Lately, I’ve been asked a lot about which is better: Buying locally or buying organically? It is an ongoing debate that may never be answered to anyone’s satisfaction. You just have to decide which is right for you. So, to help you decide, here are some facts.
According to the National Organic Program, which is part of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Program, “Organic crops are raised without using most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Animals raised on an organic operation must be fed organic feed and given access to the outdoors. They are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. The NOP regulations prohibit the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge in organic production and handling. As a general rule, all natural (non-synthetic) substances are allowed in organic production and all synthetic substances are prohibited.“
Besides the obvious benefits of organic products to both the environment and to our bodies, it has been shown by the Rodale Institute that organic farming decreases the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. On top of that, when organic products have to be shipped from California to Connecticut for example, there is the added environmental impact from the transportation inherently involved.
On top of this, it has also been shown that organic crops have a higher nutritional value than their industrialized counterparts. In a study done on multiple strawberry farms in California, it was determined that organic strawberry farms produced crops that had higher antioxidant and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) levels and had longer shelf-lives than non-organic crops. The strawberries were also found to taste better. Another study done by USC at Davis found over a period of 10 years that organically grown tomatoes were higher in flavonoids than their counterparts. Flavonoids are the brightly colored pigments found in fruits and vegetables that have been shown to have antioxidant activity.
So, after reading all this, you are probably thinking that, despite the impact on the environment, why would you bother with locally grown produce, right?
Well, locavores, as those who are proponents of locally grown foods call themselves, would give you the following reasons to eat locally:
- You are supporting the local economy;
- You are diminishing the impact on the environment;
- The food is fresher and may taste better since it doesn’t have to travel;
- The food has longer to ripen since it doesn’t have to travel;
Buying only locally grown foods keeps us in sync with the seasons and thus is more natural.
It has also been suggested that smaller, local farms don’t use the same amount of pesticides and industrialized farming methods that larger producers use. And if you go to the local farmers’ market to buy your produce, you can ask them directly!
So, as I said before, it is really a personal decision whether or not to buy one or the other. Luckily, some of us may be able to buy food that is both local and organic! For those of us in Fairfield County, Connecticut, an extremely informative site about green foods locally is the Fairfield Green Food Guide. Otherwise, you can find information about farmers’ markets here to begin your quest.