Is organic food a good buy? In terms of health benefits, there is a lot of junk that USDA Certified Organic food is not allowed to contain. In that sense, it is far better than conventional food products. However, there are only a couple things the consumer really knows about certified organic food:
1) It’s manufactured by a company whose standards and practices have gained the approval of the large and arguably unwieldy United States Department of Agriculture.
2) It’s manufactured by a company whose brand may have a certain amount of name recognition and trust associated with it. Many of these companies are owned by large conglomerates, though.
3) It’s manufactured with a high percentage of certified organic ingredients (from whatever source they may come from) which are clearly disclosed on the back of the box.
4) Or, if it’s a fruit or vegetable, it was USDA Certified Organic at its source but no one person really knows everything that has been done to it between there and here.
Local food is all about knowledge of food and reduction of transportation costs. Farms that primarily sell locally will often be small farms. Small-scale farmers may choose not to USDA-certify their crop, but they will usually tell the customer how they grew the plants or animals. There are also some smaller, private certifying organizations which some farmers opt into as a way to confirm their farming standards.
1) With local food, you can sometimes even see it growing in the field. If not, you can talk to the man or woman who picked it. You buy it direct and know that nothing else has happened to it.
2) With local food, there are not dozens of middle-men who handle the food between harvest and purchase. The farmer and other workers get a much greater chunk of the profit this way.
3) Local food minimizes transportation costs. For every grocery store selling tomatoes in my town, there is a farmer or two selling them at markets and in CSA boxes. Why buy tomatoes from thousands of miles away when they are equally available locally?
4) This brings us to the point of seasonal food: Farmers only have fresh tomatoes available for a few months a year in some climates, which encourages consumers to preserve them for the winter and primarily eat foods that are in season. Coincidentally, this is better for us anyway.
Yes, USDA Organic food can have its place. It has its advantages over conventionally-grown food. But locally-grown food (especially if it’s naturally grown) is by far the best. Not only does it encourage knowledge about food and save on fuel costs, but it also encourages home cooking and seasonal eating of whole foods. Buy local, especially while farmer’s markets are still going strong this summer!