Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Local or Organic? How to make the best choice.


This year's harvest is in full swing and farmer's markets are colorful with fresh fruits and veggies. One of my favorite times of the year! In case you are wondering about buying local versus organic, like some moms on Mamapedia, I'll try to clear up any confusion and help you make the best choice for the health of your family and your wallet.

First, let us clarify that organic does matter. In a four year $25 million EU study that ended in April 2009, the conclusions are as follows:
  • Organic fruit and vegetables contain up to 40 percent more antioxidants
  • Organic produce had higher levels of beneficial minerals like iron and zinc
  • Milk from organic herds contained up to 90 percent more antioxidants
Although there is no conclusive proof of detrimental effects of pesticide treated and genetically modified food, nobody can tell you and no study can show what the effects of genetic modification will be on our bodies. The experiment is on and only time will tell.

Second, there are four simple things to keep in mind when buying produce that are pretty common sense:
  1. Not all organic produce is local
  2. Not all local produce is organic
  3. Not all local or organic produce is necessarily more expensive
  4. Some produce that is not certified organic is still grown organically
The key is not to only know where your food comes from but to know how your local farmer grows that food. Don't hesitate to ask questions at the farm stand. You can get great deals on produce that is organically grown but is not certified, often even cheaper than grocery store prices. Most times buying a local non-certified organic apple is a much more environmentally and economically sound option than buying a certified organic one transported from 5,000 miles away. Plus if it is local, you get the freshest pick, not something that has been sitting in a truck for a week. Organic certification has become a big business and not all small farms can afford it.

Third, buy what you can afford. If you can buy local and certified organic, go for it! You'll be supporting a local farm that spent oodles of money on the certification process. But if you can't, or just want to get the most for your buck, find a local farmer that grows their fruits and veggies the same way they did 100 years ago but is not certified organic. You can also join a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group and get fresh seasonal produce at a value price. Of course, you should at least adhere to the recommended list of foods worth buying organic.

Go to localharvest.org to find a farm near you!
Check out "Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Food"

And as an afterthought, watch the trailer for Food, Inc., find the full version if you get a chance.

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