No Paean, No Gain
Regarding Robin Chotzinoff's "What's Your Status?" in the November 12 issue:
Just another paean of praise for Chotzinoff and her talent for deflating the pompous (the New York Times, for instance), for reporting with accuracy and compassion (the farmers she asked the Times's absurd question about farmers' status symbols and quoted word for word) and the final result of making it all work by writing so well. She is such a good writer she would probably disdain this letter because it began with a "paean of praise"---which is not a cliche but a redundancy, since all paeans are hymns of praise. The Times hooked her with awe but let her get away. Lucky for the loyal readers of Westword. Count me in.

Jane Davis Carpenter

As a writer specializing in organic food and organic farming issues, I take issue with Robin Chotzinoff's offhand, trivializing comments about "organic, Wild Oats types" and "politically correct organic farmers." Her insinuation, throughout an otherwise interesting but unsatisfying story, is that organic farming isn't "real" farming ("there were no farmers in my Rolodex...unless you count organic"). Chotzinoff's ignorance about farming in general may be one reason she just couldn't figure out what the New York Times wanted. Not only is organic farming as difficult and as economically risky as conventional farming, most of its practitioners farm without even the limited subsidies or security that agribusiness offers. If she thinks the price of organic food at natural foods stores is making these farmers rich, she is, with a few exceptions, quite wrong. Farming is not a hobby or vanity occupation for organic farmers any more than for conventional farmers, and it is insulting for Chotzinoff to suggest that it is.

The New York Times has actually written quite a bit about organic farms, farmers, food and legislation over the past few years. A strong edito-rial opposing the proposed national organic standards (released in late 1997 for public comment) helped clarify and combat a situation that threatened the integrity of the organic label. Chotzinoff's assumption of urban snobbery on the part of the Times and its editors probably didn't help her arrive at a publishable story.

Finally, some thoughtful inquiry about why it's so hard for farmers to rattle off sound-bite status symbols--and why so few of us know any farmers today--would have made a better story. By the way, more than half of the organic farmers, according to one survey, have advanced degrees. They also do not have cookie-cutter political views, correct or otherwise. Perhaps some open-minded questions addressed to a few of these intelligent, educated, thoughtful and determined farmers would have resulted in Chotzinoff's own personal status symbol--a byline in a newspaper she doesn't seem to read or respect.

Elaine Lipson
via the Internet

The Buddy of Evidence
Harrison Fletcher's November 5 article "The Buddy System," about Leon Kelly and Lloyd Lewan, was done with great dignity and represents the epitome of community involvement on the part of all involved in Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives, including your newspaper's coverage.

I met Leon Kelly once. This is not a disappointing "celebrity," but one you'd enjoy meeting, a tough guy with a heart. Whether it's ever spoken or not, Leon Kelly is also color-blind. He'll help any youth in trouble or, better yet, keep him out of it.

Moral: If a disadvantaged youth walks in your "shop" door looking for a job, ignore his color and his circumstances and try to lift him up. Find a way.

My wife and I get countless pleas in the mail for donations, and typically such organizations get maybe five cents on the dollar after the soliciting agency gets paid. Instead, why not make your contributions count? I think Open Door is an excellent choice!

Gene W. Edwards

Don't Have a Cow
Juliet Wittman's "Mad All Over," in the November 12 issue, was a great article on the poisoning of our food. Go figure that the greed and selfishness for a few dollars more in their pockets would come to this. Then they feed herbivores carrion, cement and other non-essential items. With having both our food and water supply poisoned, it is a true wonder that we function at all.

P.S.: Your paper has the most in-depth reporting. For this we thank you, but I wish that your paper had a higher consciousness when it comes to choosing ads. Some of them are degrading in appearance.

D. Thiel
via the Internet

I wish to thank Juliet Wittman for doing a very informative story about CJD. I am glad that she is informing the public of this horrendous disease. I am a member of CJD Voice; my sister is a victim of CJD and has been suffering for three years.

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