Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Local vs. Organic?

Due in part to an excellent Time article that I read this morning (Eating Better Than Organic), I decided to confront myself to determine which is more important to me. As a soon-to-be farmer and a consumer, which fits in more tightly with my beliefs and values?

On the one hand, just because you buy local doesn't mean that it can't be organic. I work on an organic vegetable farm that enjoys a very large part of the profits at the local farmers market each week. However, a lot of the fruit that I buy at the farm is sprayed with chemicals and I know this; I also know that fruit is difficult to grow organically and many of these farmers have families to feed. Sometimes, you just need the money.

Also from what I have seen, "organic" has turned into nothing more that a politcal game. Numerous regulations and fees does not ensure that the farmer is growing sustainably, which is what the root of organic used to be about. I care about growing without the use of any chemicals because when it comes right down to it, nature works just fine without them. It takes a little more knowledge and skill to use the organic method, but it works. It's amazing how much natural pest repellants are already in nature . . . plus crop rotations . . . companion plantings . . . the list goes on.

Nonetheless, I do not agree with buying organic food grown in Chile. I'm sorry, but that's stupid. One of things that appeals to me about farming is learning about how much actually grows in your area, and when you eat that fresh you really do get all the nutrients you need. Yes, you might not be able to have citrus year round and some nutritionists I'm sure are gasping at that thought of that. But guess what? There's lots of vitamin C in my fresh strawberries, blueberries, and Concord grapes! I like organic growing because it's good for the soil and the plants and the food, but not if it's shaped over thousands of miles for days on end.

I've really grown to enjoy the relationship that I have with my food now. I've never bothered to freeze anything, but this year I brought some veggies and fruit home and we have them stored safely away for use this winter. It's one of the deepest feelings of satisfaction: to know the food in our kitchen came from, and to take the steps to preserve that for the year. I like to know that we're taking care of our family that way.

So while nothing is better than growing your own food, I'd have to say that I choose local over organic.

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