Organic foods – just a new hippie trend or worth the extra dough? Do locovores (people who only eat food that has been grown locally) have it right? Is local food better for you and the environment than the regular food you can find at the grocery store? What is the difference and why should you care?
First, let’s talk about what exactly organic food is. Organic means that it was grown without any herbicides or pesticides, it does not contain any genetically modified organisms (GMO) and the farm where the food is grown has to adhear to very strict standards and regulations. There are no additives or preservatives used, even if the organic food has been processed. Organic is much easier on the environment as there are no harmful chemicals that could damage or contaminate the soil, air and water. Organic farms use less energy and produce less waste than regular farms as they don’t have to spray herbicides or pesticides, so they save the fuel and energy spraying and don’t have to deal with the waste from packaging materials for chemicals.
Organic farms are also more sustainable than regular farms. They practice crop rotation, which has many benefits to the soil including allowing the nitrogen content to build back up and improving the stability and fertility of the soil. Growing the same crop in the same field for many years depletes the soil nutrients, rotating the crops every year or two allows the nutrients in the soil to replenish because different crops absorb different amounts of nutrients. Organic farms also use green manure and compost rather than chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Many people believe that organic foods taste better, and from my experience they do. Most foods that are shipped across borders are subjected to irradiation, where the food is subjected to a small amount of radiation to kill bacteria, bugs, and to prolong shelf life and prevent the ripening of fruits and vegetables. This process can and does change the chemical formula of the food and damages some of the nutrients. This small chemical change can have a large effect on the taste of the food. Organic food is not subjected to this process, so it may not have as long as a shelf life, but the taste is better and the nutrient content is significantly higher.
Local foods not only support your local community but they are much greener than most foods found in your local grocery stores. The food in grocery stores is shipped hundreds of miles by boat, truck or train costing thousands of dollars and creating a huge carbon footprint. Local foods may only travel a few blocks. Some of the best places to find local food and support your community are Farmer’s markets and Organic Markets. Farmer’s Markets have tons of fresh locally grown fruits and veggies, as well as milk, bread, and more all for really decent prices. Organic markets are a little bit pricier but they should carry a wider selection of fruits and veggies and some of the harder to find items.
Try to reduce your carbon footprint this summer and become a locovore, or as close to one as you can. Use this fun little site to helps you calculate how big your own carbon footprint is.