All right, I mentioned where Daniel and I get most of our produce, but I haven’t written anything about why it’s so important for us to buy local food. All of the food in our CSA box is also organic, and I’m sure that’s why most people join CSAs. There are also many produce delivery programs, such as Pioneer Organics, as well as grocery stores like Whole Foods and PCC, all of which have a strong presence in the Seattle area, that specialize in organic, but not necessarily local, produce.
I appreciate the benefits of organics. I like knowing that when I buy organic produce, I don’t ingest all of the pesticides that are normally present, especially on certain varieties of food. Do you know which fruits and veggies are most highly contaminated with pesticides in conventional agriculture? Here is a good, practical article one why it matters more with some foods than others. I’m young, I’m healthy, and hey, of course I don’t want to get cancer someday from ingesting a bunch of pesticides. But if that was the only reason I ate organic, I would be pretty selfish, wouldn’t I? It’s not just about me here.
Traditional organic agriculture uses land sustainably. The use of natural pesticides and fertilizers, combined with crop rotation, means that land that is farmed organically will remain fertile for generations. But sustainable land use is only part of the story. We also have a responsibility to make sure that the way food reaches our tables is sustainable, i.e., doesn’t use tons of fossil fuel or produce excessive CO2. The other day at Safeway I saw organic oranges from New Zealand. Have you ever tried to buy a plane ticket to New Zealand? It’s expensive! It takes a lot of petroleum to transport an orange on a plane from Auckland to Seattle.
It is so incredibly wasteful, so decadent, to fight wars for oil (ok, I won’t go there), heat up the planet with greenhouse gases (oh yeah, I went there), to buy a piece of fruit, just because I don’t want to eat a little pesticide. Oh, and I forgot to mention: you peel an orange before you eat it! You don’t even ingest pesticides from conventionally farmed citrus! You’re not helping yourself, and you’re hurting the rest of the world, when you don’t pay attention to what you eat.
The bottom line is, organic isn’t the best we can do. As an industry, organic agriculture has wandered away from its original intent, which is the production of healthy, sustainable food. Food that saves the world. Well, you just can’t rely on the little “organic” sticker to tell you if you’re doing the right thing. You have to think about it for yourself, and I’ve decided for myself, that there are a few things I can do.
For a little more reading on the subject, I really like this article in Time — you may remember seeing this cover on newsstands a while back. The author points out a few things I didn’t–like how eating local is a lot easier in some parts of the country than others.