If and when I can, I try to buy organic food. The problem is that “Organic” is just a label; it’s challenging to break down what that really means. According to the USDA…
Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations…Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.
That’s all fine, but not necessarily why I choose to eat organic. I think there are many benefits, but the ones that justify my organic food choices are:
- Taste. I notice that there is a significant difference in the taste and quality of the food I buy. It doesn’t always look as pretty (because it’s, you know, a plant), but the apples are crisper, sweeter. The eggs especially taste ten times more delicious than standard eggs. You know how grapes and avocados taste better when they are forced to struggle? I think there’s a lot to be said there. Food that can brave the elements without pesticides and all sorts of chemical whozits and whatzits galore should taste better.
- Variety. When I opt to eat organic, I find I’m more inclined to eat a variety. I eat more local foods and, thus, eat seasonally. There are fewer “staple foods” because things don’t naturally grow year-round. So instead, I diversify my palette and find creative ways to incorporate whatever is in season.
- Support. Since much of organic food is local, buying organically helps support local farmers struggling to make a living (or break even) in my area.
- Health. Even if I can’t always notice the pesticides in standard food and produce, the fact that they’re there tends to bother me. My dad figures that his father’s brain cancer was due in large part to his growing up on a pesticide using farm. If I can avoid risks and eat healthy, more diverse, better tasting food, why wouldn’t I?
|A Boston Organics delivery box.|
When I’m back in Boston and moved into my (gorgeous) new apartment, I plan to start utilizing a program in Boston called Boston Organics. The company compiles bins of organic produce every week that they then delivery to individual homes. Patrons can choose to have deliveries every week or every other week. They can tell the company what is on their “no list,” things that they have no interest in and don’t want delivered. They can choose what percentage of fruit and veggies they want (half and half, 2/3 veggies, all fruit) and what size.
Then, patrons can also add on other organic groceries including staples, bread, peanut butter, even chocolate.
Price wise, I’m looking at about $60 a month for delivery every other week. And at first it seems steep, but that’s what I would likely pay at the grocery store for that kind of produce, anyway. And this way, I get diversity. I’m forced to find new and inventive ways of cooking and storing food. It’s a learning experiment.
Though Boston Organics makes organic easy, there are other (more involved) ways to eat organic. My parents in San Diego actually own part of a local farm. Many farms have programs called CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). There are more than 400 participating farms in America. Basically, farms cut their land up into “shares,” which they then sell to consumers. The farmers benefit in that they are guaranteed a certain amount of income for the season and the consumers reap benefits as well.
My mom’s program is very similar to the organic delivery: She goes to a local farmers’ market every other weekend to pick up a box of organic produce. There’s always a variety of goods (some CSA’s even have flowers) and a newsletter, which includes sample recipes or ideas of how to cook some of the ingredients involved.
Though most CSA programs are like my mom’s, others offer different benefits. The may give discounts at their farm stands or allow consumers to pick their own food from the farm. But either way, the programs encourage a relationship between the consumer and the farmer. It’s important to know from whom and where your food comes from.