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Which is better in Food: Local, Sustainable, Organic or all?

Now I know what you are thinking, yet another blog post about sustainability, eco-friendly, organic yada yada. But I am excited because I finally found a view on the matter that makes sense!

My beautiful sister gave my fantashtish boyfriend a Southern cookbook with a twist for Christmas, A New Turn in the South by Hugh Acheson.

photo taken from Hugh’s friend’s blog:

Among dozens of pickled recipes (yum!), chanterelle recipes, and fried recipes, this Canadian born, now Georgia-based chef clearly explains in order the importance of these three movements. Here is an excerpt from his book:

A Message About Community

My mantra is this: local first, sustainable second, organic third. Local has impact and impact produces change. Change is the process of making the farming sustainable, and once sustainable the next step is certified organically grown. The demand for immediate and complete change by some food advocates is one that just is not feasible for most farmers and one that the average consumer cannot yet afford. Small steps will win this race and those first small steps are about your local sphere. The small steps that you take as a consumer are multifold: Shop at your farmer’s market, buy local crafts and art, frequent local independent restaurants, buy locally roasted coffee, buy native plants, learn how to garden, don’t eat overly processed foods, know the person who raises your eggs. This has nothing to do with a political stance and everything to do with a community stance. I am not a fanatic, just a believer. I believe in the place we live and in finding ways to make it great everyday. I am endlessly enamored of my local sphere, my community.

It is a clear, direct, non-fussy opinion about what he believes needs to happen to gain a better community with better food. What a breath of fresh air compared to the endless naggy, finger-wagging, scare-tactical, eco-“friendly” blog posts I have read in the past. I am interested in learning more about this stuff but some people involved in this movement make me shy away.

I have always had mixed feelings about jumping on the huge organic bandwagon. It seems like a good idea, right? Pesticides and chemicals = bad; it’s a no-brainer. But then usually once a year somebody dies from eating manure or something on organic spinach. I feel like people assume just because it is organic it means it is good quality. This is not true. For instance, we got some organic bananas but we live in Seattle. Guess where these bananas came from … Ecuador. Of course they could not come from anywhere near the Pacific Northwest. So they tasted fine (though I am not always convinced organic necessarily tastes better) but as expected their quality did not last very long. I have an issue when I think about how far that banana had to travel. How many hands and pieces of machinery did it have to touch? We like to pick up produce and meat in the store and try not to picture where they came from. But that meat did come from cow far away and that carrot was submerged in dirt. We don’t like to think about these things because they are yucky. This total disassociation with our food is a problem.

Now my biggest priority is taste and quality. It just doesn’t seem possible to have these when your food comes from a different continent. Not to mention the carbon footprint of the banana that used who knows how much oil and energy to become better well travelled than myself. Why not put your money in your community and buy local, fresh, and therefore in season food? I try and will try harder to buy farmer’s market food. Additionally, like Acheson mentioned, the local farmer may not have the money right now to become certified organic. They may be very close to being organic already but the farmer does not have to jack up his/her prices. Now if you have the money to buy only organic, by all means go ahead, but do not wag your finger at me or poor people when they simply cannot afford it or have other priorities to spend it on. It is elitist and entices zero interest for them to listen to “your cause.”

So is organic good? Yes, the idea is but we have to consider how we can provide sustainable and organic choices to everyone, not just the upper class. My point is we should not lump organic foods and non organic foods in two categories and that’s it. It is not black and white. There are many different factors that affect your environment, community, and your food.

2 thoughts on “Which is better in Food: Local, Sustainable, Organic or all?

  1. Have you made anything from the book yet? lilili

    1. We made his deviled eggs which were super awesome. I have my eye on the smothered pork chops with chanterelles and can’t wait till summer so we can have some decent tomatoes and I can make the pickled tomato recipe!!

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