Why Eat Local?


What is Organic Food?

All food use to be organic, as of course did all farms. Food was grown with nature, using items found on the farm for fertilizer - something like what we now call compost; pests were repelled by physical methods - or suffered.

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What is Organic?

1History of Organic Farming
During the Industrial Revolution, man-made chemicals were created which would fertilize the soil; others were created to repel or kill pests. These chemicals often did what they were advertised to do, but they usually did more. Pesticides not only killed target pests, but killed or made sick non-target pests. These chemicals can also make humans sick, although how they do so and how frequently they do are difficult to document and so have been the subject of much debate for a long time. Some people decided not to wait for definitive results. Exercising the precautionary principle, they decided to grow food without man-made chemicals, or with a limited number of chemicals, which they deemed safe. Starting in the first half of the twentieth century, people called such food Organic. There were claims that they were going backward, but they argued that this was not the case. They were studying, scientifically, how to grow better without using man-made chemicals. Over the decades the formulation of organic farming and organic food became gradually more formal. This was necessitated due to people who wanted to take advantage of the increasing perception that organic food was better, but not wanting to follow the methods, and so fraudulently labeling food that was not organic as organic.
2How Can We Tell if Food is Organic?
A federal law passed in the year 2000, which defined Organic in statute. If food is “Certified Organic” - contains the “USDA Organic” seal, it follows a rigorous program of chemical free production that is backed by the US government. Some people think the program could be more rigorous, and there is still occasional fraud, but overall eaters can trust that Organic food is grown according to a program and is substantially man-made chemical free.

Why Buy Local and Farm Fresh Food?

1Avoid Ingesting Chemicals
The primary reason we eat organic food is to avoid those man-made chemicals. They are shown to have much less chemical residue than non-organic foods. It is possible that man-made chemicals are found in trace amounts on such foods - airborne pollution is impossible to stop - but on the whole organic foods are cleaner - freer of such residues.
2The Taste and Freshness
Perhaps the most important reason to buy local food is taste. Local food, not having travelled far, will be fresher. It will have been picked closer to ripeness, since it has traveled less. Food picked before it ripens will ripen on the shelf, but it will never achieve the full flavor of food ripened on the plant. Riper food tends to be more nutritious, the compounds that give flavor also tend to be good for the eater.
3Help Lessen Climate Change
People who worry about climate change often want to buy local food. While there are great variations in the emissions generated when food is transported due to the method of transportation, in general the shorter the distance for any given food item the fewer emissions will be generated in getting it to you.
4A Strong Local Economy
Finally, local food is good for your local economy. When you buy locally, the money you spend will employ someone in your community, who will spend a portion of his/her salary on purchasing things locally. The more local purchasing done in a community, the more money circulates locally, building a more resilient local economy.

What to Expect from Farm Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

1Expect the Food to be Tastier
In general, the farm fresh food will be tastier. It is riper. The varieties are often grown for taste. These varieties may only have a one week shelf life, but since you get them the day after they are picked, most of that time is yours. Supermarket varieties often have three-week shelf lives, but you won’t get them until they are about two-week old.
2Don’t Eat With Your Eyes
We have been taught to eat with our eyes. We shouldn’t. The heirloom tomato is now the poster child for funny-looking fruit. It’s bumps and curves bother some people, but the taste wins them over. We should expect diversity in shape and size and color in our food - there are hundreds to thousands of varieties of each kind of produce in nature.
3Perfect vs. Imperfect Produce
Unless you specifically purchase “imperfect produce”, the food you get should be minimally blemished. Some farms will include fruit with something that looks like a scab, a spot that brushed up against a branch or stalk - these spots can be eaten or cut away. Supermarkets do not allow such food on their shelves. A little variation in coloration may show you where food is ripening the fastest, the spot at which it will eventually start to go bad. It should not be bad when you get it.
4If You Get a Bad Spot
Even in farm fresh food, insect damage, bruises and rot should not generally be found, though they can be. If you find a little, you can usually cut around it. In its early stages, the bulk of the produce will not be affected. If you find a lot and regularly, you should notify the farm, which may have a packaging issue in need of correction.

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