Organic + Local = Best

December 15, 2011

Imagine you are at the supermarket and there are three groups of grapes displayed in front of you. The first is Organic, grown in California. The second is imported from Chile. The third is from a local farm in Connecticut. Which would you choose? Many people would instinctually pick the organic grapes as the best choice, but may only have a vague idea as to why. Read on for some thought-provoking reasons to buy not only organic, but local food, as well.


Let’s first consider organically grown food and what that means. In order for agricultural products to carry the “organic” seal, the land they are grown on must have gone through a three-year transition period to ensure that crops are free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. In addition, the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, and genetically modified organisms is strictly prohibited.


The most obvious reason to buy organically-grown food is that is it is not sprayed with pesticides. In order to avoid ingesting these toxic chemicals, ourselves, it is not entirely a matter of washing them off the produce (although this is always helpful and should be done) because the pesticides can be absorbed into the food, leaving trace residues.


Another important and perhaps lesser-known reason to buy organic food is for nutritional superiority. Studies show that organic produce can contain significantly higher levels of some nutrients (including vitamin C, zinc and iron) and antioxidants than its conventional counterparts. This difference in nutritional quality may come down to the soil fertility of organically-grown foods.


The nitrogen present in composted soil is released slowly, allowing plants to grow at a normal rate, with their nutrients in balance. In contrast, conventional fertilizers used on commercial farms will cause produce to grow very rapidly, but with lower levels of some nutrients.


Although it may not always be possible to buy organic, you can still shop wisely by avoiding conventional produce that are most heavily contaminated with pesticides, aptly called the “dirty dozen.” See the list, below, as well as the 12 least contaminated crops:


12 Most Contaminated 
Peach (highest pesticide load)
Sweet Bell Pepper
Grapes (imported)