I have struggled with buy organic food since the day I started buying my own produce. My entire consumer life started with my mother and the ‘how to buy the least expensive stuff’ game. Literally, she trained me to be a sales mastermind. I know the average price of every fruit, vegetable, canned good, or chicken breast around. And I can spot a bogus sale a mile away. That being said, organic never worked with our bargain mindset. It cost too much. And until now, I never realized what I might be missing.
Growing up we didn’t eat organic. Nobody did. It was neither affordable nor easily accessible, and we didn’t think it would make a difference. Heck, my parents were happy to get us eating any vegetable, nevermind organic. Like most of America, we ate what was mass-produced, available, and cheap.
So these days, as I start to think about having my own children, I have begun to broach the topic of produce with our family; how does it affect us physically, economically, chemically. I know organic is better for us chemically. That wasn’t hard to figure out. I’m a nurse with an affinity for organic chemistry; chemicals (pesticides, antibiotics, fertilizers, hormones, etc) are harmful to our bodies. They are proven to increase cancer probability and trigger harmful hormone imbalance, even worsen obesity and it’s ugly sister heart disease, our nation’s #1 killer. But economically, organic food costs more. I see it in the store; organic romaine lettuce costs $3.99, regular $1.50. It’s a difference and not one that I can ignore. Also, there is less selection of organic foods than nonorganic in the store. Physically, I have been raised on non-organic goods for the entirety of my life. I don’t feel bad. My body feels fine. I’m eating vegetables, right?
Here’s the deal. Organic food costs more, it’s harder to access ( or so it feels), but it’s better for us and the environment. I made a decision to go organic and I want to show you how I made that decision. Because I think, maybe, you would make the same decision if you knew what I know and had the same access.
Organic food is better for you. For most people, this is not a selling point. Of course it’s better. No chemicals into our bodies that can muck up our hormones or give us cancer. Got it. But as we all know, just because it’s better for us doesn’t mean we’re going to choose it; it must have more benefits than that. Read on.
Organic is better for the environment. It does not deplete soil of its natural resources with chemicals. Therefore, carbon sequestration [nerd moment – google this, its super cool] is allowed to occur and thus we have found a way to reduce the major carbon footprint that food production has made. Carbon sequestration means that carbon dioxide is drawn out of the air and stored in the ground as nutrients for future plants. Non-organic farming prevents the plants from storing that carbon dioxide in the ground, preventing this process from occuring and thus halting a process that could help reverse global warming. Also, no nitrite runoff (from fertilizers) into water sources, which poison our bodies of water. And no pesticides that cause cancer. And better per-sq-mile production. And if you buy locally, hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel are not used to transport that produce (from say, Florida or Chile or Mexico). I could go on and on.
Accessibility; you’re right. It’s not super accessibile, but it’s getting better every day. At grocery stores, farmers markets and through CSAs you can find locally sourced organic food. I had no idea how close a few farms were to me. Turns out, it’s a movement, and farms are closer than you think.
Selection: We can see very clearly that there is less of a selection of organic foods than nonorganic produce in the grocery store. Though I’ve noticed this improving, there is work to be done. That being said, it is hard to ship far-away, out-of-season foods to where you live. We need to change our eating to focus more on seasonal foods and eating locally the foods that are in abundance during the current season. This is how people ate for centuries – they didn’t enjoy ‘fresh’, preservative-filled tomatoes in Winter; they looked forward to them in Summer and similarly pumpkin and squash in Fall. Eating this way creates diversity in our diets. It also improves cost for us — after all, it costs a ton to ship out-of-season foods to our stores, and that cost gets passed down to us. That leads us right into…
Cost. Ok this is a harder point to sell. But hear me out. I found a way to buy organic produce for less than nonorganic produce at the grocery store. If I buy through a local CSA, I can get more produce for less money. It’s also fresh, doesn’t take fuel to get to me, and puts money back into my local economy. It takes a minute or two to find one near you, but most people are surprised how close many are. Next post will highlight CSAs and how they work. Another way to save some cash, is trying your hand at growing your own, which you can do no matter how much space you have and with little time and effort.
At the end of the day, the cost of paying for organic pales in comparison to the healthcare costs related to pesticides and hormones, as well as the environmental damages that come from nonorganic farming.
I’m hoping I can encourage you and empower you by giving you some knowledge about the why and the how-to of going organic. I know how far away and impossible it feels to many people; I hope we can bridge that gap together, for the good of your health and the environment. When I started learning more about organic farming, I couldn’t believe the impact that it could have on our health and the environment. Once I found a way to go organic affordably, I knew I could do this. And I hope I can show you how easy it is for you to do too. More posts to come. Happy vegetable season, friends.