Once upon a time, fields very much like the one in this picture were part of my life. I grew up in Dover, Delaware. Just south of Dover outside the little town of Magnolia were acres of potatoes and peach orchards. A little further down the road another farm had huge fields of strawberries alongside the fall crops of broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. The farmers who raised these crops (Appenzeller and Tuthill) were family friends. My parents made sure we purchased enough produce to fill our freezer to capacity. This was local farming at its finest.
In those times the word “Organic” wasn’t used let alone capitalized. Today we have rules from the USDA about offering organic foods. There are many guidelines, the first requirement is for the fields to be free of chemicals for three years before the crops may be sold as organic. Regardless of whether you’re a family owned farm or a conglomerate the decision to grow organic is difficult. Some farmers feel it is a spiritual calling, a chance to offer chemical free food. For everyone undertaking this path it’s a big risk to compete with conventional farming while you try to shift to organic farming. Even so organic farming is a growing industry — no pun intended.
Old School farming had techniques for increasing yields by planting the seeds they had saved from the crops of the previous year. Seeds that were from the healthiest part of the harvest. Then crop rotation year to year along with clover or alfalfa (to replace nitrogen) was standard operating procedure. As a kid, I thought it was the law!
Did they use chemicals and pesticides? To an extent they did. There is no argument that the use of genetically modified seed and chemical cocktails is much greater today than it was in the 60′s and early 70′s (I’ve dated myself here). However, the organic argument goes beyond chemicals in our food. What about chemicals on our Planet? Stop the use of chemicals in farming and save the planet. While organic looks to be an earth friendly venture arguments can be made to the contrary. Does the transport of food eradicate efforts to save the Planet because of the carbon footprint left behind? The need for increased food production bears part of the blame for the change in farming, but we aren’t debating the growth issue.
Getting back to the Local or Organic question above. Organic food is better to ingest because it’s chemical free. Not necessarily easy for our bank account. I’m an advocate of living chemical free, but recognize that it goes beyond the food we eat. Consider your shampoo, toothpaste, cleaning agents, and the air we breathe. We are surrounded by an environmental chemical stew, and still want to be healthy. So with all this other chemical residue does a clean diet really help? What could be the answer for us?
Every little bit helps. First you must look at the source for your food and try to purchase the best food you can afford. If you’re in the grocery store, look for the USDA organic seal. If your food doesn’t have this seal then it isn’t organic by the government standards. If you can’t buy organic then look around for a local produce stand. Buy from the local farmer — even if they are not organic. We need to support the American farmer. Regardless of where you purchase your produce always wash before eating. It will take off the chemicals which might remain on the food.
It saddens me to see the farms from my childhood. They were never agricultural giants, but those men were HUGE in my eyes. The salt of the earth kind of people who raised their children to appreciate the land, love God, and cherish family. I was fortunate to have been one of those kids.
All arguments aside for a moment, please. It isn’t a matter of one or the other — Local or Organic. Do the best you can when you buy your food. Remember that we need to eat fresh, real food regularly.