First and foremost, let me just say that I am not a nutritional expert. I’m an average person that has spent the last several years of my life learning about health and wellness. While I have a background in horticulture, much of my plant knowledge is based on old-school ornamental landscape plants. My interest in organic plants began several years ago and really took off when my parents decided to make a lifestyle change in their 60’s with the purchase of 20 acres in rural Ohio and a dream to start farming.
This transition that my parents made helped kick-start the interest in organic gardening that was already in its infancy at that time. Prior to their move to become farmers, I was working as an apprentice at a local farm in North Carolina learning different organic farming methods. By this time, organic foods had become mainstream enough that most of us have come to understand that McDonald’s is bad and vegetables are good. Moreover, organic vegetables were better. This is *almost* common knowledge. There is still much work to be done here.
However, those of us who are “in the know” also understand that while organic is good…local is better. There’s been a movement over the past few years to “think global and buy local.” If you were to make a trip to your local Whole Foods or specialty store and get chatty with one of the people buying organic vegetables, they would most certainly agree with you that organic is better than conventionally grown vegetables and that locally grown vegetables are better than organically grown vegetables (shipped in from somewhere). While most of us can agree on these principles…I’d like to share with you my opinion on why this is – from a nutritional standpoint.
While organic vegetables are good due to the fact that no “chemicals” are used – the reality is that many organic farms are little more than large-scale farms that also are capable of depleting the soil of nutrients. When this occurs, you can end up with a fruit or vegetable that looks good – but doesn’t really have a substantial edge with regard to the nutritional value it provides. When you buy local…especially from your farmer’s markets – the likelihood of your fruits and vegetables having a greater nutritional value is much higher.
This is partially due to the fact that many small-scale farmers utilize farming practices that are considerably less detrimental to the soil. More often than not, they are not using industrial farming equipment to cultivate and harvest their crops and the diversity of the varieties of plants grown are higher and, quite often, tailored to the area in which you are living; unless your farmers’ market has farmers that are buying and shipping in produce from other parts of the state…which is increasingly a common practice.
So…while, “buy fresh, buy local” is better than “supermarket organic” – there is an even better way to approach your farmers’ markets, if you have the time and feel so inclined. When you purchase food from your local farmers – ask them if you can stop by their farm sometime and visit. This is a great way to see the way your food is grown and gives you an opportunity to see the actual soil from where it comes from.
Often times, farmers welcome people to come over and visit their farm operations. Sometimes, they have an “open door” policy and you can simply drop by any time, but other farmers prefer stopping by on certain days of the week due to family, work, or perhaps other obligations and/or legal reasons. Be respectful of your farmer and the manner in which he or she operates the farm.
Be wary of the farmer who is not welcoming of people visiting their farm…chances are, there is a reason that they may not want you visiting their farm. This is not necessarily an indicator of poor farming practices, but it could be. For example, my parents don’t subscribe to the “open door” policy of farming yet, because we are a new farm and still trying to “figure things out.” The reality is that we’re learning and a little self-conscious of our mistakes.
The bottom line is that, chances are, food purchased from your local farmers’ market has a higher nutritional value than organic food purchased at the supermarket. Moreover, if you can visit your local farmer and take a tour of the farm where your food comes from, then you build a relationship with the one that grows your food. Not only do you ensure that your food has good nutritional content as well – but you ensure that your life has good substance as well. Good food from good communities.
Resistance is fertile.