is
relevant to bread making.
So they looked at the proteins that go into gluten.
And what they discovered again is that that FYM treatment,
that farm yard manure treatment, gives you very
different proportions of the various
proteins that are involved.
And basically, for bread making, what you want is--
let's see if I can get the laser to work right.
You want lots of that.
And you see how in the artificial nitrogen, you've
got a higher proportion of that one to that one.
And that's true until you get to pretty high levels.
And then for some reason on the farm yard manure, the
proportions are reversed.
And now you're getting more of this gluten weakening protein
than the gluten strengthening one.
These are also a different set of gluten proteins.
And they also tend to weaken rather than strengthen.
And you can see, again, that for whatever reason on the
farm yard manure, there's lots being produced.
So this is a first step to understanding what's going on.
I mean, it's just fascinating to see that there is a
difference like this.
But then, what it's going to make possible is for plant
breeders to go back and look at heritage seeds, and scan
them very quickly for exactly the genes that are at issue,
and pick out the ones that are going to be better performers
on organic soils.
And it's going to give them the chance to create new
varieties that will do a lot better.
And it doesn't require genetic engineering.
You could do it with genetic engineering.
But what this does is give the breeders the information they
need in order to figure out how to make that better hybrid
that's going to give a better performance on organic soils,
and therefore, create a bigger market for organic products
among bread makers.
Second story is the antioxidant story.
And Amyjo described why it is that antioxidants are around
and why they're needed.
The question is, why is it that you find more in organic
produce than you do in conventional produce?
And so people have looked at this very carefully.
And what they found is that because antioxidants and other
secondary compounds in plants are generated in response to
the stresses that the plant feels from the sun--
it can't run away from problems.
So if it's getting a lot of ultraviolet light from the sun
that's going to cook its cells, it's got to find a way
to protect itself, so it generates
pigments of various kinds.
If insects begin to chew on it, it has to develop some
kind of chemical warfare in order to convince the insects
it's not worth their while to eat this particular plant.
So it turns out, when you look at what's going on, what you
find is that because conventional produce is grown
with herbicides, pesticides, and various things like that,
those added chemicals are basically doing the defense
job for the plant.
And the plant is saying, OK, somebody else is taking care
of it for me.
I've got better things to do with my energy than to spend
it on defenses that I don't need.
If the plant is getting chewed on by bugs, it realizes it
needs to defend itself.
And so, it generates higher levels of these compounds that
turn out to be useful to human health.
So that explains why you tend to find higher levels of
antioxidants and other valuable phytochemicals in
organic produce.
But on the other hand--
whoops, keep hitting the wrong one--
that reminds me of the organic produce that I used to
see 30 years ago.
I mean, who wants to eat that?
So the question is, what can you do with this information
in order to do a better job of giving the same kinds of
advantages to the food we make?
And interesting information is coming from other studies.
And this is an example.
It was done on basil.
That previous slide was a picture of Bok Choy.
And basil, of course, is an herb.
It has this wonderful flavor.
And the flavor comes from very specific chemicals that are
used in the plant to discourage
insects from eating them.
We find them pleasant, but insects don't.
And that's why the plant makes them.
And so these people were looking at different ways to
get more of those flavor compounds into basil.
And what they found was that you don't need an actual
insect or an actual fungus to cause the plant to build up
its defenses.
If you take a little bit of the insect cell wall, or a
little bit of the fungus' cell wall--
and both of them make their cell walls from something
called chitin.
So if you make this derivative called chitosan and just put a
little bit of that on the leaf of the plant, the
plant will say, OK.
This is a sign that there's a fungus around, or there's an
insect around.
I'm going to build up my defenses.
And so, what they find is you can put various levels of that
cell wall on to the plant.
And depending on the concentration, you get more
and more of these various flavor compounds.
By the way, one of the things I love to
talk about is flavor.
The flavor of basil comes from this compound, which is kind
of flowery.
Lily the valley is the way it's usually described.
Eugenol is the characteristic flavor compound in cloves.
And methyleugenol is kind of like teragon.
So next time you taste basil, think about what you're
tasting, and you might detect all of
those different elements.
Anyway, you can see that they become
expressed at higher levels.
But it depends on the compound to what level exactly.
And their proportions change.
So you can probably actually change the flavor of the basil
itself to the kind of flavor that you like, depending on
how much of this cell wall you put on it.
And the overall quantity of essential oil
goes way up as well.
And then after a certain point, you
get diminishing returns.
So you don't need to have the insect chewed Bok Choy
necessarily to get these high levels of antioxidants and
other phytochemicals or flavor compounds.
You can just give them this indicator that there's trouble
coming, but not actually cause them to suffer.
So, just a couple of examples of the fact that scientists
are looking more and more carefully at both organic and
conventional agriculture.
And both are going to be better as a result.
Becky is from Happy Boy Farms. [INAUDIBLE] few minutes.
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Can you guys hear me OK?
I don't have a laptop.
I don't even have a computer to be honest. Though I do know
how to use a computer.
And I used Google to find my way here on the
internet this morning.
So I have a clipboard and paper, which I'm going to use
to talk to you guys.
My name's Becky.
I'm from Happy Boy Farms. We grow in Santa Cruz County, in
Madera County, and San Benito County.
And that allows us to grow a variety of crops.
We can grow cool weather crops year round
in our local valleys.
And we can grow warm summer crops in the
valley in the spring.
And then, warm crops in like Gilroy and
Hollister in the summer.
So we grow everything from baby mix salad greens to
melons, which I think--
these are them right there.
Melons, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, all
kinds of things.
We were founded in 1996.
And we've been organic for 10 years.
And we're a member of CCOF, which is California Certified
Organic Farmers.
And my job at Happy Boy is--
I do many things.
We're a small farm, so everyone kind of does a lot.
I do sales.
I also do purchasing.
And I give farm tours.
And I give talks to the public about organic
agriculture now and again.
We sell at some of your local farmers markets.
I'm going to use a cheat sheet because I can't
remember all of them.
Around here, we sell at the Vallco Farmers' Market in
Cupertino, Santa Clara, Willow Glen, Saratoga, Campbell, Los
Gatos, Princeton Plaza in San Jose, Mountain View, Los
Altos, Redwood City, Belmont and San Carlos-- all kind of
in the South Bay Area.
And if you need more information about the farmers
markets, I can give that to you later.
So I was asked to come today to talk about why it's
important or good for you to buy organic produce.
And also, I would say I'd extend that to organic dairy,
organic meats, and grains as well.
But I'm going to start off hopefully by breaking the ice
with you guys a little bit, and see if you guys want to
volunteer some reasons why you guys think it's important to
buy organic food.
So I don't know if anyone here is brave enough to raise their
hand and share why they think it's a good idea to buy
organic food.
AUDIENCE: Sustainable farming.
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Sustainable farming.
So does anyone want to add onto that?
To support sustainable farming?
Two thumbs up.
Anyone else want to volunteer another reason maybe why they
think it's important to buy organic food?
AUDIENCE: It tastes better.
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: It tastes better.
I think so.
Anybody else?
If anyone--
AUDIENCE: Phytochemicals?
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Phytochemicals.
Yeah, antioxidants and the health of the plants.
I'm going to share a few reasons.
One would be biological diversity.
Organic farms are usually, but not always, but almost
exclusively very diverse.
Which means that we grow hundreds of crops.
And that's part of our strategy to defeat pests and
diseases in our fields.
Instead of just growing--
like, I don't know if through the Salinas Valley or any big
agricultural area.
You're just going to see, like, lots of
iceberg lettuce, right?
But the problem with that--
well, one problem.
In some ways, it's good.
But one challenge is that if bugs find that field and they
like iceberg lettuce, they're going to eat it all.
And they're going to have a field day.
Oh, we have another hand.
AUDIENCE: What does that have do with organics,
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Yeah, that's a good question.
It has to do with land stewardship and organics.
Because one of our strategies for combating pests and
diseases is to rotate our crops and
to have crop diversity.
So if I have a couple rows of beats, followed by a couple
rows of parsley, followed by a couple rows of head lettuce,
followed by basil, and so on, any one bug isn't going to
really get a strong hold in my field because it's very
They're not going to find a huge field of
broccoli to plow down.
And also, another aspect of that in crop rotation is if I
have all these crops coming through, and they come through
pretty quickly, as I till them under, I'm combatting the
weeds that way also.
Instead of using pesticides, I just till under my fields
every six, eight, 10 weeks to put in a new
crop, a different crop.
So whatever bug or worm was living there that was eating
my cauliflower, a couple months down the line, there
isn't going to be cauliflower there anymore.
I'm going to have beets.
And they're going to be like, I don't like beets.
And they're going to go somewhere else.
So it's kind of part of the deal--
I feel like I lost you guys a little bit.
But that's part of organic agriculture, is having a
diversified field.
So we grow hundreds of crops.
Like at Happy Boy, we have hundreds of crops.
You have a question?
AUDIENCE: So, in conventional farming you can't rotate the
crops like that?
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Absolutely, you can.
You can.
Not all, but most conventional farms are focused on one or
two products, like iceberg lettuce or a broccoli farm.
And they're really focused on that one crop.
But certainly, conventional farms can absolutely be highly
There's no reason why they can't.
AUDIENCE: How much do you use friendly insects?
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: We much do we--
we don't, like, put friendly insects in
our field on purpose.
They happen by, and we don't kill them.
So they stay usually.
A lot of farms do use lady bugs and preying mantis and
all kinds of other insects like that--
beneficial predators.
But we don't use any.
We don't have to so far.

Does anyone else want to share another reason maybe why it's
good to buy organic food?
AUDIENCE: If I'm going to choose chemicals, I'm going to
choose wine and alcohol over [INAUDIBLE]
stuff that's in pesticides.

BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Did everyone hear that?
She's saying if she's going to pick a chemical, she's going
to pick wine or beer or something.
She's not going to elect to have food that has pesticide
residue on it.
That's good for your own human health.
In the back there?
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: It's important for--

So what's your name?
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Dan's saying it's important for economic
diversity to buy organic food.
I'm presuming from a small scale farmer so that you're
not buying all of your product from one huge corporate
conglomerate Ag business.
Good point.
even when it's not specifically just organic, but
organic [INAUDIBLE] really interesting [INAUDIBLE]
heirloom varieties of [INAUDIBLE PHRASE].

BECKY BOLTHOUSE: That's a really great point.
I was working toward that.
I'm glad you brought it up.
A lot of organic farmers are focusing on heirloom
heirloom tomatoes, heirloom lettuces, heirloom carrots,
all kinds of heirloom vegetables which have
disappeared from commercial farming.
Because they don't ship well.
They don't pack easily because they're odd shapes.
Like, the heirloom tomatoes, we have a lot
of experience with.
I don't know if you guys have seen them lately.
But there's little ones.
There's big ones.
They're lopsided.
They're curved over.
And they're shaped like ox hearts, some of them.
And so, you can't put that on a conveyor belt.
You can't put those on a conveyor belt and fit them
neatly into these boxes.
It takes, like, one person about 30 or
40 seconds to fit--
I do it sometimes.
Also, part of my job is packing tomatoes sometimes--
is to fit them all in the box.
It takes quite a bit of time to do that.
It can't be done mechanically.
So, organic small scale farmers are working really
hard to produce these heirloom varieties that otherwise would
be lost.
AMYJO JOHNSON: Maybe you want to tell them what heirloom is.
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Oh, thank you.
Heirloom means--
basically, it means old or antique seed variety.
Generally, people accept that means a non-hybridized seed
that's very old and has characteristics that haven't
been hybridized.
That's I think the most simple definition of heirloom.
Something old and not hybridized.
Did you want to add anything to that?
No, OK.
Not a very scientific definition.
Anyone else want to volunteer any other reasons why it's
good to eat organic food?
One reason that's really important to me as an
employee, from a perspective who works on an organic farm,
is my own health and the health of the
people I work with.
I would never elect to work on a conventional farm.
Because people who work on conventional farms are exposed
to really high levels of toxic, deadly
chemicals every day.
And not just working in the fields, but
living hear the fields.
Like, people who live near the fields where they work are
also exposed to chemical drift.
And agricultural workers--
in our population, they are the most at risk for pesticide
related poisonings than anyone else than consumers.
And I have some statistics.
I'm not going to--
oops, oh man.
My technology failed.

I'm going to share a couple of statistics with you guys.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Organization
website, there's about between 10,000 and 20,000 physician
diagnosed pesticide poisonings every year in the US.
And that's just what's reported to doctors, and which
doctors then in turn report to the Occupational Safety and
Health Organization.
So, 10,000 to 20,000 they estimate.
And the World Health Organization estimates that
there are 3 million pesticide poisonings
every year in the world.
And 220,000 people die every year from pesticide
220,000 people a year.
And in the US, that represents about one in 200 workers that
experience a pesticide poisoning.
Not a death, but a poisoning.
And I just want to add to that.
In terms of under-reporting--
like, in the US, we do a pretty good job of reporting
that stuff.
But the Pan American Health Organization estimates that in
Central America, that 95% of pesticide poisoning cases
actually go unreported.
So that's pretty significant.
And most of those, the poisonings, happen in
California, happen in the Central Valley.
But then, after the Central Valley, the county that comes
in sixth place in terms of worst for pesticide poisoning
Monterey County.
Kind of in our backyard.

So that for me it's like a really important reason to buy
organic, is the workers' heath.
OK, does anyone- we have another question.
AUDIENCE: What about the environment's health?
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: And that's the other--
moving right along.
environment, these chemicals also affect--
chemical pesticides and herbicides and fungicides are
like what you were calling persistent chemicals.
You can't get rid of them.
You can only dilute them with water.
And so they go into our waterways.
They go into the ocean.
They go into marshes and things.
And they poison birds.
They poison aquatic life.
And also, bees, and birds, and butterflies, and bats that
pollinate all fields--
organic fields, conventional fields-- they also gets
sprayed and doused with these chemicals.
And every time they go through a conventional field, they're
picking up these very toxic chemicals.
Can you guys think of any other reasons?
I think we've hit on most of them-- our own health, the
health of the environment, health of the workers.

The only other thing I was going to talk about is the
idea of buying direct and buying local.
I know you guys had a talk in here not that long ago about
Fair Trade, you were telling me.
And I just wanted to draw a really quick parallel between
the idea of Fair Trade, which is buying more directly from--
in most cases, we were talking about coffee producers.
And the idea is to exclude middlemen from the equation
and get more money to the folks who are actually growing
the product.
And that's the same for local farms. When you buy direct
from a farm-- like Google buys direct from our farm.
I talk to the chefs at Google a few times a week.
It's like Fair Trade.
We're getting the best price we can possibly get our
produce, which means a sustainable future for us as
organic farmers.
And that gets passed along to all the employees
at the farm as well.
So it's kind of like Fair Trade-- not exactly, but sort
of-- when you buy direct from your local farm
at the farmers market.
It's the most direct way you can support local, sustainable
I think that's all I have-- oh, I have as many questions.
AUDIENCE: So a lot of what you said to me doesn't have much
to do with, certainly, certified organic, which is
getting looser and looser these days [INAUDIBLE].
What about organic strawberries that are shipped
up from Chile or something?
So it's not supporting any local [INAUDIBLE PHRASE].

So is it--
I appreciate that you are, in fact, a sustainable practice.
You are local.
You are--
AUDIENCE: I'm sorry?
AUDIENCE: You are small.
And, you know, so all of those things play in.
But how do we as consumers deal with certified organic
versus farmers who are doing very effective organic
practices, but not eager to deal with certification for
whatever reason, versus conventional farmers?
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: You brought up a lot of really
good points on that.
That's a debate that I'd love to have. And I sometimes try
to keep politics out of the general talk and not--
you know.
But since you brought it up, I'd say, yeah, there is a
difference between certified organic and just--
technically, people who are not certified organic aren't
supposed to say they're organic.
There are a lot of farms, especially in Santa Cruz
County that are really small.
But they call themselves beyond organic or sustainable
because they are practicing
sustainable cultivation practices.
But they haven't gotten to the certification because of
financial reasons.
Some of them for political reasons too.
The USDA recently in the last couple of years has gotten
involved with organic certification, and it has
rewritten the rules about what organic is.
And a lot of small farmers take issue with that.
And they don't think that their rules are strict enough.
So CCOF, for example--
California Certified Organic Farmers in Santa Cruz--
is very strict.
And their program is more strict than the
USDA program, in fact.
So, yeah.
There is a big difference between a small, diversified
farm and a large, monoculture organic farm like California
Organic, Cal Organics, you know, in Berkeley.
I'd just be like, I don't how many
hundreds of acres of carrots.
It's just like carrots forever.
My last name's Bolthouse, but I'm not related to Bolthouse
Farms. But they're down in Bakersfield, and they have an
organic operation.
Is my time up?
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: But there are these monoculture, large farm,
They're actually our neighbors.
We're just across the road from Earthbound Farms. They
have a huge monoculture fields.
Well, I wouldn't say monoculture, because they've
got a dozen different kinds of baby lettuces.
But it's just baby lettuces for thousands of acres.
So there is a difference.
AUDIENCE: You just mentioned [INAUDIBLE]
as being [INAUDIBLE].
How are farms like that able to be organic [INAUDIBLE]?
How are they able to be organic?
Well, there actually are not in the organic rules written
that you have to be diversified.
There are rules about what you can and can't use--
the amount of chemicals, like bleach, you can use to clean
your facilities, even.
They choose to regulate what you apply to your land.
But they can't really regulate what you plant.
They can regulate where the seeds come from.
But in case of Earthbound, how are they able to do that?
Well, they use different techniques.
You can use insecticidal soap that's basically just soap
that you can put on your plants, and it will kill bugs.
Soap will kill bugs.
So you can use a dilution of soap to kill bugs.
And that's still organic.
I can't speak specifically to Earthbound
does and doesn't do.
I don't work for them.
I don't know what techniques they are actually doing.
But you can grow huge fields of lettuce without applying
nasty chemical fertilizers.
They have different methods.
Flame weeding is one method they use to control weeds.
Do you guys know what flame weeding is?
I'll tell you.
So imagine you have your row, and you want to plant there in
a couple weeks.
And so, you're going to pre-irrigate it.
And then, all of the weed seeds grow up because you've
given it water.
And then, you can do two things.
You can either go through and plow it.
It's just called pre-irrigation and tilling.
And then you just cut under all these weeds
that just grew up.
And then, you prepare and plant the crop
that you want to grow.
And you've gotten all those weed seeds to sprout, and then
you've cut them.
And then you're going to have pure weeds.
The other way you can do it is called flame weeding.
And there's a tractor-mounted flame weeder, and there's
backpack-mounted flame weeder.
And you have this torch.
And after you've pre-irrigated and all the little weeds come
up, you torch them.
You just torch them with a propane torch.
And you can put that on the back of a tractor.
But on the really small farms, people just have these
backpack propane tank [UNINTELLIGIBLE] torches.
And they go and torch the weeds.
And then you plant your crop.
That's an example of how you can still be organic and using
more, like he was saying, sophisticated means of
controlling your weed population, for example.
Some people--
AMYJO JOHNSON: I wanted to bring one thing up.
Barry, you brought up a great point.
It's something that we battle with every day here.
Organic or local?
All the time.
And we have to make that decision.
Organic from Chile or sustainable from
someone down the road?

All that stuff I just talked about with organic--
I trust that local farmer that's near here, that I can
go and talk to them about their sustainable practices.
I pick that.
I pick that local farmer.
It's going a lot fewer miles.
Those miles equal less nutrition.
The farther you're going, the less nutrition.
The second you cut that plant, the
nutrition starts to degrade.
We get plants here that they pulled out
of the ground yesterday.
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: No, seriously.
We talked to your chefs up until noon today.
And then, we are picking the food right now.
And it will be here at like 6 o'clock tomorrow morning.
It's, like, that fresh.
It's really, really fresh.
AMYJO JOHNSON: That's how fresh it is.
That's how nutritious it is.
I pick local.
I do.
That's why farmers markets are really important.
That's why we did a farmers market today, to remind you--
pick your produce this way.
Pick from people that we know.
It's really important.
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: And those are all really good points.
I totally agree, yeah.
AUDIENCE: Is all produce that's available at farmers
markets truthfully good?
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Can I comment on that?
I worked in the market for four years.
Certified California Farmers Markets, the ones that are
certified as farmers markets, all the produce that comes--
it has to be sold by the grower.
Which means the farmer actually has to be there.
You can't resell produce.
Which is great.
Which means you're buying direct from the farmer.
Now, if you go to the farmers market, you'll see.
Even in Santa Cruz, we have this very lovely farmers
market with lots of small, local farms. And I know that
Windmill Farms has the best strawberries.
And I know that because I've been buying strawberries from
the farmers market for years.
So, yeah.
Go around.
Test the food.
I'm not going to say any names.
I'm not going to bash anyone.
But there are farms where you're just like, no.
I don't buy their stuff.
I know that the peaches from Thomas Farms are not certified
organic, but they're beyond organic or sustainable.
They have the best peaches at the farmers market.
You know what I mean?
It's not all created equal.
You should shop around.

BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Well, at the farmers market, no.
The farmers market is a hodgepodge of certified
organic and not certified organic growers.
And what you should look for are the signs that say,
certified organic by.
So most farms at the local farmers markets are
certified by CCOF.
Some are certified QAI.
Some are certified by USDA.
So look for a sign that says that they
are certified organic.
Two questions here.
One in the back, and then one in the front.
AUDIENCE: So, it's interesting to be able to talk to someone
who really works on a farm so I can get the real story--
AUDIENCE: --that I've heard.
I've gone to this little market that I go to
not to far from here.
And they sell about half organic, half conventional.
Then I can go to the farmers market on Saturday.
And it almost seems like stuff that I get at [UNINTELLIGIBLE]
stays fresher a lot longer.
And I've asked him about it.
He says, well, one of the reasons is that we demand that
they take it in and they refrigerate it right away so
that it stays fresh.
But they don't do that at the farmers market.
Does that sound like something that's real to you?
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Well, I'd sa two things.
One is, yeah, refrigeration definitely will extend the
life of a product.
So if you go to the farmers market at the very end of the
day and you buy lettuce that's been unrefrigerated maybe for
eight hours, it'll still last you a week.
Because it's fresh.
But that compromises the shelf life of a product because it's
unrefrigerated for an entire day.
And the only thing I would say--
it's possible that the produce that you buy at the farmers
little market might not be cut that day or the day before.
It might already be a couple days old.
I don't know.
I have no idea.
I mean, I'd say in my experience, I've worked for
three local farms. And I know a lot of other farms that
won't even harvest up until they're packing the truck to
leave to go to the farmers market.
Like, it's super fresh.
So I don't know.
Wish I had a better answer for you.
AUDIENCE: We haven't really touched on this.
But in regards to growing produce when it's in season,
are there nutritional values?
Is a tomato right now more nutritious than one I would
I know [INAUDIBLE], but I'm wondering about that one.
AMYJO JOHNSON: So, it depends on how its grown.
Oh, sorry.
Forget about that.
She was asking about buying season.
Which is, again, something we do here.
We try to do it as much as possible.
And I encourage that--
to buy things that are in season.
She's asking, is it more nutritious to buy it
in season or not.
And my response is, it really depends on how its grown.
Things that are grown out of season aren't necessarily
grown in the most optimal situation.
And it also may have been shipped from somewhere that's
not even in the country.
We're really lucky here at California.
We're getting apples now.
AUDIENCE: From Washington, they're nice.
BECKY: Like, apples right now have been sitting in cold
storage since October.
Yeah, eating in season is really important.
And your body will tell you, like, I don't need
apples right now.
Go to the market gets stone fruit.
Peaches and plums and apricots--
they're here right now.
They're fresh.
They're good.
you want to eat those in the winter time.
Citrus is over.
Citrus is a wintertime thing.
I don't eat oranges right now.
Your body doesn't need it, and they're not fresh.
And then, in terms of tomatoes and things like that, if
you're getting something out of season, it's either coming
from a greenhouse, or it's coming from far away.
And if it's coming from far away, it's been picked green.
Which means it's not vine ripened.
Which means it didn't have a chance to develop fully all
the nutrients and flavor that it could potentially have.
That's really important--
getting vine ripened food fruit is really important.
Because it had a chance to mature.
And I don't know what nutrients come out in a plant.
I'm not a food scientist. But when they come out here later
in the life, they come in with color and more nutrients.
And if you're getting something-- you know,
strawberries from Chile, they were probably picked green.
You know?

So go to your farmers market and buy fresh food.
It's really good.
Anyone else have any other questions?
Seems like everyone--
I can see some of you are like on the verge.
Like, I kind of want to ask this question, but I don't.
AMYJO JOHNSON: And remember that when tomatoes are really
out of season, and we don't have tomatoes when you make
your sandwiches.
Yeah, you don't need a [? post-op ?] today.

Ever again.
I want tomatoes for my sandwhich.
They taste like cardboard.

organic pesticides [INAUDIBLE]
as well.
Do your farms [INAUDIBLE].
What's your feeling on that?

I was curious [INAUDIBLE]?
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: The question--
I don't know if everyone heard it-- was, that are such things
organic pesticides that are made out of compounds of soap,
oil, what else?
Like, bacteria, bt--
say again?
AUDIENCE: Pyrethrum.
AUDIENCE: From chrysanthemum.
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: From chrysanthemum.
I've never even heard of that.
So, yeah, there are organic pesticides.
Our farm, we don't use any.
Some people would say we're lazy.
Our sweet corn--
there's a worm in every ear.
Because we don't use--
there are organic pesticides specifically for corn to kill
these little ones or prohibit their growth and stuff.
We don't use them.
Maybe we're lazy.
I don't know.
So the answer to the question is, no.
But yes, farms do use organic pesticides.
I've never heard of nicotine being used
as an organic pesticide.
I have no idea.
I have no idea.
I wish I could tell you more.

AMYJO JOHNSON: Before I forget.

I was reading a bunch of different articles about
organic versus conventional.
And Harold brought up a few.
And I made some copies of them.
I find them really interesting.
Harold and I were talking about.
We find him really interesting.
If you really want to read them, I actually made copies
because I think they're so cool.
Feel free to ask me for those.
There's actually more research out there than I thought.
I was really happy to see it, that there's scientists out
there going, let's really look at this.
So it was really cool.
We're actually out of time.
So thank you for coming.
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Thank you, Barry.

AMYJO JOHNSON: I hope you guys want some vegetables from the
farmers market.
If not, we'll see if we can make that happen again.
BECKY BOLTHOUSE: Thank you guys for having me.
It was really fun.