Buy Local or Organic Produce at the Farmer’s Market?

Should I buy local or organic produce?

It was never a question for me until recently.  I would buy organic produce.  Lately, the organic apples aren’t so flavorful.  They either come from New Zealand or South America, very far away with a large carbon footprint.  Or, they come from Washington state which is still very far away.

I sampled apples at a Farmer’s Market

I tasted the apple samples at a local farmer’s market.  They were so delicious but not organic.  While talking with the owner of the orchard I learned that it is impossible to grow apples in the eastern US without fungicides because it is so humid.  They use copper as a fungicide.  It is considered organic and they use as little as possible.  He said he runs his farm somewhere between Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and organic.  He is not surprised that the imported apples lack taste because they irrigate them so well so they contain a lot of water.

An Interesting Story . . .

Then this farmer told me an interesting story.  His farm backs up to the organic orchards of the local university.  They are doing research on growing organic apples on the East coast.  They use organic fungicides.  When they harvest the apples they wear protective suits.  So, some chemicals, even though they are organic, still can be harmful.  So the question is what chemicals are considered organic by the USDA.

This was a real eye opener for me so I researched it.  The Organic Materials Review Institute lists all the chemicals approved for use in organic farming.  There are over 2000 products on the list.  You can do searches on organic products to see if they are approved or not.

Buying Local Produce Supports Local Farmers

We need to support our local farmers but only if they are good stewards of the land.  The term “locavore” was coined by Jessica Prentice for World Environment Day in 2005.  Ronnie Cummins talks about this in his article, What’s wrong with Local Food: Local & Organic Food and Farming: The Gold Standard :  “Prentice’s goal was to challenge people to obtain as much food as possible from within a 100 mile radius.  In 2007 the New Oxford Dictionary selected “locavore” as its word of the year!”

If we don’t support our local farmers they could disappear.  I enjoyed talking to the owner of the apple orchards.  We also talked about growing delicious tomatoes.  I could see that he cares about the quality of his produce.  It is important to know who is selling food at the farmer’s market and that they are really farmers and not selling food from a wholesale warehouse.  John Cloud has an excellent discussion in his article:  Eating Better Than Organic from Time magazine, if you would like to learn more about eating local.