There was a great article on Slate.com the other day about Whole Foods. While I won't go so far as to say there's a "dark side" to Whole Foods, as the headline stated, I did notice from my first visit the farmer profiles - farmers I saw every Saturday at the farmer's market - hanging in the produce section, when their produce was nowhere to be found. We seem to be more fortunate, however, as our Whole Foods does have some more local produce than was listed in the article - all (or most) of the mushrooms come from Mushroom Harvest in Athens, and most of the interesting egg varieties are produced locally.
To read a lovely diary written by an organic farmer, also on Slate, click here. Maybe we can discuss it later, as I have just informed my mother that I want to start canning this summer. She laughed.
One downside to writing about local foods this time of year, especially on the East coast, is that we don't really have anything growing right now. It's an easy time to be critical of our groceries.
The article also brought up another interesting point, one that I have been debating with friends and coworkers lately. Is certified organic always better? While common sense might tell you anything grown without pesticides is better for you, the article brings up an interesting point about the majority of organic produce coming from superfarms in California. A coworker of mine recently stated he was going to go all certified organic, and I had to take issue with him. While I think it's great that we have a foundation for certifying organic growing, we have to take into account the rigorous process for becoming certified. Any given Saturday at any local farmer's market, there are numerous growers who grow organically but are not certified. Part of this is because the certification process takes years. What are they supposed to do in the meantime? They have to make money in order to get to the point where they can become certified. If they are growing meat, the process is even longer.
And so the question remained in the article, is it better to always buy organic or local? We should not fool ourselves into thinking the two are in any way related. This time of year, we here in Central Ohio don't always have the luxury of buying local; sometimes I really want green vegetables, and there just aren't any growing here, and I don't have a choice. Come summer, however, I will have a choice, and I will choose to buy locally. Whether or not something is certified organic, I would rather choose to support those who stay in this area and struggle to become successful farmers.
Just as a reminder, the first Worthington Farmer's Market is May 13th. Baby lettuce leaves, here I come. Most other markets begin in early June.