View Full Version : Local or Organic?

05-27-10, 09:36 PM
Local or Organic?

Photo by: Z & D Frago FAMILY Farm (http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M31182)

At our house, this is the hardest season to find anything good to eat. The freezer, stuffed to barely closing last October, is almost empty now, as are the canning shelves and the makeshift root cellar. Thankfully, it was a warm and early spring here, so we are eating garden salad greens to our heart's content. To be honest, though, my heart is content with just a few salads a week, which leaves a lot of other meals to plan and not a lot of food in the house around which to plan them. Consequently, I have been giving a lot of thought to the question of what to eat.
This is a subject I avoid, even though I love to cook. It's the deciding what to cook that I don't like. Give me a week's worth of menus and I'm happy, but send me to the grocery store without a plan and I could wander around for hours, made miserable by too many choices, too many dilemmas.
I suspect that this is a problem shared by many. Sorting out the most decent and honest options amongst everything at the grocery store is time consuming and difficult. Worse, the ultimate unknowability of which choice is "better" can make it an unsatisfying endeavor. Is the fresh organic broccoli trucked in from 1200 miles away better than the conventional broccoli grown and frozen 200 miles from home? How about the big-ag organic dairy's cheddar versus the small, local rBGH-free but not organic version?
We want to do the right thing. We want to feed ourselves and our family well. We want to do right by our farmers, farm workers, the environment, and the local economy. If we choose to eat meat or dairy products, we want those animals to be treated well. Yet we don't want to be confused or duped, and we don't want to spend our entire paycheck on a week's worth of food. Hence the dilemma.
On the local versus organic question, the ideal of course is to select foods that are both organically and locally grown. But as we know, it doesn't always go that way, and too often we have to make a choice. Many people maintain that we are better off choosing local over organic, the better to influence and strengthen the local food system, and to save the fossil fuel that would otherwise be involved in transportation. Where 'local' also means 'small scale,' many people argue for the value of getting to know the farmer and supporting a network of family farms. Others say that organic is preferable over local, pointing out that while keeping pesticides out of our water and off our food, organic production practices also prompt the soil to sequester significant amounts (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/06/there-is-no-such-thing-as-local-vs-organic-food.php) of carbon, an activity that is key to addressing the climate crisis.
In some ways, there is no reason to belabor such decisions. Small scale local and any sized organic are both good choices. As Samuel Fromartz (http://www.grist.org/article/fromartz/) has rightly pointed out, both are vastly better than anything offered by the conventional food system, which is still responsible for over 95% of the food eaten by our nation.
Still and all, some of us are wont to dwell on the small choices that one after another fill our grocery carts and kitchens and bellies. What about you: how do you choose what kinds of food to buy? Do you make different choices based on the type of food? How much time do you spend sorting out your food choices, and what most influences your decisions?


05-28-10, 08:52 AM
Trying to make choices between two options of equal merit can make you crazy. In the end, we are all going to die of something. I say, do the best you can with what you've got.

01-21-11, 10:07 PM
Good question! I'm acting to get food that qualifies as both local and organic by growing my own in an ever expanding garden. But now back to what about the "other" food, not grown by me? I live out in the country where the best farmer's market shows up in the warm season and about 18 miles from my house. I can buy somewhat more "aged" organic produce off my grocer's shelf only 4 miles away, but the organic selection is narrow and usually the same items. One thing I'll say is we should, right off the top, consider ourselves blessed that we have the time, money, intellect and forum to even be discussing this issue.

Yep, I know. I'm still evading the issue. Well, I will say that I am willing to drive the 18 miles to buy from a local that is selling quite fresh produce, etc. if I can actually talk with the grower! A few questions can make me into a regular buyer, and might lead to me traveling to the farm instead of the market if that is a possibility and closer to me. So that is something that would put "local" way ahead of supermarket "organic", as I just like the wholesome feeling it gives me. But if the situation is not quite so clearly defined as to make it that desirable to buy local, then I consider it a toss-up and don't fret about it. I guess because I'm old enough to no longer be an obsessive idealist and also to realize I'm not going to change this world too much by what I do, but possibly may change it a little more by what I say on a forum.

BTW Mellow, I'm in SC also, 5 mi. N of Travelers Rest (18 mi. N of Greenville). Greenville downtown is my best chance to get organic AND local food from a farmer's market.

01-21-11, 10:31 PM
Hey neighbor...well sort of, lol. I'm down near Charleston. I get my meat from a local farmer. It is grass fed. Poultry does get feed that is not organic but I do not react to their meat, can't afford organic, especially when you count the gas going to somewhere that sells organic. Also, I believe grass fed has a better fat profile by far than even organic grain fed so my meat choice is local. I get organic produce when Farmer's Market is open and bits and pieces at Costco and Publix when it's not.

01-23-11, 12:36 AM
Hey, lucky you to have a local place to get meat. The "local" meat raisers (also just grass-fed) around here are about 30 and 40 miles from me! I can get organic ground beef from Costco, but I really don't have much use for ground beef. So I mostly eat what they have in the regular markets, though I know I shouldn't. Still working on that one.

01-23-11, 01:20 AM
I don't eat beef in the from of steaks or roasts at all any more, now that we're not raising our own and, well, now that I live alone. But ground beef! Absolutely, though I don't eat a lot. I can get grass-fed ground beef from a local farmer; I eat it as steak tartare, but it's also a must in taco salad and enchilada pie! Meatballs in tomato sauce over polenta is nice too.

01-23-11, 10:33 PM
They are over 30 miles from me but they come to the Summerville Farmer's Market in the summer and deliver to Summerville every other week when market not open...so I am blessed! Islander...I can eat raw eggs in my kefir but I don't think I could eat steak tartare. I say that but also have memories of sampling meatballs/meatloaf before they ever went in the oven as a kid. I use ground beef some and stew beef. Bought one steak this summer just cause. Costco "organic" meats still come from factory confined operations that flaunt the law but still better than conventional.

01-23-11, 10:44 PM
I have my own preferred way of preparing it: mayo, salt & pepper, diced onion and lots of horseradish. Yum.

01-23-11, 11:00 PM
Mayonnaise is an essential food group all by it's self Down Heah in Thuh South...;-)..

01-23-11, 11:26 PM
Along with bacon, right?

01-23-11, 11:38 PM
And Sweet Tea?

01-24-11, 12:04 AM
And Pie!

01-24-11, 09:44 PM
And biscuits!