Local verses organic

Green onionsA hot topic that is picking up more steam and energy as it goes along is the issue of buying local.  Supporting local farmers is key.  It keeps them in business and keeps you stocked with fresh produce, dairy, and meats.  Farmers markets are starting to spring up everywhere so that people can have access to farm fresh local ingredients.

Grocery stores are starting to carry produce from local farmers and making sure to label them so costumers know what they are buying.  Around the Columbus area, off the top of my head, I can name three stores:

All strive to make local produce available to their customers.

Buying organic is also a hot issue right now.  People want clean fresh food.  Not food that has been drenched in chemicals and pesticides.  People want some control over the things they buy and a major demand is organic produce.

Those two things seem to go hand-in-hand; Fresh local produce that is organically grown.

But what if it isn’t?  What if the local produce available to you or that you have access to isn’t organic?  What do you do?  Which is more important to you?

If you head to a local farmer’s market and check out the produce, if it is not organic do you still buy it?

If you are in the grocery store and see a sign for some local produce and it’s not organic, do you pass it up for produce that is labeled organic?

Or flip it, would you pick local over organic when presented with the option?

A lot of times I’ll see produce being labeled as local in the store but the label does not mention if the item is organic or conventional.  Should I flag down a worker and ask?  At a farmer’s market one has access to the owners, so asking about the produce is a little easier.  At a store, someone might not have the answer.

Both of these topics are hot button issues and they get discussed a lot because both of them are important.  But what if the local produce you have access to is not organic?  What do you pick, local or organic?

11 thoughts on “Local verses organic

  1. Excellent question! Many of the aspects of the general good food movement are not automatically compatible. In this particular case, I’ve learned that many local producers do adhere to organic practices but are simply unable to afford the costs of ‘official’ certification. We should be cautious not to focus solely on the organic label – after all, many packaged foods on the shelves today carry that green and white tag! And it would be a shame to pass over a local producer simply because they can not call themselves ‘organic’.

    I can’t say definitively which I would choose – both have their merits.

  2. A part of the conversation is what ‘organic’ really means. Most organic farms have their hearts in the right place and are doing their best to provide healthy food for consumers. There are some out there, however, using the certification to make extra profit without true concern for people and land.

    Organic certification does ensure that regulations protect certain aspects of land use, but there are still plenty of loopholes. There are ‘organic’ pesticides and herbicides allowed on organic certified fields, some of which are still very dangerous for workers to apply. Some organic farms are so large that they have factory farm type negative impacts on the land and native species.

    Ideally, I shop from farms that are local and beyond organic. That is, they follow organic regulations AND plant with land use, native species and worker health in mind.

    In the summer, I get produce from my backyard and a local organic fruit CSA. The winter is harder; last year we had a local organic winter produce CSA and ate lots of preserved food from the summer.

  3. Great questions! I guess I tend more towards local than organic if I have to make a choice between the two. I read somewhere that for every dollar spent locally, the business spends 60 cents of that locally. I can’t help but be happy that locals are helping locals as much as we can.

  4. Heather says:

    I would just buy local. At least it’s not shipped from who knows where and is fresher. Not that I ever hit a farmers market. *sheesh*

  5. At my old farmers market, everything had to be organic otherwise you couldn’t have a booth – they even kicked a farmer out when it was determined they weren’t organic!

  6. I grew up in an agricultural area and have a deep love for local produce and a lingering suspicion for the label “organic,” which I have seen applied to an extremely wide range of products.

    I generally choose local wherever I can, but there are two bottom lines for me: freshness and knowing what I’m getting. In my current metropolitan place of residence, there are a number of non-local farmers who frequent farmers markets. If I know the farmer and am confident in the freshness of the product and the sustainability methods used to produce it, then the exact number of miles the food traveled isn’t dispositive for my purchasing decisions.

  7. Hi there! Found your site through Restaurant Widow and am really liking it so far.

    I’ve thought about this issue too, and this summer have started leaning toward local over organic. One of my main reasons for farmers market shopping is because it supports the local economy. Plus, the freshness makes it taste better. If the option is either local “conventional” (or often organic methods but not certified) vs organic shipped from, say, Chile, it is usually cheaper to buy local, you know wher your food is coming from, and its traveled way less, so that’s also helping the environment.

  8. I have to be honest that I don’t pay attention at all to what is organic vs. local — we just go to a produce stand b/c I can get bell peppers for $.99/lbs. instead of $1 – 2 EACH at the grocery store.

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