a summer cabbage from a local farmer
I love to support local businesses. In our cooking class, Melissa and I use local foods as much as we can not only because we love that it builds and unifies our community, but in many cases the foods tend to taste better too. I am also a firm believer about eating foods grown without the use of unnatural means, not just organic, but chemical free. In both cases, I want to do what is right, for me, for my family, for optimum health, my community, the earth.
There is a question that is by no means a new question, and maybe you have even thought about it yourself. Maybe you're even rolling your eyes at my mentioning of it at all. which is more important? organic or local?
Local food is food that has been grown by a farmer within your state, or in some cases your very town. It can include a radius from 1 mile to 150 or more. The food that is grown locally may or may not be grown conventionally, it might be "organic", and it's a possibility that it could be "more than organic". The best part about local growers is that you can actual go to the farm, talk face to face with the person growing your food, and in some cases even help with the growing yourself. The growers more than likely have all the answers to your never ending questions.
Organic food has supposedly been grown, meeting certain USDA regulations; without the use of synthetic pesticides, no GMO's (don't know what a GMO is? this should help), and without petroleum or sewage sludge based fertilizers, to name a few. Organic meats are required to have access to the outdoors (not necessarily pastured), and fed organic feed.
However, if you have ever talked to a local farmer who has undergone an organic certification, you may find that the certified little green sticker means less than you think. Regulators seem to be unconcerned about whether or not synthetics are actually used, the fees for the certification are ridiculously expensive, and there are some "organic" pesticides that are more deadly than the synthetic versions, ever heard of cyanide? Organic foods also have to be shipped from where they grow, so there is a high probability that the foods are harvested premature and have traveled via fossil fuel to get to where you are. However if you are giving the USDA the benefit of the doubt, it is probably cleaner than its conventionally grown counterpart that traveled just as far, right?
Obviously the ideal situation is to have a local farmer that even though they mightn't be organic certified, farms in a way that creates vitality and life in the soil and food they grow. Not to mention the communities they nourish. Lucky for Utah Valley, we have more than one of those types of farmers.
But if you don't, what do you do? Buy local and support farmers that are also your neighbors but who might be using synthetics? Or buy food that is hopefully cleaner than the foods grown by conventional means but have traveled a number of miles and used up even more natural and nonrenewable resources? We all want to do the right thing, but what is the right thing to do?
There was a wonderful article on this issue by Samuel Fromartz (author of organic, inc.) back in april, 2006 - read it here. He said that ultimately there is no right or wrong when it comes to local or organic, but rather that you are consciously choosing. For us, it's on an individual food basis, I may be in love with raw milk from a farm just south of us (not that we use it now...), and when it comes to tomatoes, I think you know where I shop; but I also buy mangoes shipped from even farther south, and the best darn asian treats from the other side of the world.
What do you think? Do you shop local? organic? better than organic? conventional? maybe you didn't even know there was a difference? or you've never thought about it before.
I would love to hear your opinion.
p.s. here's another article with insight on whether local +/or organic are even sustainable.
i updated the post to add a link to the non-gmo shopping guide.
lisa mentioned the clean 15 and dirty dozen.
thank you to everyone who has added their voice, i am loving all the dialogue and experiences. I think this is the beginning of a number of food thoughts for us to discuss, hope you keep playing along.