Organic vs. Local Produce

I was thrilled, a few weeks back, to find organic grapes back on the shelf.  Most produce suppliers don’t stock organic grapes year-round because the price is too high.  Finally, the price has dropped and for a little while now we will have organic grapes.  I don’t even bother buying non-organic grapes since the pesticide usage on grapes is among the highest of all produce.  So I was pleased to pick up a package, priced at $3.29/lb and give my family a sweet treat.  Then I saw the label: Product of Mexico.  My elation sank back to realism and I soberly added it to my basket. 
I buy organic food, quite frankly, so I don’t expose my family to toxic pesticides that are sprayed on non-organic produce.  (Yeah, yeah, I know, certified organic doesn’t mean pesticide-free… but that’s for another post.)  There are studies that claim organic food has better flavour and higher nutritional value than non-organic food.  I also buy it because it is more environmentally friendly.   The soil isn’t fed a chemical cocktail to improve growth rates.  But organic produce may travel thousands of miles to reach me, and it is the carbon footprint from these miles that disturbs me.  Naturally, I would buy organic, local produce over anything else, but local food is often not organic.  I don’t live in a gardener’s paradise where you can grow anything, all year round.  I live in a climate where, if you are lucky, you can grow a variety of (non-tropical) produce during a few months of they year.  Rain can ruin a garden season in a matter of days, here.  So local farmers don’t always choose the organic route.  They choose the most successful route.

Produce that is fresh from the farm, that hasn’t sat in a shipping container for days (or weeks) before it is placed on the shelf, often has a higher nutrient value.  It looks, feels, smells and tastes better.  But has it been sprayed with chemicals to protect it from pests?  We don’t know.  Probably.
Buying local produce supports our local economy.  Buying from a local farmer will mean his money will go back into our local economy, and will contribute to our taxes, bringing us education, medical coverage, and parks and recreational benefits.  I love to buy local.  But I don’t love to buy anything that may harm my family.
It’s a tricky question and one that I think can only be answered by personal choice.  We can contact local farmers and see if they are using pesticides.  We can grow our own organic produce.  We can trust our Canadian government who allows (or refuses) the use of certain pesticides on our crops.  Or we can buy strictly organic, regardless of where the produce comes from.  Me?  I am leaning towards organic for health’s sake.  Give me local AND organic and I will buy it in a flash.   What I can’t grow I will have to make a decision on whether or not it will be an acceptable item to feed to my family.    And in the mean time, I think I will buy the organic grapes and hope my own garden will offset some of the fuel burned getting organic grapes to the local grocery shelves.  You can’t win them all but you can certainly do what you think is best for your family.
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