Should you buy local & organic?
Many of you reading this have probably read recent articles about organic and local farming. You may wonder, “What’s the difference?” or “Which is better?” In my mind, I always look for local and organic items, whether it be fresh produce or other grocery items. I’ve traveled the country this summer presenting our new products to retailers, and from what I have seen, the “buy local” movement is catching on. Organic is also gaining momentum, which makes us very happy.
I think it’s great to know the origin of your food. Get to know the local growers in your area — their stories will tell you what they’re passionate about. Uncle Matt’s always spends time converting conventional farmers to organic. This summer we hosted an organic field day, where we toured our groves, and explained the organic industry in hopes of persuading them.
Everyone East of the Mississippi River is closer to Florida; hence, Florida citrus is the closet “local” citrus. Florida citrus farmers compete with those in Mexico and California. If you buy Florida citrus, that encourages Florida citrus growers to continue producing great produce — whether local and/or organic — and it reduces the “food mile” footprint of that particular item. Food miles are actually a minor portion of the total ecological footprint of food.
Ideally, we all could eat organic foods produced on local farms. But that’s not practical, or even possible. In much of the United States, you can’t obtain locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables for months at a time. Even if winter weather were not a factor, organic products aren’t always easy to find. The organic milk, fruits and vegetables found in many supermarkets these days typically are not locally-grown. Most likely, they’ve been shipped in from somewhere far away.
Those who favor locally grown, conventionally produced foods argue that they’re fresh off the farm and tastier than organics that have been refrigerated and shipped vast distances. Even so, some organic foods provide higher levels of vitamins than those that are conventionally grown. A study published in the October 2007 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that organically grown tomatoes had more vitamin C than conventional tomatoes.
If locally grown organic foods aren’t available to you, be aware of the fruits and vegetables that are highest (and lowest) in pesticides. You can get a list from the Environmental Working Group, at www.foodnews.org/walletguide.php. Among the worst offenders: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines and strawberries.