Local And Organic
Local and Organic
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Hello Local and Organic
Say Hello to Local and Organic in June
Does buying local and organic really matter? YES! This month, we’ll examine why and when it’s important.
We’ll look at the benefits that organic food has over non-organic food and also consider when it’s okay not to buy organic. We want you to know if it’s important to spend a little more for organic strawberries and mushrooms. We will also explain exactly what the USDA organic logo means so that you know what it is you’re supporting.
As summer approaches and farmers’ markets and CSAs begin, this month is a good time to talk about supporting local as well. Prioritizing local farms may be one of the most worthy causes in terms of our bodies, our communities, and our planet. Many times, local and organic go hand-in-hand.
If you’re curious about the organic difference or the local farmer down the road, let’s jump into June and say #HelloLocalandOrganic!
What are the benefits of buying Organic?
One of the biggest benefits of organic food is that it contains fewer pesticides (and fewer heavy metals too)! Conventional farming uses artificial fertilizers and synthetic pesticides that are not only harmful to our bodies, but harmful to the environment as well. Many of these fertilizers and pesticides are banned in other countries because of the harmful health consequences associated with them; some are even linked to cancer. Yet, our conventional crops continue to be heavily sprayed with these toxins.
Health experts continue to warn of the potential harms to our bodies with repeated exposure to these chemicals. For example, the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) has been classified as a “probable human carcinogen.” It is disturbing to learn that most of us contain pesticide residue in our urine, and the levels of pesticides commonly found in kids in the US may contribute to ADHD.
Most fruits, veggies, and grains that are grown organically don’t use these synthetic pesticides and artificial fertilizers. A large meta analysis found that not only were organically grown crops less likely to contain pesticides, they were also 48% less likely to contain heavy metals.
Additionally, more and more research shows organic produce is linked to higher nutritional values because of the quality of the soil. Many conventionally raised crops are grown in soil that has been so depleted of nutrients that the crop itself contains less nutrients than its organic counterpart. In fact, a paper published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, showed that onions grown organically had a 20% higher antioxidant content than onions grown conventionally.
As it relates to the animal products, organic ensures that the meat and dairy won’t contain synthetic hormones and antibiotics that are widely used in conventional livestock. Animals raised conventionally live in crowded spaces and are pumped with hormones and antibiotics to protect them against illness. When we eat these conventionally raised animals, the antibiotics and hormones are then passed to our bodies, which contributes to widespread antibiotic resistance. Additionally, synthetic hormones have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
Similar to fruits and veggies, studies show that organic meat and dairy contain about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional livestock. This is largely due to the fact that organically raised animals usually spend more time outside with access to their natural habitat. But, don’t always assume that organic equals pasture-raised. It can also mean that the animals were fed organic grains. The real difference in the omega 3 levels come from a diet of grass, bugs, and worms.
Do I always need to buy Organic?
Each year, the Environmental Working Group comes up with a list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. The Dirty Dozen is a list of foods that are likely to contain the highest amount of pesticides and herbicides. Prioritize buying organic for these foods. The Clean Fifteen is a list of produce that tests lowest in pesticides. If you can’t afford organic or don’t have access to organic, these foods would be the safest to consume, in terms of exposure to chemicals. Get a free, printable guide to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen to put on your refrigerator here.
What does the organic symbol mean?
According to the USDA website, “Organic products must be produced using agricultural production practices that foster resource cycling, promote ecological balance, maintain and improve soil and water quality, minimize the use of synthetic materials, and conserve biodiversity.”
In order to use the organic logo (above), farmers and handlers must go through an organic certification process. The standards associated with “organic” address a variety of factors ranging from soil quality, animal-raising practices, and pest and weed control. Additionally, the use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering is not allowed.
For example, organic produce is grown in soil that had no prohibited substances (most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) applied for three years prior to harvest. This explains why organic foods come from healthier, less-depleted soil.
But just because sometime isn’t labeled as USDA organic doesn’t mean it’s bad. Some local farms practice regenerative farming and don’t use any pesticides, but they don’t get the USDA organic certification. It’s important to get to know your farmer and understand the practices and principles they use to grow their food.
Four Different organic labeling categories:
There are four distinct labeling categories for organic products: 100% organic, organic, made with organic ingredients, and specific organic ingredients.
“Made with organic ingredients” means that at least 70% of the product must be certified organic. You won’t see the organic logo on these products.
“Specific organic ingredients” means that products containing multiple ingredients with less than 70% certified-organic ingredients. You won’t see the organic logo, however, you are likely to see which ingredients are organic based on the ingredient list.
Is organic and non-GMO the same?
Do you sometimes see the non-GMO symbol and wonder if it is the same as organic? Turns out these logos are very different and represent completely different things. In fact, the non-GMO label doesn’t mean much except for that the product is not genetically modified. See the chart below to understand the difference between non-GMO and organic.
Why is organic more expensive?
Unfortunately, this one seems backwards! Shouldn’t foods that contain fewer pesticides cost less? Unfortunately, it’s the other way around: organic fruits and vegetables are more expensive than conventional produce for many reasons. One major reason is because of the strict government farming and production standards that organic farmers must meet. (That is, to get certified organic costs money, and sometimes farmers can’t afford that certification, even if they’re using organic farming practices.) Also, organic farming and growing methods yields less food per acre than conventional and organic food is also handled and shipped in smaller quantities, all of which makes it more expensive. There does tend to be a greater loss in crops because farmers are using natural methods.
What are the benefits of buying local?
There are a plethora of benefits to buying local over food grown or raised in different states and even in different countries.
The produce is fresher. This is because the food has not been shipped across the country or world.
Buying local food cuts down on transporting food long distance, which increases carbon emissions that harm our planet.
Along those same lines, local produce usually contains more nutrients. Produce that has to travel usually sits on trucks, trains, and in warehouses before you are able to eat it, and in that time, likely loses many nutrients.
Local foods may support your health. Take honey for example. Buying raw honey that is local to your area is said to help with allergies as the same bees that are around you are the ones pollinating the flowers.
Buying local builds a sense of community. You can get to know the farmers that are growing, touching, and harvesting the food that you are putting in your body. You can ask them questions directly and end up with a better understanding (and greater appreciation) of what your family is eating.
Finally, as stated earlier, local farmers often are organic and support farming practices with principles that go beyond the USDA organic certification. Even if they aren’t certified organic (due to the expense) you’ll find many local farmers are just as dedicated to the health and well-being of their animals and crops as those with an official certification. Always feel free to ask your farmer about the practices they’re using!
Find a local farmer and see if they have a CSA program. You can get the best of both worlds here. You can get organic produce grown locally. Each spring, we participate in a CSA with our favorite local farmers. We love it because we get the freshest produce, often picked the day that we pick up our CSA. We know our farmers. We can support them so that they can continue to support our community for years. We get foods that are grown locally in our city’s backyard, picked at its peak to give us the most nutrients.
hello local & organic challenges:
Use #SuperHeroYOU2022 AND tag @mysuperherofoods on instagram posts and stories
What foods do you always like to buy organic? Post a picture of the product, and tell us why you love it.
Take a picture and tag your local farmer. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the love! Share a product you buy locally, a CSA you support, or a farmstand you like to visit.
Educate your family and friends. Share one of our #HelloLocalandOrganic posts on your stories or feed.