As we head into the fall, and the upcoming presidential election, more will be written about how our nation is bitterly divided – between the red and blue states, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, the pro- and anti-gay activists, Fox News and MSNBC and so on. The list goes on, to the point when I wonder, is there anything that can bring us together? This summer, I found a potential answer – natural and organic foods.
Yes, I’ve come to the conclusion that organic, transitional, non-GMO, lightly sprayed, biodynamic, raw and wild-harvested foods can unify this nation. I’ve come to this conclusion based on research as well as my own experience.
Natural products research
During the past few years, we at Pure Branding have been conducting numerous national surveys and one-on-one interviews with people who buy and sell natural foods, herbs or supplements, who farm and who are involved with the local food movement. We asked them to identify their political preferences – liberal, conservative, moderate – as well as their spiritual affiliations.
What we found was that the level of enthusiasm for organic etc. food was equal for each group. Liberals were no more pro organic than conservatives, and atheists and evangelicals shared a passion for healthy foods.
During the hour-long interviews, it was clear to us that what they are all looking for is truth and transparency from their food providers. They want to believe in something that has integrity, and organic foods with the USDA certified organic seal provide them with a degree of confidence that the food is safe.
Because the battle lines have been drawn in the political arena, it’s almost impossible for a liberal to believe what a conservative politician says, and conversely it is impossible for a conservative to believe anything liberals have to say. But ask them how they feel about their level of trust in organic foods, or fresh produce from local farmer’s markets, and they are unified in wanting to believe in the nutritional goodness of these foods.
It’s about food, not the environment
This is not to be confused with environmentalism. This is about food, distrust in the current food system, worrying about their health and wanting to protect their family and friends. But this should be good news for environmentalists, because if people push for cleaner food, that will have a positive impact for a cleaner environment. Just don’t call it environmentalism if you don’t want to alienate.
We live in a world where groups of people are becoming more insular. We view and listen to media that supports our current worldview. We share stories with our friends on Facebook that we believe to be true. We join communities that are like-minded. This has been shown not only in our research, but also in many other studies.
My own experience
But go to a farmer’s market, a garlic festival or a county fair and you will find people of all denominations mingling and sharing equal admiration for the taste of an organic carrot or tomato. I am a member and on the board of Brookfield Farm, one of the oldest CSA farms in the country. Every year, we have an annual harvest dinner. Joining this meal are agnostics, atheists, Methodists, 7th Day Adventists, evangelicals, Catholics, Episcopalians, Jews, Buddhists, Sufis, people sympathetic to the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street, Democrats, Independents, Republicans, Greens and Socialists. We all gather before the meal, hold hands and bless the harvest. We eat the potluck food that our political or religious adversaries have prepared. Why? Because we all trust in the quality of the food and we share a love of our CSA.
Maybe we all need to sit down for a meal and break some organic bread to recognize all that we have in common rather than what divides us.
What do you think? Are you surprised by our findings? Have you experienced how people of different persuasions unite around a common love for organics?