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Posts Tagged ‘pesticides’

Since I made the decision to be vegetarian (with few exceptions), I’ve come across a dilemma. Do I eat organic, or do I eat local? In a perfect world, I’d eat food that’s both organic and local, but that’s hard to come by. Seems that I either need to support the organic camp or the local camp.

Benefits of Local: Usually local is equated with sustainable. After all, if you’re getting your food from local sources, you’re not supporting the transport of produce (and meats) across the country and even the world. You are, however, supporting the local community, which always feels good. You’re not wondering where your food actually came from, because you bought it from your local farmer or store that carries local stuff. You know it’s fresh and probably didn’t travel miles in a refrigerated truck or train.

Drawbacks of Local: Local doesn’t necessarily mean better or organic. You really need to do your research to determine if the local food meets your standards. I’ll attempt to do some of that research and post it here eventually, but the research will be based on my own standards. Also, local means you can only get what’s growing that season. Being from New England, I’ll have limited   choices in winter, since you can’t really grow much under a blanket of snow. This presents a culinary challenge, especially for people like me who despise complicated cooking. Being a vegetarian just makes it that much more difficult.  This website may help people determine what’s being grown locally and in-season.

Sustainable: Let’s throw another definition into the mix. According to the Sustainable Table website, sustainable “involves food production methods that are healthy, do not harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fair wages to farmers, and support farming communities.” This would include buying local (the whole environment thing). However, buying local doesn’t necessarily mean you’re buying sustainably-farmed food.

Confused yet? I haven’t even touched organic.

Organic is more of a government-developed concept. We all know organic (when it comes to produce) means without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers. The organic animals should be fed organic food without antibiotics, and they need access to the outdoors. The problem is that the term “organic” can be loosely interpreted. Industrial farms can get away with calling themselves organic, even though they barely meet minimum standards. Take this quote from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals:

“To be considered free-range, chickens raised for meat must have ‘access to the outdoors,’ which, if you take those words literally, means nothing. (Imagine a shed containing thirty thousand chickens, with a small door at one end that opens to a five-by-five dirt patch—and the door is closed all but occasionally.)”

The milk from organic dairy cows can still be considered “organic,” even if those cows are jammed on industrial-style feedlots, and their only access to the outdoors is through screened windows. There is also no limit to how far organic food can travel to reach its selling destinations. I see organic greens at my local Whole Foods that were grown in California.

Unfortunately, much of the local food available at Whole Foods is grown “conventionally,” meaning it’s not organic and probably not grown using sustainable methods.

So do I choose to buy local produce, which may have been grown using chemical pesticides and fertilizers, or do I buy organic produce that’s been shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to reach my local store?

The answer is: neither.

What I really should do is strive to buy local, sustainable produce. By getting my produce from local farmers, especially at their own farm stands or at farmer’s markets, I can ask the farmers themselves how their produce was grown, whether or not they used chemicals to grow their food, if their animals are given antibiotics, and if they rotate crops and use animal waste as their fertilizer. Of course, doing this isn’t as easy as it sounds. It means finding farmer’s markets, being able to get to them, and driving to various places to get what I need. It also means adapting recipes on the fly, just in case I’m unable to get the ingredients I need. It’s by no means a feat for lazy people (and I consider myself fairly lazy). But I’m trying to muster the energy to work on this, for the sake of our planet and the animals that reside on it.

To start, I’ve found a website listing many of the local farmer’s markets.

More to come….

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