Organic and Local Foods 101
As a society, we have become extremely disconnected from our food. And that makes sense when you consider how much of the food out there is disconnected from itself. Industrial farmers harvest crops that have been grown in tainted soil with chemicals that we shouldn’t consume, then send them off to become “food-stuff” – stripped of their nutrients, refined and enriched into products that are not at all like what they were originally intended by nature to be. The supermarket is filled with such products, and it requires a commitment to sifting through the garbage there to ensure you load your cart with only whole foods.
So eating foods that really are what they are supposed to be is a powerful way to reconnect with the source of our sustenance. And there are two classifications of foods that aim to do just that: organic and locally grown. There have been, in fact, lots of debates about which is better, as if it were a contest. Here’s a basic look at the difference between the two, and the benefits of each.
Organic foods are best – because foods labeled organic by the USDA must meet very strict requirements assuring you that they’ve not been tainted with pesticides, hormones, or any other dangerous chemicals that are often used to create the more processed versions of our foods.
Now, there are some loopholes in the arrangement, as you can be sure there always will be when the government and corporate profits are mutually engaged. But by and large, if a food is USDA certified organic, you can trust that it was grown without dangerous chemicals.
There are some foods that you should almost always buy organic, and others that don’t matter quite so much. But the key is to minimize your exposure to dangerous chemicals that can seriously harm your health.
When you buy local at your farmers’ market, some of your local farmers will have certified organic produce to sell you. A lot of local farmers do grow organic foods, but they can’t label them as such without going through an intensive and expensive governmental process.
Local farmers often can’t afford to pay to become certified organic. But when you buy local, you have the benefit of connecting directly with the person who has grown the food you’re considering buying.
Most farmers are friendly and will be happy not only to tell you how they farm, but also to invite you to the farm for a visit so you can see their process first hand. You also have the benefit of knowing that your food hasn’t traveled too far to get where it is, and so it’s bound to be fresher.
Which Is Better?
My answer is – both! Some people refuse to buy any food that isn’t organic. Others won’t purchase food that’s had to be trucked over a certain number of miles. My belief is that both foods have their place. If you live in a state where peaches don’t grow, you’re going to miss out if you don’t give in and go the grocery store to buy the organic kind. But if they are grown locally (like they are here), you have the option to get them as fresh and sweet as they come – and in all likelihood, they’ve been grown just as nature intended. So for variety and safety, a mix of both is probably your best bet.
An Added Pitch for Local
Buying local isn’t just about your health and the food itself. When you buy local, you help reduce the “carbon footprint” that exists from all the food being shipped all over the world. You help your local economy, and the hardworking farmers who want to bring you these foods. And you actually save money yourself, because it doesn’t cost your local farmer as much to load up his harvest on a truck and bring them a few miles down the road as it does for the food companies to supply grocery stores throughout their regions.
And the best part of buying local? For me, it’s connecting with the food, with the people who grow the food, with taking my time walking around from one stand to the next, looking at all the bright colors and smelling fresh whole foods that have been grown and harvested rather than processed and boxed. Just strolling around the market takes you back to a simpler time and reminds you that we are not only what we eat.
We are what feeds us. And what feeds us is more than food.
By Jennifer Nyx