Local vs Certified organic

Guest post by Christina Radisauskas

Last week I went to a film and discussion series entited “Label Me Confused: What organic, free range, and all those other words really mean” at a local theater. Several organic farmers gathered to discuss the benefits of choosing to eat locally produced and/or organic foods rather than typical supermarket fare. It started with the showing of the film “My Father’s Garden,” a documentary about the perils of using chemical pesticides and fertilizers (50% of the top soil in the U.S. is just GONE!). Afterwards, a panel of local farmers discussed the processes of becoming certified as organic farmers, and what the labels on the food we buy really mean. Of most interest to me was the question of whether buying certified organic food was better than buying locally produced food. The average food item in the United States travels 1500 miles before reaching the dinner table! And many local farmers use sustainable and/or organic processes on their farms. Becoming certified is expensive and time-consuming, and a lot of small, local farmers just don’t do it.

Here are some links of interest-

Sustainabletable.org – A site addressing many issues of eating, living, and growing sustainably. The ‘shop’ page is helpful in finding conveniently located stores that sell locally produced food items.

eco-labels.com – A site devoted to clearing up what labels really mean.

Short articles addressing local vs. organic foods:





Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

5 thoughts on “Local vs Certified organic

  1. This is a good topic of discussion. Ultimately I think buying local is the better choice, especially if you buy from a farmer’s market where you can talk to the grower about their practices, etc.

  2. I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic for the last few days because I’ve been reading the just-released and much-anticipated (by me, anyway) book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which is about this question exactly. I’m halfway through it and it’s great. I’m learning so much about different kinds of farming and ranching strategies (industrial to smallscale sustainable/organic, and everything in between), and also about their myriad causes and ramifications (economic, environmental, nutritive, cultural) that I can’t recommend this book heartily enough to people who are interested in this thread.

    Anyway, my two cents is that local is generally better, and that it’s often organic to boot (just not “officially” so–and, anyway, it’s uaully pretty easy to figure out where your local farmers stand), BUT that big organic is such a important improvement over typical industrial agriculture that we shouldn’t feel like we have to pick sides.

  3. I agree, last week I spent more on an organic red pepper at the supermarket near my house. I read the tag on it (the one that has the number for ringing up) and realized it was grown in Mexico.
    All of the resources used getting the pepper from there to here made me question the integrity of buying organic.

  4. I agree that local is almost always better. Unfortunately, we can’t buy local red peppers in April in Toronto, or at least not organic ones, unless someone’s been holding out about an organic hydroponic pepper grower that I haven’t heard of. Agribusiness should be rewarded for growing organic, however, or else they will just keep dumping more chemicals on our food. I guess what I’m saying is that the occasional organic pepper from Mexico is a reasonable compromise as long as you’re making a concerted effort to buy locally most of the time. It’s not a perfect world, more’s the pity.

  5. local organic is probably always the best.

    some (FOE etc) believe and so do I that even though much of the positive environmental of buying organic produce from the other side of the world is lost by transportation it could work as a signal from consumers to the local producers that they want organic produce. far fetched?

    if the choice is between a toxin laden or organically grown banana even if it is from a far away country the choice is pretty obvious …

    buying vegetables of the season is also important. an example: in winter in sweden buying tomatoes grown in the canaries requires a less energy than tomatoes grown in greenhouses in sweden. so if they are grown according to the same scheme the tomatoes from the canaries has a better environmental impact in spite of the long haul.

    this is probably the reason why one should aim for buying local produce that are in (their natural) season.

Comments are closed.