Interesting article in the New York Times over the weekend on the difference between “organic” and “sustainable.”
Turns out, just because something is certified organic, that doesn’t always mean it’s “better for the environment.” Or even necessarily “better for you” than available alternatives.
See, turns out that buying “local” is maybe just as important as buying “certified organic.” As the article points out, veggies grown in China can be certified organic, but it takes a lot of fossil fuels to transport them from there to here. Those veggies leave a pretty big carbon footprint, so while they might be healthier for you than veggies grown with pesticides, they’re not necessarily healthier for the planet. Nor are they necessarily better for you than locally-grown produce, even if that local produce doesn’t have a piece of paper certifying it was grown organically.
It takes time and money to get a farm certified as “organic.” Turns out, for a lot of smaller farms, it may be too expensive to get officially certified. Even though they may, in fact, grow their veggies and raise their animals according to organic standards.
And when you consider the impact on the environment of transporting all that food halfway around the world, buying from small local farms suddenly begins to look even more attractive.
Here in the Triangle area of North Carolina, we still have a fair amount of agriculture nearby, and several active farmer’s markets, including a very large permanent setup over in Raleigh. But you know, even when I lived in the New York City metro area, I could take advantage of a “green market” in the old World Trade Center complex, where farmers would come in to the city once a week from upstate New York and rural New Jersey to sell wonderful fresh produce, baked goods and even plants to green up your apartment or office space.
Don’t know where your local farmer’s market is? Try checking with your state department of agriculture. Here’s a link to the North Carolina department’s page showing where to find farmer’s markets in North Carolina. And here’s a link to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, which offers a directory of local food resources helping connect consumers with local producers.
Beyond that, several grocery stores in our area, such as Lowe’s Foods and Whole Foods, have made a commitment to offer locally-grown produce when they can. It’s just a matter of checking the label for the point of origin.
And it’s not just a matter of environmentalism or sustainability or any of those buzzwords. Locally-grown produce is often fresher (and better tasting) than stuff that’s spent a couple of weeks schlepping halfway around the world in a cargo container. Because of those transportation requirements, many commercially-grown plant varieties nowadays were selected more for their durability during travel than for either taste or nutrition. Local producers often grow “heirloom” varieties that are both more flavorful and more nutritious — but just can’t stand up to the sort of rough handling required by modern agribusiness.
So, do you know where your local farmer’s market is? Have you been there recently? Do you make a point of buying locally-grown produce when it’s available in your grocery stores?
Support your local agriculture. Think local. Buy local. It’s better for the planet, and it’s better for you and your family.
Copyright © Diane Aull. All rights reserved.