I have been asked so many times what I think is "better"... organic or local?
down, my first answer is "both." There are small, local farms popping
up all over the place, and the majority of these farms farm organically.
That's organic with a little "o"... the uncertified organic practices
that rely on crop rotation, manures and composts, integrated pest
management and other ancient ecologically non-degrading practices, but
haven't spent the years or $$$ to become official with a big "O."
If you can't have both (even though you can, see websites such as this to find the dynamic duo near you), then it's time to weigh the pros and cons.
local might mean you actually know your local farmer and can ask
him/her directly about their practices. You can find them at farmer's
markets or driving on secondary highways. They may not be able to label
themselves as Organic, but their practices might be. But sometimes these
local guys run conventional farms, which means they use inorganic
pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. And this is a tradeoff that we
make, that we consumers should consciously grapple with when we purchase
our vegetables, fruit, and even honey and wine.
organic might mean your foods are (nearly) inorganic
pesticide/herbicide/fertilizer-free. This is good for your health and
the health of the environment. But a lot of times the organic avocados,
lettuce, celery and other produce we buy in supermarkets comes from
humongous farms across the country or even the world. So what we spare
in runoff into our water and waste streams, we contribute to in carbon
footprint as our produce travels thousands of miles just to get to us
(not to mention heavy irrigation, or unfair labor practices, etc.; see this article for some commentary). This is a tradeoff that we make.
is considerable debate on this issue that continues in journals, the
media and around dinner tables. I say go with your gut. Let's actually
think when we make purchases about what values we want to uphold. And
rather than ignore the part we play in modern agriculture's destruction
of our ecology, get active each and every time we make that exchange of
$$$ for food.