Are You One Of Those "Organic" People?

Some couple friends of ours came over last week and the wife of the couple mentioned that a friend-of-a-friend was, “one of those organic people.”

At this point I had to say, “Well, I roll pretty crunchy-granola, too, ya know.”

“Yes,” my friend responded, “but you’re not – you know – one of those ‘organic’ people.”

A few days later I gave the husband of the couple our old chicken coop so he could start raising urban chickens.

The moral of the story: you don’t need to be a patchouli-stinking hippie to be a positive influence in your community. In fact, it’s probably better if you’re not.

Here’s why: for every camped out activist holding an Occupy Wall Street sign right now, there are another 10,000 people who aren’t protesting. 10,000 normal people – not activists, not protesters, not people out to radically change anything – just people, who live in your town, your city and your neighborhood.

For the most part, these people work, or try to. About half are currently raising kids. They worry about bills (the moms really worry) and they watch a lot of reality tv. Nine out of ten are definitely not hard-core organic people.

Almost all are looking for a way to be a bit more secure, a bit more stable, a bit more independent in their life. But none want to feel judged because they’ve got Kraft Mac & Cheese in the cupboard instead of Annie’s Organic, or because they send their kids to school in sweatshop sweatshirts from Walmart.

Radical talking points

And this is what my friend was really saying – she could come to my house and we could all drink wine and eat homemade pizza and she didn’t feel like I was sitting around, passing judgement on her choices or purchases. My friend knows I eat grass fed beef and grow a garden and do all this other stuff that – I’m proud to say – does make me one of those organic people.

But that isn’t a wedge between us because I’m not beating her over the head with some guilt-trip. Instead, I’m a normal person like her – just another harried mom who hasn’t dropped the last ten baby pounds and drinks too much coffee. I just happen to garden a lot and think chickens are swell and buy jeans at the thrift store.

Because I’m not “one of those organic people,” – because I’m not the other – my actions don’t seem like the actions of the other. (Even though, kinda, they are.) If normal people like me grow my own food, that means she can too. And he can. And the neighbor up the street can. And all those 10,000 people who aren’t looking to tear down the whole system but want to do something – they can do it too.

I’m not knocking the revolutionaries or the Occupy protesters. Big problems need big attention, and for the most part I support the OWS movement. But alongside that, some of us are working a longer-term plan, a quieter plan, an evolutionary instead of revolutionary plan, if you will.

We’re going to keep growing and sharing. We’re going to pass chard starts over the fence and shovel compost with friends. We’re going to pass along starter coops and meet our friends where they are, instead of trying to push them up the road of Holier Than Thou Radical Enviro-Hippiedom.

Before you know it, we’ll have a movement that changes how people live and buy, how they relate to their land, their money and their community. Without a single guilt-trip or hippie drum circle, we’ll be the new normal. Just wait and see.


  1. says

    I don't care what anyone says….I LOVE Patchouli and produly burn my incense stick (well, once in a while)!!!! :)

    Great post!

    (Runs to the closet to find her Sandalwood, Musk and Patchouli incense sticks)

  2. Lady Banksia says

    If everyone who can would do just a little bit, then next season a little bit more, we'd have our movement…

    PS: for those who have plots in community gardens, please remember to go and cover your plants when a freeze is predicted…

    great post!

  3. says

    Love this! I think among my family/friends, I'm the crazy hippie; but compared to the crazy radical hippies in Portland I feel mainstream. I have Annie's, Kraft, and box of generic Walmart (Horrible mistake BTW) mac and cheese all next to each other and for dinner on monday we ate the cheapest ramen I can find.

    Last summer someone asked me if I had found a way to make my own deodorant to cut down on plastic/chemicals but I had just bought a 4-pack from Costco.

    I haven't figured out a way to balance that yet.

  4. says

    Well done Erika! I appreciate this post and your thoughtful approach to writing it.

    While I'm a relative newcomer to the non-consumer, organic garden growing and frugal lifestyle, what I have accomplished thus far has blown my friends/family away. I'm the odd duck now. My hope is to show through doing, rather than 'preaching' that this is can be done. My goal is to be the 'approachable homesteader'.

  5. says

    Great post (again!). I had a moment of insight yesterday… I've been hanging round a lot of 'those' organic people but I'm finding I want to be around people who are happy (regardless of what they have in their pantry), not constantly talking about how bad things are and being made to feel like I'm not doing enough.

  6. says

    I wrote a great comment, then my browser ate it. Anyway, keep up the good work. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one out there like this. We lead by example. We are just as important in the revolution as the in your face protestors. We are the ones living the change we want to see. We are rebelling against the broken system in our own quiet way, and by being approachable and not too in-your-face radical, the Joneses don't automatically reject our ideas but instead respect them and even begin to adopt them. They can see we really are making things better for our families and communities. Also, Hippies, the secret to patchouli is subtlety :) I wear it all the time, but I mix it with orange and cinnamon, or jasmine and rose. Then you don't smell like "hippie", you smell like "delicious". Bergamot and Cedar are also good choices with it. It's better as a base note, not as the whole scent. Also, if your body chemistry is not "musk" or "spice", just leave it alone, because it literally smells dirty on anyone else. It's all about the chemistry!

  7. says

    I'm one of those organic, "not organic" people too. While I'm careful about the ingredients in my family's food, cleaners, and health and beauty products I also believe in not lecturing people on their choices if they are different from mine (because trust me, there are some natural products that no matter how much I want them to work for me, don't – like natural deodorant.) I think the best way to influence others is to do your thing and let others come to the conclusion that it saves time/money/the planet and want to try it too. That's what works for me rather than lectures that turn people off.

  8. says

    Well said!! I couldn't agree more. I’ve always believed we need people that are passionate about the environment in all walks of life. We need the loud tree hugging hippies to push the boundaries of normality. We need the normal mums chatting to their friends about keeping chooks. We need professional and company execs to give a shit too. We even need greenies working in industry and mining. We have to be everywhere. And most importantly we have to not judge each other for the paths we have chosen.

  9. Anonymous says

    We also need Wal-Mart which, according to "Good Morning America," The Washington Post, Advertising Age and The Honolulu Advertiser all have reported in recent months that the report said shopping at Wal-Mart saves the average family $2,500".

  10. Anonymous says

    excellent post. I always figure you'd "win" more converts accepting people as they are not scaring them into thinking they have to give up everything. It's possible to make change a little at a time and without being self-righteous!

  11. says

    That's awesome. I have been trying to figure out a description that is me and I must thank you for coming up with one for me. I am a single mum in a small town a few hours from Sydney, Australia. I have been growing my own veggies for a good 8 years now and I do pass my left overs over the fence and to friends, I do buy my clothes in op shops, but I have no desire to chain myself to bulldozers nor camp out in the city. I live where I do so I can walk to the shops. Most people in town assume I don't have a car because they always see me and my 3 year old walking everywhere. But I don't judge others (except "Hippie"crits) as I don't know their circumstances. I have recently started my own business installing and maintaining organic veg gardens in the local area. My theory has always been to work quietly from the inside to non-offensively work toward change.

    Thank you. Nice post!

  12. says

    Great post Erica. My friends and I are very similar to you (in our assorted ways), we call ourselves rational moderates. We're not mainstream but we're not extreme anything and its pretty hard to pin us down and label us. I grow fruit and nut trees as my passion. I hate paying full price for clothes and have been able to clothe a family of six from op-shops, hand me downs, gifts and a few sales for quite a few years now.I love having a couple of ducks and chickens around. We dont mow the grass out the front of the house and our yard definately stands out with its sunflowers, artichokes, pears and kale lining the driveway. But we drive a normal car, the kids go to a public school, we use computers, we dress fairly averagely. Anyway, point is, i identify and we are not alone as I can see from the comments!

  13. says

    Oh and I think Ive fallen in love with half of your commentors, being the change you want to see in the world is one of my favourite (Ghandi?) quotes.
    One of us, one of us!

  14. Anonymous says

    I LOVE the post and the comments and l think l am a lot like you all but fairly new at it SO I really do hate to be "the one" that says this BUT …. If good people do nothing then bad people get away with so much! I am trying to stay positive and be the change l want to see and l have also learned to stay quiet and show the way instead of "talking talking talking" …. BUT l also know that the FDA and Monsanto and the BIG's Ag and Pharma and Chem are where they are today because not enough people SPOKE UP … so l sign and l post and l sometimes yell and if l am called a hippie then so be it even if l live in the suburbs and only look like a mum most of the time SO l believe we do have to make a fuss but we dont have to look like a hippie and we can do it wit humility and keep our mouths shut when needed and also YELL at those you need yelling at !

    • martin, outer hebrides says

      hi anonymous. The quote about how 1 person succeeds in doing bad things just by all the good men standing around and doing nothing about it, has resonated with me since i first heard it – a long time ago. My wife has heard me ‘spout’ it numerous times. Like you, i am no ‘radical’, but i agree we are being media-led and financially -led by a very small minority in the western world. Being led the wrong way. I am going to try and respond to blogs like these which i support/agree with, instead of just reading them and passing on. I am glad you are doing the same thing. I will also try to gently encourage others to the same, hopefully mostly by example, but perhaps with my voice a little louder. I sense your frustration and i agree that we need to support the radicals by saying we agree with the aims they are trying to achieve. good luck.

  15. says

    We catch a lot of flack around here for choosing organic whenever we can, it's so foreign to some people still that they mistrust it. But, you just gotta keep going and pushing for what you believe in without it pushing others around.

    Great post. Lana

  16. says

    What a great post! I always think, for any sort change/movement, you need the radicals and the 'normalisers', if you will. A bit like the old 'dismantling the master's house with the master's tools' – you've got to have people inside and outside the system.

    I loved the description in someone's comment "Too normal to be radical, but too fringe to be mainstream." – that's us too :)

  17. says

    There are probably more people just like you out there than you realise. I’m “one” too. We eat organic and local food, grow as much as we can in our back yard. We keep a couple of chickens. I’m a mum too and drink too much coffee. We live in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. I’ve really enjoyed reading your post and feel more “normal” because of it.

  18. Emily says

    Loved this post. I work at a health food store and most people assume that I am a vegetarian/vegan hippie when in reality I am a meat loving, dairy eating (when it agrees with me) liberal who hates the smell of patchouli. I get asked the organic question a lot and my response is if you can’t do a lot to change your environment then why not start out by doing a little? Don’t have space for a garden? Then try the farmers’ market and when you are there ask them about their growing practices. The same goes for grass fed beef, cage free, humane and pasture raised animals. Just ask your vendors and if they can’t give you an answer or one you want to hear then just move on. Do I preach? Only when I need to, like when I really want junk food but know that it is full of GMO laden, pesticide ridden, carbon footprint inducing nasties and I need to remind myself why I started this particular journey. Think small, think local, and every now then be vocal with yourself, the vendors and your family because everyone needs a kick in the rear at some point and have FUN! That’s what something like this should be about and exploring new avenues and options for your food supply should be fun. If you make it too stressful by trying to do too much at once then you won’t commit and it will just fall to the way side like that time you said that you would work out several days a week. It was great for awhile but then something happened that made you slow down and then you just stopped. So just start out simple and grow from there.

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