Saturday, March 7, 2009

Local trumps organic

I'm a careful food shopper. I scrutinize labels and stickers, hunting for clues about where a product comes from and how it was made. I once stood in front of a pile of avocados for ten minutes, trying to choose between the conventional fruit from Mexico and the bruised organic version from California--and wishing my husband's grandmother would just send more from her tree in Santa Maria. I probably put more thought into those avocados than the car my husband and I purchased a few years ago.
Buying local is an altogether different experience. When I pick up my CSA share from Tait, I don't stress about pesticides or pathogens. I don't need a label to tell me anything about the beets, kale, and potatoes in my basket because I know the farmers who grew them. I see them twice a month. They entertain my 4-year-old while I'm picking up my produce; they hold my baby while I load the bags into the car. Imagine having that kind of relationship with the farmer who grew the avocado in Mexico? And while the employees at Wegmans smile at my baby, they can't vouch for the food I'm putting in her mouth.
I feel more fortunate than ever for the options in my backyard. When the word "salmonella" appears in the New York Times food section as often as "organic," the only label that really matters to me is "local."

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