Local Food BuyLocal_Blocks

Published on July 9th, 2014 | by Jennifer Kaplan

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Local Is Better Than Organic

Buy local
Buying local may be the best thing you can do for your community — and the planet. 

I’ve been singing the praises of buying locally and the locavore movement for quite sometime. But now, more than ever, there are concrete reasons why buying locally produced food and products is better.

Buying local is better than buying organic

It turns out that organic food grown in polluted locales contains, not surprisingly, high levels of pollutants like heavy metals. Hence, many people say that buying local, as in American-grown produce, trumps labels such as “organic,” if the food in question was grown in a potentially polluted place. Moreover, many small food producers embrace the spirit of organic (no pesticides, antibiotics, etc..) but find organic food certification cost prohibitive.

Buying local is better for your community

There is strong evidence that there are significant social, environmental, and economic benefits to creating local economies. Having a larger density of locally owned businesses results in higher per capita income, more jobs, and greater resiliency in the local economy. A strong local economy translates into jobs and economic growth which increases the tax base which improves services for people in their own communities.

Buying Local is good for small business owners

Buying locally provides business owners with more control over their materials and end products and reduces transportation related costs. Whole Foods’ Local Food Loan Program has found that local food businesses are often innovators and have funded pioneering projects in biodynamic farming, non-GMO animal feed, pollinator health and sustainable packaging. The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) is a good resource for finding a business network in your area.

Buying local can change the whole country (possibly the whole world)

As BALLE states on their website:

There is real evidence that real national prosperity — even global prosperity — begins at the local level and that by connecting entrepreneurs who are re-thinking their industries, funders who are investing in the local economy movement, and network organizers who can mobilize on a broad scale, we can — and will — create a stronger, more resilient, and fair economy.

Many issues related to sustainability —from energy policy to recycling services—are addressed at a local or state level. Successful policies often spread to other locales. As the folks at Goodfor20, who aim to inspire people to reallocate a portion of their food spending to local food sources, say: Small commitments can lead to big change.



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About the Author

Jennifer Kaplan writes regularly about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for EatDrinkBetter.com and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was been named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA - find her on .



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  • Marie

    Better for who? Certainly not better for you or your kids if sensitive to pesticides and herbicides. Not better for our local environment if we don’t insist our local farmers use sustainable/organic methods by buying organic foods. Demand is what drives supply. If we continue to support toxic growing methods, local or not, the increase of organic will lag. If we continue to support those local AND sustainable/organic farmers, they’re going to look for ways to increase their production and others will begin to see the opportunity to farm.

    I suggest encouraging local farmers who are not using organic methods, to do so. And let them know that you’ll support them and their slightly higher prices when they do make the switch.

  • Melinda Hemmelgarn

    Hi Jennifer, I’m a registered dietitian, and have worked nationally helping consumers understand our complex food system for several decades. A friend of mine forwarded your post on local vs. organic food and I’d like to weigh in with my perspective. I absolutely favor strong local/ regional food systems. But I promote local AND organic as the gold standard. Local doesn’t mean better on its own. For example, I know way too many “local” farmers and food producers who use harmful pesticides / herbicides (atrazine, RoundUp and more), and feed GMO grain to their animals. They say the cost of organic certification is too expensive, but the Farm Bill approved organic cost shares to help cover the costs. The organic farmer can also charge more for his/her extra time and effort. Some farmers complain of too much paper work, but as my organic farming friends tell me: good farmers keep good records.

    Personally, I shop at my local farmers’ market (and farmers’ markets whenever I travel), but always seek out the certified organic farmers first. They go the extra mile to protect our environment and I don’t have to be the “food police” asking a gazillion questions about farming practices. I’ve also been lied to, so the organic certification removes all doubt for me.

    One word of warning: many consumers think all food at their local farmers’ markets are grown organically. Not true. Most of the farmers at my market use chemicals. We need many more local farmers choosing to become certified.

    Hope this helps further clarify the issue.

    Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D.
    Host, Food Sleuth Radio
    http://www.kopn.org

  • jenkaplan

    Thanks Melinda. I totally agree that local AND organic is the best option. Thanks for pointing it out. Going the farmer’s market route is a great way to get good information about your food. I find that talking to farmer’s at farmer’s markets is the bet way to find out far off — or close to — their products are to organic principles.

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