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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Local vs. Organic

Do you know where your food comes from? Do you know how many miles your apple traveled so you could crunch on it's juicy goodness? You should. I read labels like it's going out of style (was it ever IN style?). I want to know where my food is produced. I've been known to come home from the grocery store and look up the farm who has their sticker on my avocado.

Luckily for me, Montana and the surrounding states have a huge number of organic farms. AND, if it's not organic, it's local. BUT SARA! Aren't we always supposed to eat organic so we don't die a horrible pesticide-induced death? Well...yes. However, buying local has many, many advantages. I love going to the farmer's market and meeting the farmer's face to face. When I eat that delicious, red, tomato...I know who picked it. If the farm is not certified organic, I am able to just ask the farmer what they use on their produce. There were several vendors in Iowa at the Farmer's Market who were not certified, but did not use pesticides. You just have to ask. However, it's harder to call up the corporate farm in California what they used on their crops.

I started thinking more about buying local foods when I found the 100-mile diet site. It's radical and wonderful. I love my avocados and bananas a little too much to do it, but I love the concept. Last summer when we had a share in our local CSA, I experienced a little of what it might be like to eat 100% local and 100% in season. When the tomatoes were done, they were done. You better savor it now, because pretty soon, they won't grow anymore! Boo hoo! But it made me appreciate the food so much more. Someday, I would love to grow all of our food...canning and preserving along the way to sustain us through the winter. Oh, and I want to live in a sweet yurt. But that's another blog.

On my most recent trip to the coop, I was looking at salsa and I was disappointed because almost all of them were made by "big organics" (companies who are owned by a larger, nastier corporation...i.e. Boca, which is owned by Phillip Morris! Oh the horrors!). So I turned around and in the cooler, I found a yummy, bright red salsa made just a few miles north of town! It was not organic, but in that case, I would much rather support my local grower than Muir Glen...which is owned by General Mills. It also tasted so much better than the jarred variety.

I walked over to the bread section and I made sure to grab 2 loaves made locally by Wheat Montana instead of the Rudy's, which I used to buy. They aren't organic, but they have the ingredients I look for and no added sugars...except honey. AND, they are made right here. We also have a delicious bakery just a few blocks from our house called On the Rise...and I buy yummy crusty bread from them.

If I can't find something completely local, I go for the next best thing...the surrounding states. I will choose Oregon, North Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin over other states. Be sure to READ your labels! Every mile your food travels (a.k.a. food miles) to get to you is gasoline being burned and resources being used up. Most sources say that the average piece of produce travels about 1,200 miles to get to your plate. Yuck! I just don't like the thought of all my food traveling in a truck to get to me. I especially don't like thinking about buying food from other countries. How do I know that those organic grapes from Chile are truly organic...and who knows what kind of residues are on them from the trip. Call me paranoid. Just another reason to buy close to home or grow your own.

When we are thinking about going out to eat...we try to always think about where the restaurant is getting their food as well. We have a great Farm to Restaurant program here...and most of the places we support buy locally, and some are organic too. We have so many amazing local restaurants here...the food is so fresh and perfectly prepared. Living in a tourist town has it's perks.

To sum it up...buying local is tastier, better for your local economy, and great for your body. If you can find something that is local AND organic, life is good. KNOW your food. KNOW your farms. Where you put your grocery money is as important as your vote! Be informed about your food choices.

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Anonymous HippieMommy said...

I was just thinking about this today. The Boulder Farmers Market is finally open, and I just love it so much. We did a CSA last year, and I am debating between doing a CSA again or just buying each week from the farmer's market. Decisions, decisions!

Both the earth and our bodies benefit from local food. I don't know why we ever settle for anything less - so long as local food is available. I have heard it described that fresh and local veggies taste more like themselves, and I think that is the perfect description :)

4/21/2007 4:51 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Oh, I so wish we had a good farmer's market near me. It seems so difficult to get good fresh produce up here in Maine. This is definitely one more tidbit I'll stick in the new changes file of my brain. BTW, have any thoughts, comments, experiences with the Hallelujah Diet?

4/21/2007 5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so excited for our farmers markets starting up again.
You can also find farms around your area online and I have found quite a few to call up this year.

4/21/2007 6:59 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Right on Sara...I am looking forward to Boulder's farmer's market this season.

Jan and I ate a meal right off her parents farm tonight and it was the best food I've tasted all year. We have not been able to enjoy these meals since moving to CO a year ago. Talk about knowing your food. My wife grew up there and we both have seen it grown and helped harvest it ourselves.

4/21/2007 8:04 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

My hubby and I were just talking about this earlier. We try to eat as organic as possible but I too don't like the thought of things traveling all the way from who knows where. Thanks for this timely post and as always thanks for the resources.

4/21/2007 8:19 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

This is great, Sara.
I read a book a few months ago:
This Organic Life:Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader by Joan Dye Gussow. She really opened my eyes to your point on tomatos in season. Why should we have strawberries in winter? EAt them in summer, when they are in season and supposed to be enjoyed, that way you enjoy them way more--like a treat.
She also talks a lot about local food.
Anyway..good post and links!

4/21/2007 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What state does your coffee come from?


4/21/2007 9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love buying local when I can. I've also gotten to know quite a few sustainable farmers in Iowa, so I know how they grow their food even if it's not certified organic.

At farmer's markets, you really can just ask the farmers you don't know, what was sprayed and what wasn't sprayed? They will tell you. I don't think they are lying, because if they were lying wouldn't they just tell you nothing is sprayed? Often they'll say, well, I didn't use anything on this or that, but this has bene sprayed.

A friend of mine used to live in a yurt. She liked it and I think she would still be living there, except that she wanted to move back to Des Moines for a job.


4/21/2007 10:32 PM  
Anonymous MelanieMC said...

Another great post!
Like others have said, I'm really excited for our local farmers market to start up (next weekend!!!). There are several farmers there that aren't certified organic (which I can understand b/c it does cost them a lot to get certified), but don't use any pesticides on their produce. Isn't it wonderful when you can get organic and local all in one?! I love knowing that my fruit/veggies are fresh and chemical free, and that I'm supporting small farmers in my area.

God Bless!!!

4/21/2007 11:42 PM  
Blogger Serena said...

I cannot express how much I love your blog. It's as though you've taken all of my disjointed, unclear thoughts and crafted them into something reasonable, clear, and inspiring. I should just stop blogging and put up a banner that says "For what I think, go to Sara's blog."

I am waiting eagerly for my local farmer's market to start up. A friend and I usually go together, which makes it extra fun. (I want to know how the Boulder market has started up already, while here in California I have to wait until June! That simply doesn't make sense to me! Though I'm happy for those of you in Boulder.) I usually go to a market that takes place at our local fairgrounds, but there is a market in at least one other place in town on every day of the week but Sunday, so I am very fortunate!

4/22/2007 3:42 AM  
Anonymous Ellen said...

This is such a good point I had never stopped to consider. I was all happy that there is alot more "main stream" access to organic products but when you point out who's running the show, yikes indeed. Also I hadn't thought about the gasoline to ship the produce. Ughhh. I am growing a garden that in a month or so will feed us through the summer and probably a little of fall. However, I will definitely factor in what you've said and try to do my part.

PS - Did you see Oprah's "going green" special? I was a little disappointed overall. There was a lady featured whose big tip was use one less paper napkin a day. Oprah asked at one point if it wouldn't be better if we used cloth all the time and nobody really jumped up and said YES! Sheesh, I hate to think all of suburbia now thinks of themselves as environmentalist for only throwing away 5 paper napkins a day!

4/22/2007 1:39 PM  
Blogger Hope said...

Would you be willing to post some ideas for us working gals? I LOVE your blog and admire you so much, but I just don't have the time to make my own condiments and I need to be able to freeze meals and have containers to bring them to work in. Any ideas for freezing containers that aren't plastic bags or disposable tupperware?

I've had a set of tupperware for years that I bring meals in (though I don't think I can microwave the tupperware) and also a cloth lunch bag.

4/22/2007 1:47 PM  
Blogger Rach said...

Our last tomatoes are on the vine. I think they'll end up as green tomato chutney! But we're not sad about them finishing - we've eaten our fill and now the feijoas are starting.
This summer we have grown *most* of our veges and a good part of our fruit too - not bad for a quarter acre section in suburbia - especially bearing in mind we feed eight children and three adults.
You can do it if you want to!

And right now we're working on going to live in a yurt in Mongolia!

4/22/2007 1:52 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Ahhh...the Boulder coop. Love it. In fact, the photo is one I took there last summer. coffee is roasted and distributed locally, and is fair-trade, organic and shade grown. can freeze things in jars too. There are several types of stainless steel lunch carriers. Try Bento or ToGoWare. Hope that helps!

4/22/2007 2:57 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

I meant to say Boulder farmer's market...but I do love the coop equally. :)Cafe Prasad is the best!

4/22/2007 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Kim in IN said...

I agree Sara,that it is so important to buy local if you can. I try to gauge by the severity of the pesticide use on the fruit or veggie.For instance,apples have one of the highest concentrations of pesticides,so it's very important to me that they are always organic,and on the flip side avocados for us don't HAVE to be organic because they are lower on the pesticide scale. I think sometimes we can be kinda organic crazy. I've tried to be a little more realistic and not so dogmatic about it.

4/22/2007 6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found your site on Adventures in Babywearing. You have a lot of great information and ideas!! I am becoming more earth friendly and I love to have the ideas!! Thanks!

4/23/2007 6:07 AM  
Blogger Aisling said...

Sara, You've made some really good points. Like you, I won't give up my bananas and avocados at this point, but buy as many things locally as I can. This year my goal is to do a lot better on growing and preserving my own veggies (like I used too!) to minimize my ecological footprint. What I can't or don't grow, I'll buy in quantity at the farmer's market and preserve. Thanks for your thoughtful insights!

4/23/2007 9:57 AM  
Anonymous danica said...

Hi Sara.

I came across your site after following a long trail of links! Amazing how totally lost you can get in the blogosphere!

Anyway, I thought you, or maybe one of your readers, would have a good suggestion for a safe sunscreen. I'm fair, and I have a new baby this summer, so burning is a concern -- but so is rubbing chemicals all over my body every day.


4/23/2007 11:17 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

And I'm trying to go local in ways I hadn't considered before... by foraging in my own backyard and in local woodlands and wetlands. Did you know you can use the pollen from cattails to make biscuits and breads? About 12 cattails supply one cup. Pretty cool. Pretty local. And pretty organic too. :)

4/23/2007 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Rachael said...

There was an article on this recently in the Seattle Times. I cut it out and it's hanging on our fridge. Check this out--

"New Jersey consumers' year round fresh tomato craving burns the fossil fuel equivalent of driving an 18-wheeler to the moon and back 13 times."

The article says that eating locally, seasonally, organic, ditching bottled water, eating less meat & junk food, and eating less in general makes a huge difference globally. Here's another excerpt:

"Americans consume more calories from soft drinks than any other single food. To supply enough high-fructose corn syrup to sweeten this 53 GALLON PER PERSON PER YEAR habit, we use a land area nearly twice the size of Rhode Island to grow the corn and use up enough gasoline in the process of manufacturing the fertilizer and pesticides and powering the machinery to till the land, irrigate, harvest, and transport the crop to drive more than 6,000 Priuses from New York City to Los Angeles and back."

4/23/2007 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...


I always find inspiration/challenge in your posts. I have been thinking about eating local for a few months and want to change our eating and buying habits. Don't ban me from commenting with this next comment ; - ) . . . but I know for a fact that our local McDonald's gets local organic eggs to use in their breakfast dishes. Should I eat there? HA!

4/23/2007 6:10 PM  
Blogger Fiddle Mama said...

Another great post- thank you. There's a really good article in the current issue of Mother Jones about eating locally and it's by one of my favorite authors- Barbara Kingsolver. Check it out if you have a chance. If you don't have access to the mag, contact me via my blog and I'd be happy to mail you the article.

Thanks again,

P.S. Our farmer's market season begins next week and I am SO excited!!!

4/24/2007 2:34 PM  
Blogger Melonie said...

You've reminded me that our local farmers market should be open by now too! I agree with your point that local food is often organic, even if it's not CERTIFIED. So many small farms use organic methods but can't afford to go through the certification process, so they can't use the USDA seal. But if one asks how they farm, they'll describe the very methods we're looking for! :-P THANK YOU for informing people about this!

4/24/2007 10:34 PM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

I just wanted to leave a note about the certified organic thing. We shop at our local farmer's market and the Nebraska Coop for our local goods and many of the farms are not "Certified Organic" but they practice the same standards. Apparently it is pretty costly to get that label, and for local small family farms it's just not within reach. They have a different title through a different organization that I can post the link to, and it's something like "naturally raised", or to that extent. Meaning that they used sustainable ag practices, no pesticides, etc. Like Sara said, just ask those farmers, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how many of them practice a green growing plan. :O) Happy Eating!! By the way, I love your blog Sara, I just found it through Cat's website where she tagged you for the "thinking blogger". We are following a similar path in our family (and even geographically...we're just outside of Lincoln, lol) and it's very encouraging to read your posts and challenges. Thanks so much!

4/25/2007 5:12 AM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

Well, I'm not tech savvy enough to know how to post a link here in the comments section, so I just copied and pasted this info from our coop site. Hope that helps. :O)

"Certified Naturally Grown is a non-profit alternative eco-labeling program for family farms that grow using USDA Organic methods but are not part of the USDA Certified Organic program. Certified Naturally Grown is only open to family farmers who sell their products locally, and provides farmers with a nationally recognized label supported by national and international environmental groups, health organizations, and agricultural groups – including the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. With nearly 500 family farms all across the United States, Certified Naturally Grown is the largest grassroots alternative to agribusiness organic in the country."

4/25/2007 5:17 AM  
Blogger Pea said...

I want to live in a yurt, too! I have had this dream for a long time now. I hope to realize it some day. We joined a CSA about 2 months ago and what a wake-up call. I'm learning a lot of new ways for preparing foods I never knew existed.

4/25/2007 8:15 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

One of the reasons I miss living in China is having a close veggie market nearby. Now I have to drive 20 miles to get to one! :(

But I wanted to share a link that shows

our family's visit to a real yurt last Fall in China...

4/25/2007 10:03 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

For finding the organic produce closest to you, you might like this site...

4/25/2007 11:56 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Hmmm... it didn't post. Let me try again...

4/25/2007 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4/26/2007 6:50 AM  
Blogger jtcosby said...

Can you please send some good stuff our way! Apparently everyone in Murfreesboro thinks we are not capable of having much of a farmers market or is a short term thing and hasn't started yet this year. I am really wanting healthier food..ugh! :) I found a recipe for homemade peanut butter, trying to do it today or tomorrow...any other ideas for healthier living?

4/26/2007 7:27 AM  
Blogger Lynds said...

I love visiting our farmers market, and am excited when it opens again. We live in the Cedar Valley of Iowa, and I've never been to the one in Des Moines, but plan to when I visit my friend in those parts. Ive just read so many good things about it, from you and others, that it seems a shame I've never been.

I agree on your points on organic vs local, and found last year that like sheeps wool, its not easy to get certified organic, nor cheap, but that there are local farmers in my area that are.

4/26/2007 9:11 AM  
Anonymous Loren said...

I recently found your blog and I really enjoy reading what you have to share. It is inspiring me as I embark on my own journey towards a greener life.

As for the salsa, maybe consider canning your own this summer with some of the tomatoes from your CSA or the farm market. I am new to canning and I too put it off for years thinking that I would wait till I had my own garden or wait until I could find someone to come into my kitchen and help walk me through it. But, I am learning on my own and finding that it is much easier then I thought it would be. Aesthetically speaking, there is something deeply satisfying about feeding your family food you have preserved lovingly and know the history of beginning to end.
Best wishes to you and yours!

4/26/2007 9:16 AM  
Blogger Jen. said...

Did you read "No Impact Man" today? He's plugging the book "Plenty", about the 100 mile diet. I bought it today (from an independent bookseller) & it's great! Lots of 'food for thought'. Maybe you can talk your librarian into ordering a copy? (I'm doing a modified compact - buying used or from locally owned stores, so new books are ok if I get them from Quail Ridge)

4/26/2007 5:16 PM  
Anonymous nikki98 said...

Really I think supporting local produce is the way to go, especially with all the recent food scares (and if possible it is better to grow a garden). I already purchase organic produce, but sometimes when I see that it is from Mexico or Chile, I feel a little disappointed. We are so removed from our food as a society so I like that farmers markets can make us feel more connected. Hey Sara, just curious are you vegetarian or vegan? Thanks, Nikki

4/26/2007 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Laura Reaux said...

I happened upon your blog recently through flickr. This is a great post! I am just really wanting to be more aware of things like this, starting while my kids are young. Thanks for the tips!

By the way, I love your little home. :)

4/27/2007 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

Hey Sara! I've been reading your blog for the last few months, and I LOVE IT!!! I have gleaned so much information, and I am sooo interested in all this stuff you talk about! Thank you for sharing your insight! I just wanted to ask you about fair trade coffee, chocolate and clothing. What are your thoughts and practices with this, and do you have any advice about where and where not to shop when it comes to fair trade? Thanks!

4/27/2007 4:20 PM  
Blogger Living On Faith said...

I came across your blog through many links. I've never bought organic food before, but have really considered changing. I wish we had a Farmers Market in my area. We have a Fresh Market with organic food. Its crazy expensive.

4/28/2007 12:35 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

nikki...I'm currently vegetarian (eating eggs and occasionally cheese), but have been vegan and raw vegan in the past.

Jenn...It's pretty easy to find Fair Trade coffee and chocolate now; it's becoming very "trendy" :) Just be sure to look for the fair trade label on everything. Also look for shade grown saves the birds! As for clothing...a great source would be American Apparel. American made and fair wages. Great company.

Living on Faith...If you have a large chain grocery store in your area, I can almost bet that they will carry some organics. Even in really small towns across the nation, they are starting to get a lot of organics. Start out with the "dirty dozen" and work from there. The dirty dozen is a list of fruits and veggies that are the worst offenders when it comes to pesticides. Google on it...there is a lot of great info out there. Thanks for stopping by!

4/28/2007 2:43 PM  

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