Amelia Freidline, Fresh Take
Amelia Freidline, Fresh Take

"So, Amelia,” a friend said as she sat next to me at a dinner gathering. “Does your paper cover organic food at all?”

“We cover conventional and organic produce, yes,” I replied, wondering what kind of question was going to come next.

My friend is a 20-something mom with three little girls. Like a lot of other young moms we’re friends with, she’s interested in serving her family healthy, minimally processed “natural” foods.

This often leads into the iffy territory of Monsanto-bashing conspiracy theories about genetically modified crops, though, so we’d had few conversations on produce. But her follow-up question was open-ended.

“What do you think about organics?”

So I told her about the Watsonville, Calif.-based Alliance for Food and Farming’s research into pesticide residues on conventional crops. I explained conventional growing methods versus organic methods versus greenhouse production.

I said I prefer to buy organic bananas, raspberries and blueberries because I prefer the way they taste, but I rarely can tell a difference between conventional and organic produce on other items.

In the end I told her I thought she should probably worry more about meat than produce, if she was going to worry — and she agreed, saying her recent research had led her to that conclusion as well.

Consensus reached (but neither of us mentioned Monsanto).

Here’s the point of this extended anecdote: We talk a lot about the need for greater consumer education on food safety, growing practices, GMOs, nutrition and a host of other issues.

What are you doing to educate the consumers in your life?

As someone active in the thick of the produce industry all day, every day, you have valuable knowledge and insights into industry issues that can help right misconceptions or allay the fears of those who don’t know how the business works.

Take the recent outbreak of cyclospora in bagged lettuce. The contaminated product shipped in June, but the story stayed in the news cycle as more cases of illness were confirmed and as officials tracked the outbreak to its source.

Before a recent grocery run, I mentioned I was going to pick up some salad ingredients. “Don’t get any of the bagged salad,” my mom cautioned. “It’s got that disease again.”

“No it doesn’t,” I replied. “It shipped back in June and is out of the supply chain by now.”

You know what’s going on in your world, whether the issue is irrigation or immigration, and you can give your friends, family or other people in your life a perspective on those topics that they might never run across in the consumer press.

I don’t mean we should become a bunch of annoying know-it-alls spouting facts and figures out of the blue. But when the latest industry-related “now panic and freak out” story filters down through your network, take a moment to gently acquaint folks with the facts of the matter.

Good company PR and consumer outreach are crucial, but never underestimate the value of personal connections.

Who better to hear the facts from than someone you know, rather than a corporate-sounding name you can’t put a face to?

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