Dear Aggie

Question and Answer for February 16th:   

I want to support Agriculture but hear a confusing range of information about what I should do and eat! Help! I am suffering from analysis paralysis of the food system.

Most of us have a hierarchy of what we feel takes moral or ethical priority. Surely, stealing is bad! But keeping the pen from the last time you visited a bank….well, that’s just an oversight and a business cost, not really stealing. Telling lies is bad! But sharing with Aunt Maple that her orange hair is a daring and delightful auburn hue is a kindness. We all live in a ‘hue” of gray. Life has simply become very, very complicated.

Even our dinner table has not escaped controversy and is deeply impacted by our choices. What causes or issues do you support (or not support) through the food you choose to buy and eat? How complicated or gray is that choice?

I offer this up for family dinner discussion. Many of our values require a pretty deep dive to understand all the factors and all the implications of our choices.Ask your table companions their thoughts and then maybe one of you can do the research to understand both sides of the story and decide on guiding principles that direct your food choices.

Who or what causes do you want to support the most? Local farmers? Third world sustenance farmers seeking out a living? Clean water? Less plastic in the oceans? Environment? Food justice? Access to good nutrition? Animal welfare? Fair and safe employment conditions? Climate change? Keeping your meals quick and easy and cheap so you can spend more quality time with your family?

We will learn that many of our concerns arise from confusion surrounding a very complicated food system. For example, most farmers take great care of their animals and are very concerned about their health and comfort. Most farmers protect their water – after all, they drink it too! Maybe purchasing food from our local producers is a valued step to keep the local economy chugging along and bringing in more healthy foods for low income families.

I ate a chocolate bar the other day; Low in nutrition and high in fat and sugar.It was certainly not grown locally and was pricey. But the cacao bean was a heritage variety grown in special environmental conditions that support indigenous South American populations. The cost included a donation to the non-profit organization trying to help these impoverished families while maintaining their cultural heritage. The purchase helped a small business in NYS – How do I weigh in on the good and bad of the candy – I ate it! What would you do?

Question answered by Catherine Moore, Agriculture/Natural Resources Issue Leader with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. Contact her at


Catherine Moore
Agriculture and Natural Resources Issue Leader
(315) 788-8450 ext. 236

Last updated February 15, 2019