Posts Tagged ‘sustainable’

Organic or Local?

Cal-Organic Farms, along with Earthbound, dominates the organic produce section in the supermarket. Cal-Organic is a big grower of organic vegetables in the San Joaquin Valley. As part of the consolidation of the organic industry, the company was acquired by Grimmway Farms, which already enjoyed a virtual monopoly in organic carrots. Unlike Earthbound, neither Grimmway or Cal-Organic has ever been part of the organic movement. Both companies were started by conventional growers looking for a more profitable niche and worried that the state might ban certain key pesticides. “I’m not necessarily a fan of organic,” a spokesman for Grimmway recently told an interviewer. “Right now I don’t see that conventional farming does harm. Whether we stay with organic for the long haul depends on profitability.

Philosophy, in other words has nothing to do with it.”

– Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
For the last several years Mr Chiots and I have been focusing on eating locally and organically. When I have the option, I like to buy local organic. When I don’t have that option, I chose local over organic. I could buy certified organic apples from Chile in the supermarket to eat instead of my non-certified semi-organic apples from a local orchard, and they’d probably be cheaper. Why do I choose a local product that probably has a few chemicals & pesticides on it? Because it’s important for me to know where our food is coming from. I know exactly what is on that apple because I can talk to the guy that grew it. I can visit his orchard and see what he does. I can’t visit the orchard in Chile, so how can I be sure it’s actually “organic”?
I’ve had a few great conversations with our local dairy/beef/chicken/egg farmers about this topic. They used to be certified organic and it got too expensive and too constrictive to keep up their certification. They had trouble finding good quality organic hay to feed the cows in the winter. Someone they knew had good quality hay that wasn’t certified organic, but since it’s wasn’t certified they couldn’t use it. They finally decided to drop their certification. Now they label themselves as “Voluntarily Organic”. Personally, I don’t mind that they don’t have the government seal, I’m glad they’re putting the health of their cows ahead of a label.
I’m guessing some of you have heard of the 4-year study conducted in Europe that concluded that organic food (including vegetables, fruit and milk) contained up to 40% more antioxidants than conventional food and were more nutritious (the percentage were up to 60% more antioxidants for organic milk). I wonder how the raw milk from the farm would stack up to conventional milk? I’m pretty sure it would be way better than 60%.
The problem with studies like this is that it’s hard to know what kind of organic products they used in testing. Did they use big-box organic, or small organic? Did they use produce that had been grown, picked, processed in another country and was flown halfway around the world, then sat on a grocery store shelf for a couple days before heading to your home. Did they leave it in the fridge for a few days before testing to make the study more authentic? I try not to put too much credibility in studies like these, even if they support my viewpoint. Studies can be done in such a way to get the desired outcome (sometimes looking at the funding will give you a good idea of what the outcome will be). I try not to get caught up in the hype about what’s “healthy” what’s not, what’s the “in” vegetable, fruit, nutrient, vitamin at the moment. It’s really too much to keep up with. We now try to focus on eating real whole food. Our diet would probably not be considered healthy by some because we eat lots of butter, drink whole milk, eat lots of animal fat. Bacon anyone?
The search for good quality real whole food is main reason I started to grow some of our food. I know exactly what’s in it, I know how it was grown. What I grow in my garden is the healthiest food available to me. It’s as organic and local as it gets. We’ve developed a hierarchy of food for ourselves.
Local Organic
Organic from local health food store
Organic from big chain grocery
I still buy food from far away, mangoes and plantains will never be local for me, and they’ll never be out of my diet. Coffee is a big NEED in this household as is good chocolate, local sources for those are not feasible either. I’m not striving to make my diet to be 100% local, but I want eat local when I can! I don’t want to rule out delicious food from far away, but I don’t want to eat only long distance food either. I really appreciate some of the things that local eating had taught me, we’re enjoying a much wider variety of food now. I also appreciate that organic is gaining popularity because I am able to find an organic option for just about everything I want. It seems like in our lives we’re finally achieving that balance between local, organic, and exotic.

Which do you focus on Local, Organic or a patchwork of both?

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