Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 19--Buying Local vs. Buying Organic vs. Food Variety

I haven't really posted a lot about where my food comes from.  It's something I'm still struggling to figure out.  A lot of what I've read and learned suggests we should only eat fruits and veggies that are in season locally, and we should buy from local vendors.  Others say you should buy organic, even if you live in Pennsylvania and that organic orange came from California.  And then there's those who say that the ideal, of course, is to buy produce that's both organic and local.

The reason I struggle, and I'm sure many Americans run into this, is because I really only know how to shop at a supermarket.  The "local" produce there is really limited (right now it's pretty much corn), and the organic produce is also limited (bags of lemons, apples and oranges), and there is no cross-section.  So for the time being, I'm relegated to traditional produce.  I will say this for my supermarket:  their selection is fantastic, their produce is always good-looking, and I almost never have to worry about something going bad before its time.

And, of course, this isn't the only grocery mart in town.  We also have a less-awesome supermarket, two family-owned local grocery stores, a central market, and a few organic/local marts.  Oh, and of course, this is Central PA! Home of the summertime Amish roadside stand!  So it's not like I don't have options.  They're just not always the most convenient ones.    The markets are downtown, and some are only open on Friday (while I'm at work in another county); the family markets have  less selection and sometimes obscenely long checkout lines that make a quick after-work stop for soymilk into the stuff of nightmares; and the Amish--I have ethical issues with them that are probably better served by another post.

It doesn't help that I'm still torn on the idea of whether "organic" really does equal "better."  It's not an easy question to answer.  If my high school civics teacher didn't teach me anything else, he definitly taught me about questioning sources.  Every movie that's out there touting the horrors of pesticides and GMOs has an agenda.  However, so does every government study that say there's no harm in these things. (Really, it would undo the entire American farming industry!)  So where is the truth, and how would we even know to trust it if we saw it?  What you feed your family seems like one of those things where you'd want to err on the side of caution and buy organic--but if there really is no difference, then that's a lot of wasted money!

I think my ideal lies in a combination of local and regular food.  Local food just tastes better; anyone who's ever grown their own tomatoes can tell you that.  But I still need variety.  I don't think I can live without avocado, and they just don't grow around here.  I'm going to try to make it to Central Market this Friday, see how I can make out with local food (and how I resist the temptation of apple dumplings and other orgasmically good PA Dutch treats).  Oh, and it's officially fall.  I need a pumpkin!

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