Local Vs. Organic

by Matt on January 25, 2011

After posting “Should I Buy Organic Foods” last week, I wanted to do a follow up on the importance of buying local food as well.

Is it better to eat local or organic?

Honestly, I don’t think this question has a right or wrong answer.This topic is highly debatable amongst scientists, environmentalists, and the healthy living community, but whichever you decide, you are supporting healthy growing practices.

Organic Farming


Organic farming practices don’t use pesticides, chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, or GMO (genetically modified material) to grow food or raise animals. It is a little more expensive, but if you plan accordingly, you can fit it into your budget (more on that in a future post).

Sounds perfect right?

Not so fast. Some of the largest organic farms in the United States are located in California which is about 3,000 miles away from my current location. In order for that food to get from California to my local , valuable resources are lost.

In reality, many of the organic foods that we buy here in the United States are imported from other countries. That takes a hell of a lot more resources to transport than from a neighboring state or town.

However, I still believe that it is important to support organic farming practices because they support fresh, natural food that is created the way nature intended.

Local Farming

Local Farming

Local food may or may not be organically grown, but it is produced by a neighboring farmer, which cuts down on the resources required in order to deliver it from the farm to the consumer.

This is when things get tough for me…

  • I know most of the farmers at the local farmers market.
  • I know the process of being certified organic and I know that it is an expensive and complicated process.
  • I know that a lot of the farmers do use organic farming practices, but they cannot afford to be certified as organic.

I will buy from these farmers every time.

The benefit of buying local means that you are shortening the time and the resources used from harvest to dinner plate.

If you have the opportunity to talk to the farmer and you are comfortable with his/her farming practices, I recommend that you buy local. If you don’t have this option, buying organic food is perfectly acceptable and I highly recommend it.

Let’s here your thoughts. Local or organic?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle C.No Gravatar January 25, 2011 at 2:38 PM

GREAT POST! Question, what kinds of questions can I ask to become more knowledgeable about a local farmer’s product to find out if they follow organic farming practices?

I can’t wait for farmer’s market season here in Seattle (my favorite street market is April – September).


January 25, 2011 at 2:45 PM

I definitely like buying more local. I’m big into lowering our dependence on foreign oil so anything that doesn’t need to be shipped hundreds or thousands of miles, I support that. :-)
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January 25, 2011 at 3:11 PM

Wonderful subject to bring up, and one I’ve been thinking about for a long time now! For me, I would far rather support my local farmers (who, more often than not, grow their produce organically even without having the label) than buy something that came all the way from california. Unfortunately, that is near impossible this time of year (which is why I should be working on eating seasonally, too!) but I do buy local more often than I buy organic. And both are only money permitting :P
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January 25, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Great post, Matt!
The local vs. organic issue is pretty confusing, especially when the issue of ‘sustainable’ gets thrown into the mix! (For example, some organic meat products also claim to be ‘sustainable raised’, which is fantastic, but I’m willing to bet that the 3,000 miles ground turkey travels from the east coast to California was NOT sustainable.)
I like to buy local as much as possible- real people win over the supermarket every time :)
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January 25, 2011 at 3:29 PM

I’ve asked this question before myself and I got a few mixed responses. I don’t like the fact that lots of grocery stores have things that are from halfway across the country when said things are 1)in season and 2) perfectly capable of being grown here (Apples? In Wisconsin? In Winter? Why the hell are we getting them from New York ?)

I think it’s best to just do what you can, when you can and ignore the rest. Do the best possible for your given situation and don’t let outside factors influence the way you feel about choices. Maybe you can’t get to a farmer’s market, maybe you can’t buy organic because it’s not offered or it’s too expensive – it’s fine. Just do what you can, when you can, and don’t let it overwhelm your life, because then you end up like me, who doesn’t practice what they’re preaching, and life gets more complicated than it should be.

Also, I don’t think a lot of the local farmers in my town during the summer actually go pesticide free, so that brings up another point and another variable that makes it hard to decide. =\
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lindsayNo Gravatar January 25, 2011 at 5:08 PM

gotta hit up those local famers market for that reason! Support local farms and farmers. They need us and they taste so much better, right?!


January 25, 2011 at 5:39 PM

fantastic post! great minds think alike, right?! :)
i think i’m in favor of local farming right now…especially because like you said, some local farms are also organic but can’t afford the certification. and industrial organic is such a tricky issue because it’s definitely not sustainable, but i agree; it is definitely better than conventionally grown food.

i choose local > industrial organic > conventionally grown.
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January 25, 2011 at 6:16 PM

I’m reading a book that asks these questions. It’s not the case all the time, but I think local is better- you support local businesses! And like you said, a lot of farmers can’t get certified to be organic, but that doesn’t mean they don’t use responsible growing practices.
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January 25, 2011 at 6:51 PM

Great topic! it brings up an interesting debate. I buy local whenever possible. We have some great organic farms in the area, but I also buy from farms that have not secured the ‘organic’ certification. I feel like it’s a responsible choice, ethically, economically, and environmentally.
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January 25, 2011 at 7:09 PM

Great summary of the issue. I also tend to buy local when I can – easier in the summer than the winter!


trangNo Gravatar January 25, 2011 at 8:09 PM

I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time and have found your posts about organic food to be very informative. In all honestly, I find your blog in general to be informative. Thank you. I just started my own blog and am learning the nuts and bolts of blogging. Fun stuff.


January 25, 2011 at 9:30 PM

I share really similar views to you. I always try to buy organic at the grocery when getting fruits and veggies but at the farmer’s market I am more lenient and local/connecting with area farmers becomes more important.
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January 25, 2011 at 10:55 PM

I’m all about local!!!! I wish we had a farmers market more than 2 months out of the year-I love it!


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