Buy Local The New Organic

I am retreading an older post because this topic is on my mind. A year ago I was very happy to see that my grocery store was educating the buy local concept.  Seemingly this theme has fizzled.

Sure there are very little signs that say this product is local and yes the apples I bought this week are local and yummy – thank you.

Yet I feel as a whole they could do better.

Our community farmers markets have expanded, and this pleases me tremendously. I can go to three rather easily, yet the organic pickin’s are slim. I can travel several towns away to the one market that has a full and extensive organic crop yet, that takes me 90 minutes round trip.

With time being so precious, with my patience being rather limited and as one who loves to cook and is spoiled by variety offered at all times. I go to the Whole Foods.

Bless me father for I have sinned. I prefer convenience.

I don’t think I am alone.

My wish is that Whole Foods would teach me to eat and cook seasonally and buy locally. Instead of perusing the stacks of veggies and trying to find which are local, which are conventional and which are transitional

I suggest that they put ALL the local organic and seasonal fruits and vegetables in one center place in the department.  As a consumer I would go there first and buy. It would help me learn – what are the seasonal foods? I know for example that asparagus are a spring vegetable. However we are all used to eating them all year round.

Know what I mean??

Maybe my idea is asking for too much but that is my ulitmate grocery shopping wish.

Below is the post I wrote last year: 

The local alternative mainstream market is finally offering consumers assistance in shopping local.

When I first heard of shopping local I was reminded of my coop days, this was before what we “wanted” was available easily. Health Food Stores had the stuff yes, but at a very high price.

Coop-ing really wasn’t local – it came from northern Wisconsin. Yet maybe in comparison that is local.

Coop purchasing was bulk price for things we couldn’t get just anywhere, again not sure how green all that was or is,  but back then I was living on a dime, price is what mattered to me.

Allow me to backtrack. In 1992 I was a mom beginning to read food labels and beginning to consider choice. I found out I could get peanut butter that had no sugar in it and wasn’t hydrogenated.

Back then all those fancy words were a mystery to me as well as all the do’s and don’ts.  Yet a book Diet for a Poisoned Planet really opened my eyes. It made me want to foster alternative in my world for my family.

It took me TWO years to shift my entire pantry, to educate ( more like slap up side the head ), my resistant now ex husband and to learn.

I loved, loved, loved having the choice and I really enjoyed the learning.

I wanted to reduce salt, avoid all chemicals, preservatives and food dyes, I wanted whole grain bread w/o sugar, brown rice, and I wanted organic produce. At the time the organic produce was the hardest to find. I made my own baby food, soups, and sauces, I even made my own Italian sausage ( because I wanted then to use turkey and no msg)

I ate rice cakes. Happily.

The coop was good in that I could buy things by the case, but this really upset my first husband – he just didn’t like the idea of volume purchasing , so creatively I tried to get split cases of things like canned organic tomato’s, rice milk, beans etc – he didn’t like that either.

(he didn’t like much – just so you know)

We had an offer to buy shares in a cooperative farm. I so loved the idea, I imagined taking my kids to the farm to see where their food and meat came from  or to help out on Saturday’s but he – the first husband, could not begin to fathom the value of this type of purchasing.  The mere thought of eating kale because that’s what came in the box that week about sent him to the moon.

Does this man today even eat vegetables? I have no idea.

Then a Whole Foods came to our region, the “pilot” store for the Midwest, right west of the city,which was not too far from my home.  When I checked it out, like the moment I walked in, I thought I had reached heaven.  

In hindsight perhaps it appealed to my yuppy side , if I was a yuppie that is – I really don’t see myself as a yuppie, but I do like nice things, more importantly I am particular and this store fueled that desire or that part of me. Face it – it’s a very “look good ” store.

I worked for that store for three years. LOVED it. I was the weekend bagger, the eldest and only suburban staff member of the front end team.

To give you an idea of the need for what Whole Foods offered back then – my customers ( and I say this affectionately because there were people from four states who stood in MY line! ) brought vans with coolers and dry ice and they bought food for an entire month.  It was pretty amazing.

One holiday weekend, on Christmas eve particularly, our store was the busiest, most sales recorded of all grocery stores in the country – I worked that day – bagging away. It was positively amazing.

Energy. Vibes. Very happy people.

It is not to say that Whole foods doesn’t have it’s problems.
I saw and still see the ploy, for example if the demographic of a particular store required cheerios – they would supply it – How is that alternative market I’d ask ???  They would say it isn’t – it’s demographics. Business stuff, or making money.

This is where I advocate strongly that you can not let ANY store spoon feed you it’s churn, YOU have to be the educated consumer and shop carefully or responsibly. According to you.

With ALL that said, boy did this post take a different path then I intended.

I am sooo excited to see mainstream companies TEACH us how to shop and purchase local.

The premise of shopping local is simple – that succulent grape you love so much has most likely traveled 1500 miles, has burned up lots of fuel and spewed green house gases into our frail environment.

Shopping local is trendy and it’s the new organic – better yet it gives back to our earth

Here is a statistic from the local paper:

Research from Iowa State University shows that if state resident’s purchased 10% more local that it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 8 million lbs per year!! That is so cool.

It never said how long that would take to get to that point though. Do we buy as a united force for a year, 5 years, 10 and then we reduce 8 million lbs per year??

There are also other twists and turns, the potato from Wisconsin by truck may be more polluting where as the potato from Idaho by train is perhaps less local, but less polluting – which potato do you buy??

I struggled with the comments in the article when it said consumers will pay more for local – makes them see
m greedy – this could be perhaps because of marketing, or what I like to call ploy and yet again we have CHOICE. I am still in the teach me phase on this one.

They further say that 80 vendors supply over 3400 different products and many of those vendors come from the 3 surrounding states (this being considered local) When they started to evaluate this they were surprised – like gee Matt’s Cookies – a Chicago institution was never earmarked as local.  Now it is. Buy this cookie instead. I think that is cool.

I still want to know more and I’d like to meet more of the farmer’s too.  One can’t imagine how many farmers are close by – we just don’t think that way. Buy from your local farmer fosters another layer that I think is valuable; sustainable farming and organic farming techniques. Let’s do more of that please.

I sat next to a man on the plane, former farmer who was very anti-organic farming. He went on and on about all that he knew and how organic farming will never become main stream, mainly because he said it isn’t profitable enough. He really pissed me off. He also had a 3400 square foot house on a golf course. How could one person need or want that much house? It had a home theater in it – of course it did. Oh and a 3 car garage. Say no more. AND the man couldn’t make a success of himself in farming. So much for his words of wisdom.

( ya know how sometimes you’re on a plane and wish you sat somewhere else?)

I digress again.

farmers market illustrated flickr image credit

Karen Hanrahan ~ Wellness Educator/Nutritional Consultant/Blog Author
708.482.0678 ~ Websites:
Nutrition, Weight Loss, and Green Clean

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2 Responses to Buy Local The New Organic

  1. karen- you are not alone in your thinking! I agree completely and am an advocate of organic foods. In fact i just wrote a post about it today on my own blog. stop by and say hello sometime.-rick

  2. Karen Hanrahan says:

    Organics came into my life around 1993, at first I thought was I being trendy, and now I feel that eating organic is important and am an advocate just like you! Thanks for stopping by Rick

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