It's Monday and I'm in a car with Rachelle and Justin Armstrong heading from Melbourne toward Wodonga and headquarters of Nutrisoil. Early this morning we flew from Perth, which is known as the largest city in the world that's nowhere.
Yesterday in Perth I did a mastermind session with 12 farm outfits who each had half an hour to give a 10-minute presentation and then get my input. It was a grueling day but quite enjoyable to see the wide array of farmers and listen to their successes, concerns and struggles. In general, it was a SWOT analysis: Strengths,
Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
A couple of them were large commercial farmers, like 200 acres of potatoes and 100 acres of lettuce. Last year, the lettuce farmer had to plow down several acres--that's many tractor trailer loads for those who don't know that an acre is as large as a football field--because a frog got picked up in the load.
One frog created one phone call from the buyer: "we will not take any more lettuce from you this season." Hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to the farmer. The farmer pointed out that the reason for this Draconian response is that the brand can't afford to have a frog in a bag of lettuce at the supermarket and have a customer sue or worse, post pictures of it on social media.
Now, dear folks, take a deep breath. What are you thinking right now? If you were the quality control manager of the lettuce buyer, would you make that call to the farmer? Is this the correct response? Take a moment to think that over before reading any more. Now, got your answer?
Okay, here is what the farmer said: "We've been replacing chemicals with biologicals, which creates a habitat that attracts wildlife, including frogs. If society really understood ecology, the manager would offer a $10,000 incentive bonus if a farmer's lettuce had a frog in it." Wouldn't we have a different world if people looked forward to frogs in their bags of lettuce as eagerly as kids look forward to the prize in a box of Crackerjacks?
Does that answer surprise you? The sterility, scorched earth policy in food and farming is anti-ecological. But for all the world's excitement about climate change and politics, I suggest that the real objective is to get people wanting frogs in their lettuce. It shows how easy it is for us to get our pants in a wad about something far away while we trip over the easy thing right in front of us.
These produce farmers were quick to point an accusatory finger at California's world-worst record of filthy produce that enjoys liberal leaching from massive Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. The American record of filth has created paranoia around the world, thank you very much. The food safety regulators, of course, do not differentiate between good bacteria and bad bacteria. It all gets wrapped up together, and as a result, the biological farmers are gradually being squeezed out of the market.
Blemish-free and life-free food is hand-in-glove with everything that's wrong with our ecological stewardship. Turning that 180 degrees is personal, practical, and proximate. We'll never solve the bigger issues until we're positive about frogs in lettuce.
What would you think if you found a frog in your lettuce?