I am often asked which is more important: eating organic or eating locally grown. Although organic foods tend to be the best choice in the winter months, locally grown produce is certainly your best bet in the summer months. Take advantage of eating locally grown fruits, vegetables and even meats. I personally eat locally grown organic produce as often as possible!
Although organic foods tend to be a bit more expensive, the nutritional benefits of avoiding nitrogen-based fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides can off-set the cost. The government has set up guidelines to inform us which produce should be purchased organic. To make it simple, if you eat the skin of your produce, look for an organically grown option. Also, if the produce holds a lot of water (potatoes, apples, and pears) choose an organic variety if possible.
More and more organic farms are showing up despite the very difficult certification process required by the USDA. Unfortunately, some businesses have realized that going organic may be a way to make a quick dollar. Some mega companies have started building huge organic farms that, like conventional produce, cut corners on the bottom line to increase profit margins. A recent study found that some organic produce could have up to ten times the antibiotic concentration as that of conventionally grown produce. Replacing fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides with a higher antibiotic concentration will inevitably push more virulent antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Upon further research it was determined that the farms that tested high in antibiotics were buying fertilizer from feed lots that use high doses of antibiotics on their livestock. The farms that tested high were huge “organic” farms that send produce throughout the world. Conversely, the smaller “family” farms that chose to use organic practices passed all of the tests including antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides.
The best bet is to choose a local organic farm from which to purchase produce. There are a number of CSA’s (community supported agriculture) in the area that produce the best fresh fruits and vegetables that you can find. Try visiting the farmers market for your weekly shopping. A market is open every day of the week within the metro area. If those options are difficult, try shopping at local co-ops that will have the origins of each item listed on the item’s label. Lastly, if all else fails, buy products grown in the USA where there are more strict guidelines on the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.
Eating local has many benefits other than the quality of the produce: less petroleum products are used during transportation and supporting local business and helping your neighbors will stimulate the local economy. When people stop shopping at “super markets” and get to know their farmers the connection between food and life becomes more apparent. Remember that who we are is a summation of our habits of the past (good and bad) and who we are in the future is determined by what we do today.