When Local Trumps Organic

2013-09-20 14.31.06Okay, organic is best. It is – eating produce grown without synthetic pesticides reduces the toxicity your body has to deal with. But there are times and circumstances when buying local just might be the better choice for you and your family.

It might surprise you to read that I do not shop at my local Farmers’ Market. Although I love the idea, my pocketbook does not love the price markup that the farmers can get away with because I live in an affluent area. In my quest to find a good source for healthy produce, I wandered into a farm-stand hosted by a local sod farm. The first time I shopped there I actually returned to the store, carrying my six bags of produce and asked them to re-weigh everything because I was sure that they had UNDER-charged me!

The only drawback to this farm-stand was that the produce was not necessarily organically grown. But I know something about the agriculture on Long Island where I live which makes me feel okay about buying local and not organic. Because Long Island is an island, it does not contain farms with vast acreages of just one crop.  This actually makes for healthier food.

A major problem with modern agriculture is that when you have entire counties or even states growing the same crop, the crops grow very weak and lose their natural disease- and insect-resistance.  As I can see when I look at the vast array of crops offered for sale at the farm-stand, my local farmers can use traditional methods of disease and pest management, which involve crop variety and rotation. Therefore the amount of synthetic pesticides in the produce I buy locally is significantly less than that which I might pick up at the local supermarket.

Similarly, because local farmers are not engaged in mono-agriculture, they have the capacity to use traditional farming practices of enriching the soil, thus enhancing the vitamin and mineral contents of the produce I am purchasing and consuming.

There are other ways to feel good about buying local over organic. When you support local agriculture, you are keeping more green space in your local environment. Enriching the local farmer may also help those farmers to afford to grow more of their crops organically, which is a win win for everyone. Finally, there is less of a toll on the planet when you eat locally. Sure, you are eating a healthier plum when it is organic, but a lot of fuel may have had to be burned in order for that plum to reach you.

What to do? If you can, grow your own – that guarantees that you are eating both organic and local.  Whenever you can afford it, vote with your dollar and buy organic.  Support your local farmers – shop at farm-stands, farmers’ markets or join a CSA. But, the bottom line is, eat your vegetables and fruits. No matter where or how they are grown, they are still good for you!

 

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