What It Means to Vote With Our Dollars


Today’s grocery shopping outing was a bit of a disaster. Hungry, upset children, a crying baby and a frazzled mom. By the last store, I was barely looking at prices anymore as I tossed things into the cart that appeared to have at least some semblance to what was written on my trusty list.

I know that I made at least one really good decision this afternoon, though. Nope, it wasn’t a frugal decision– stocking up on some exciting sale or figuring out which 3 lb bag of apples actually contained 1 more apple than the rest.

No, today I chose to spend more money and vote with my dollars.

The item? A simple box of mandarin oranges, a yummy treat for my husband’s bag lunches. The decision? Whether to spend $3.99 on a 5 lb box of conventional mandarins, or to spend $4.99 on a 4 lb box of certified organic mandarins. I hemmed and hawed for just a moment before my hand rested on the organic oranges and I knew that I had chosen well.

There are a number of reasons why I could have chosen to buy organic over conventional. Exposure to less pesticides, herbicides and other nasty chemicals, for one. Higher nutrient content in food that has been grown in healthier and more nourished soil. Quite likely, better taste. All good reasons, but none of them the ultimate reason for my decision.

I purchased organic today because (although I value all of those other reasons) I had never seen organic oranges before at the particular produce market where I’m a regular customer. I wanted to cast my vote for more organic produce, showing them that their customers think it’s worth it to pay a little bit extra, in hopes that they will continue to pursue carrying more and more organic products. In turn, my vote helps to ensure that more organic farmers are supported for the excellent work that they are doing, bringing high-quality vegetables and fruits to our tables, while better stewarding the earth as well.

Does my vote seem just a tiny bit insignificant to you?

Let’s put it in perspective. In Canada (where I live), us Westerners have a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to our nation’s Federal elections. You see, the bulk of our country’s population does not live in the West, but is much more concentrated in the more Eastern provinces of Ontario and Quebec. When we watch the election results roll in every 4 years or so, the election has already been called by the time that they begin to declare any of the winners in our neck of the woods. Ontario and Quebec voters have such a majority that they largely determine who will be the winning party, and our votes simply help to seal the deal, and very rarely turn the tide. I think that this is true for many states in the USA as well. Your state receives so few electoral college seats that your votes seem to be barely a drop in the bucket, when compared to the higher-population states like Texas, California, Florida or New York (see? see? I know a little bit about American politics! :)

The next time elections roll around, should I decide that voting simply isn’t worth it because my vote seems to make such little impact on the outcome? Do I relinquish not only my right, but my responsibility to be an educated, informed and faithful voter in this democratic nation of which I am blessed to be a citizen? No! Absolutely not!

In much the same way, I will not undermine or belittle the importance of the way in which I use my dollars to support good farming pratices, healthy soils, and less toxic-burden in my family’s bodies. Every single dollar counts. Every one. Do not allow yourself to feel that the way that you spend your hard earned money is insignificant, because it is not!

In the fantastic documentary “Food, Inc.” (which has recently been released as a rental video- a must see!), there is an excellent segment that bears mentioning. Gary Hirshberg, the CEO (or CE-Yo as he likes to be called) of Stonyfield Organic yogurt company discusses his involvement with Walmart and the placement of Stonyfield’s products on the shelves of a multi-national store which many die-hard organic and sustainable living proponents have actually boycotted. And yet, Walmart is wisely listening to the demand from consumers and choosing to purchase from organic companies like Stonyfield in the millions each year! I love how Gary describes how many of his activist friends get up in arms at the discussion of whether he has sold-out by keeping company with the likes of Walmart, until the conversation turns to the facts of the billions of tons of pesticides that are prevented each year, through the small organic farms that contribute to a large company like Stonyfield.

Towards the end of the movie, there’s a clip of a disillusioned farmer bogged down by the politics and the general mess of conventional farming these days. He passionately tells the camera that people need to demand what they want, because if they truly demand it, farmers will respond and will gladly provide it for them. That’s us! If we support organics today, we are assuring the farmers of tomorrow that we will stand behind them, purchase their products and keep them in business.

So you see, my $4.99 box of organic mandarins is not just another way to keep my family a little healthier. It’s so much more than that.

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays!

Do you agree with the concept of “voting with our dollars”? How does that impact the decisions that you make as you purchase food (and other products) for your family?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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  1. I can see this happening in my area as well, as stores like Fred Meyer are starting to carry more and more organic products.

  2. Nice post. I agree. I’m also getting into organic, and I support local whenever possible. I’m also Canadian (Albertan), so I understand your frustrations that you’ve expressed.

  3. I only wish that I could find organic clementines here! We eat a ton of them this time of the year. I, too, often choose organic for the same reasons. I feel strongly about voting with my dollar because if I do not do it, I can not depend on others to do it for me. I also like that people will look and notice that we buy organic and ask why. That gives me the chance to explain organic gardening and maybe influence them to switch also. Now I am off to find that movie to watch it!
    .-= Stacy´s last blog ..Giveaway over at Simple Mom =-.

  4. Food Inc. is a good thing to see.

    Every now and then at your local PriceMart/Save on/Overweighti Food group stores you will see people walking around with a handheld computer doing inventory. Those are the people you want to ask if they have something in stock. Probably for a straight year, there was one organic item that was always understocked. They were always out. We mentioned it to the guy one day and after that, it was always stocked!
    .-= Katherine´s last blog ..Garden surprises =-.

  5. I have two teenagers and we are all allergic to corn and soy so we don’t have much choice in the store, but I still vote with my dollars to an extent. I have boycotted all major food companies that have additive-laden foods on the market even if they offer an “acceptable” option. I feel very strongly that companies like Kraft and Dole are purposely sacrificing the health of the consumers for pure profit. If it was up to me all products with corn and soy derivatives (GMOs) would be taken off the market today or at the very least unable to advertise to children. My problem is convincing others to join me in the fight.

    About Walmart, I recently moved back to a bigger city in Mississippi with more options but for 2 years I lived in rural Alabama. Walmart was the only store in a 120-mile radius with ANY organic veggies available. I bought all of them as well as the unwashed lettuce (conventional since organic wasn’t even offerered) which had been replaced with corn-derivative “pre-washed” lettuce in bags in all the other stores. The cashiers always looked at us like we had two heads when we brought our cart through their line (full of produce and that’s all) and frequently had to ask me what some of those foreign vegetables were called so they could look up the price (artichokes, beets, asparagus, jicama, etc.). I’m not joking.

    Those two years in Alabama were eye-opening to me in so many ways. There is a huge problem in America, especially in the rural areas. This part of Alabama was filled with gardens (conventional – I couldn’t even find a load of organic compost in three counties – for most I was the first person to even ask for it) but there wasn’t even a farmer’s market anywhere around. I drove past acres and acres of pastured cows that were destined for the feed lot and had to order all my meat online. The poorest county in Alabama is paying someone else to wash their lettuce. (Have you ever looked at the price difference between bagged lettuce and fresh? You certainly pay extra for the addition of GMO corn.)

    I guess I would have to say that I am thankful for Walmart or we would have starved in Alabama, but I am still so very happy to be 5 minutes away from a Kroger and 20 minutes away from a whole foods coop now. I would also like to say that the real food movement has not reached rural Alabama and they need it in the worst way.
    .-= kc´s last blog ..Fermented Vegetables are easy and fun =-.

    • @kc,
      But then again, if it hadn’t been for that Walmart, you would have had probably 2 or 3 other grocery stores in driving distance.
      Also, what do you mean by the addition of corn derivatives in pre-bagged lettuce? I’m usually pretty current on the newest crap the industrial food industry is trying to pull, but I haven’t heard this one. Or are you talking about plastic bags that are derived from corn?
      I must sympathize with the living in Alabama thing though. I used to live in Florida, which wasn’t as bad, I’m sure, but I remember one town I used to go camping nearby, all they had was this tiny supermarket that had about 4 isles and a 1 wall produce section. Not another grocery store for a 45 minute drive, no produce stands… nothing…. fields all around. In those sort of areas you almost have to just grow your own. Not that that’s ever a bad option.

  6. Our local food Co-op put on a showing of “Food Inc”. It was a great movie! We had already made some good choices in the past, but we are now conciously making great choices when it comes to feeding our family. We buy lots of stuff at our local food co-op (like locally grown wild rice and honey) and we made a big step and purchased a quarter of a cow, instead of buying the grocery ground beef. We feel better about what we eat, and we are showing our kids how important locally grown food is. I can’t wait for the summer, our area is doing a community owned farm. We will get baskets of fresh produce all summer!