Organic or Local or Whateversonsale
What is your stance in the produce aisle? Are you a rigid ‘organic only’ shopper? Is “locavore’ more your style? Or do you just simply want the best looking tomato, who cares about pesticides, thank you very much?
Turns out, the issue is hugely controversial and fraught with emotion as well as science on all sides. And while there are people who would never consider purchasing a NON organic green bean; and some who commit to purchasing everything within a 100 mile radius, most of us are muddling somewhere in the middle, unsure of what is the right choice.
I like to support local farmers, but is it worth risking pesticides on my produce? Or is it better to buy the organic tomato shipped from Mexico, adding emissions to the environment? Does any of it matter at all? And besides, no one anywhere near me is growing anything edible for at least 4 months of the year. What is a northern hemisphere northern stater to do?
The tireless environmental advocates at the Environmental Working Group have come out with their annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. They assert that the fruits & veggies on their ‘Dirty Dozen’ list are so laced with pesticides, that organic choices are essential. Recognizing that organic produce is often more expensive, they also publish a list of the ‘cleanest’ fruits & vegetables as well.
And while this is useful information, in my opinion, it doesn’t completely settle the issue. I prefer to purchase organic whenever possible. And like I said above, I have a heart for supporting local farmers and artisans. But, let’s be real, money doesn’t grow on trees - even local and organic ones!
So here is my solution : I shop farmers’ markets whenever possible and I always pay the asking price. I do not see any benefit to reducing the amount of money these amazing, hardworking people earn. In the past, I have also subscribed to CSA groups; paying a fee for a weekly delivery of whatever is fresh and available. I have not yet found a CSA in my new community, but will be looking this spring. Growing my own organic produce is a great idea, but not terribly realistic. I live in a mountain region with a 73-day growing season. A greenhouse is in the plans, but realistically will be a year or so off.
At the grocery store, I shop for as much organic produce as I can. Although many fruits and vegetables do not retain much pesticide residue, I want to reduce the overall use of pesticides. Loads of studies, including this one by the National Institutes of Health, have shown the damage chemical pesticides do to the air, the water, the soil, and the workers who handle them. Nothing speaks as loudly as the money in my pocketbook - so I’m spending it like a vote.
No doubt, organic produce at the grocery store is almost always more expensive. Since I am no longer feeding an entire family and can get away with lower volume, the cost isn’t as prohibitive. But it still matters. For instance, when one of my daughters away a college was planning a fajita party for her boyfriend’s birthday, I strongly recommended the 14 peppers she was buying (read : I was buying) ought to be conventional. Ah, yes, that sounds hypocritical, but as I rationalized, each person would be eating a small amount of the peppers and their own parents were welcome to supply them with $6 a pound organic red peppers the rest of the year!
So, in a (organic, local) nutshell, here's my way — mostly organic, local when possible, conventional when necessary. I would love to hear your philosophy. Has it changed over time? Please share!