They are two of the hottest trends in the food industry: organic foods and local farmers’ markets. In fact, the two go hand in hand. Thanks to rising consumer interest in naturally grown foods, more than a million new acres of organic cropland have come into use in the United States since 2000. And the results are easily found. Supermarkets today offer organic foods not only in the produce section but also at the meat counter, in the dairy section, and even in the bakery. And farmers’ markets, featuring the just-harvested produce of local farmers, are popping up in cities large and small. So what’s all the fuss about?
1. Health. Pesticide residue is found in more than three-quarters of nonorganic produce. More than 90 percent of all beef produced in America contains growth hormones, which are banned in Europe. E. coli and salmonella bacteria are rampant in the nonorganic beef and poultry found in supermarkets. Statistics like these are leading many concerned consumers to make the switch to foods raised more naturally.
2. The economy. When you buy regionally grown food, your money goes directly to local farmers and food outlets; when you buy mass-grown farm products, most of your dollars go to distant corporations to cover the costs of distribution, transportation, and marketing.
3. The environment. Nonorganic farmers use 12 billion pounds of toxic artificial fertilizers and 1 billion pounds of pesticides each year. The effects of these chemicals on groundwater, lakes, and rivers — not to mention our drinking water — are significant. Plus, the average nonorganic fruit or vegetable travels more than 1,500 miles to reach your local store, necessitating the use of immense amounts of fuel for transportation.
3. Taste. Heirloom tomatoes grown in small numbers by a local farmer using organic methods and sold to you a day after picking are generally going to taste a whole lot better than lab-developed hybrid tomatoes grown on a massive farm and shipped across the country, ripening during transport. Don’t believe us? Try a taste test — with a tomato, apple, peach, zucchini, or any other fresh local item.
We can choose to ignore how our food is grown or raised, or we can select foods produced with the health of everyone in mind. Check out LocalHarvest.org to find out about community farming and organics in your area, where the foods are available, and how to make sustainable food a priority in your life.