When people hear the word “organic” in Western culture, they often picture a stereotypical green washed aisle of the grocery store marketed to the upper middle class. However, local and organic food is of global importance and benefits our health, community, and environment.
Organic farming is based on a holistic approach to managing crops and farmland that respects and uses the power of natural processes. It does not use synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or synthetic hormones.
Local food comes from non-corporately owned farms in the area. The standard to be considered local is within a 160km radius of where it is being sold.
- Health benefits. Eating local and organic food means you are eating fresh food that is rich in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes. When food is transported or processed, it is often harvested prematurely to increase shelf life, sacrificing some of its nutritional value. An even bigger issue is if you are buying food that was not produced locally it is likely that you are consuming either genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) or food produced using pesticides and chemicals that are detrimental to human health. Consuming GMO’s comes with the risk of new allergens, increased toxicity, decreased nutrition and antibiotic resistance. Local and organic food on the other hand, especially in areas like the tropics where it is grown year round, offers you a wide variety of fresh nutritional foods without the negative side effects
- Environmental Implications. Pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are not only harmful to human health, they also dramatically impact the environment. In commercial farming, the use of pesticides and GMO’s obliterates biodiversity, contributing to major issues such as bee colony collapse disorder. Bees are vitally important to human life as they are responsible for pollinating 80 percent of our crops. Albert Einstein once said “If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years left to live”. You can read more about the importance of bees to ecosystems in my last blog post. In addition to the destruction of biodiversity, the local and organic food movement serves as an alternative to commercial monoculture agriculture, which is a major contributor to issues such as soil degradation as well as air and water pollution. You can find a more comprehensive comparison in Greg Seaman’s article on organic versus commercial agriculture.
- Protect future generations. Nearly all of the processes in the modern food system are reliant on oil. This finite resource is coming nearer to depletion everyday, at the rate we are consuming it is likely our supply could be exhausted by 2040. If we do not change our ways, our planet will not be able to sustain future generations. “Even organic supplies are becoming hugely damaging as imports fill our shelves. One shopping basket of 26 imported organic products could have travelled 241,000 kilometers and released as much CO2 into the atmosphere as an average four bedroom household does through cooking meals over eight months” – Norman Church. Hence, shopping for local food is equally important to ensure there will be enough resources to sustain future generations. You can find more information on food and oil dependency in Norman J. Church’s article on Resilience.org. Oil is a valuable resource, however the rate at which we are using it creates a vast number of problems. Simply put, feeding your children local and organic food benefits their health and their future.
- Reduce your Eco-Footprint By growing and buying local organic food, you can decrease your impact on the earth. A major part of living unsustainably is a direct result of the fossil fuels used to grow, process and transport food. Growing and buying local and organic food also decreases our consumption of water, “agriculture is officially the most thirsty industry on the planet, consuming a staggering 72 per cent of all global freshwater” (Organic Farming Benefits). It is our responsibility as humans on this earth to take action and live more sustainable lifestyles, starting with our food.
- Build community. Especially in areas like the tropics where food can be grown locally year round, we have an amazing opportunity to support our neighbors and nourish our bodies at the same time. Community gardens, farm shares, work exchange and other co-operatives allow us to connect with one another and perpetuate sustainability.
Tips for buying locally:
– Find a farmers market in your area and get to know your local farmers! Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to eat foods that aren’t picture perfect. That huge, unblemished, imported apple likely does not compare nutritionally or flavor wise to the “funny shaped” apple at the farmers market.
– When you shop at the grocery store, look for in-season foods that come from farms near you. Co-operatives and natural foods stores are often geared towards local foods and even corporate grocery stores often have some items sourced from the surrounding area.
– Join a CSA (community supported agriculture) and get regular deliveries of fresh local produce. A mutually beneficial relationship for you and your local farmer friend, you don’t have to worry about grocery shopping all the time and they don’t have to worry all of their customers won’t show at the market on Saturday because it’s raining.