How to Spend Your Organic Dollars
Our grandparents used to eat organic food. Back then, it was called “food.” There were no pesticides, herbicides or any other -cides. Gardens were weeded with a hoe, and bugs were treated by natural means. These days, there is a lot to worry about in non-organic foods. Pesticides are now systemic, which means that they are distributed throughout the food and cannot be washed off. The NCBI reports that “Over 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used in the United State (US) each year and approximately 5.6 billion pounds are used worldwide”. Whoa! Considering that the suffix “-cide” denotes “something that kills,” what are humans thinking? If you are at all concerned about your health, you’ll want to know how to shop for organic fruits and vegetables.
It pays to buy all organic fruits and vegetables. Every time you shop, you cast your vote. If you buy organic foods, you are voting for more organics. If you buy conventional, you are telling your grocer that you aren’t concerned whether foods are organic or not.
Shop with the Dirty Dozen. Sometimes purchasing everything organic simply isn’t in the budget. So, how do you choose what to buy? The Environmental Working Group is a watchdog for cosmetic and food safety. They have an app for your smart phone called The Dirty Dozen. This app shows you the fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides (the Dirty Dozen) and least pesticides (the Clean Fifteen). At one time, their website boasted that if you eat the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables as organics, and eat all other fruits and veggies as conventional produce, you can shave 85% off your pesticide load. While this factoid is no longer posted, the point is that you can lessen your exposure to pesticides significantly by eating just these twelve fruits and vegetables as organics. So if you spend extra to buy the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables as organics, and buy the rest as conventional, then you’ve wisely spent your organic dollars.
Shop at Farmer’s Markets. You can find organic and heirloom produce at a farmer’s market. Not all of the farmers have had their produce certified organic by the USDA. To do so would cost about $1400 per year – a price tag most small farmers cannot afford. However, many of these farmers produce their foods cleanly and free of pesticides, and are glad to tell you so. At our
local farmer’s market, many of the growers have banded together in a grass-roots effort to certify their organically-raised produce. Look for the “Certified Naturally Grown” sign on many of the farmer’s tents at market. Certified Naturally Grown is a grass-roots alternative to Certified Organic.
Join a CSA. Another way to enjoy fresh organic produce for a reasonable price is to join a local Community Supported Agriculture group. Here’s how it works: in the Spring, local farmers will begin to advertise their CSAs. Many promise organically raised foods. You can meet some of these farmers at your farmer’s market. Here is a partial list of CSAs around the Knoxville area.
Buy in season or buy frozen. Finally, as much as possible, buy fruits and vegetables in season. Organics as well as conventionally raised produce tends to be fresher and less expensive in season. Out of season, go for the frozen variety, which has a lot of the food value and flavor preserved by the freezing process. Watch for frozen organic fruits and vegetables to go on sale at the beginning of the season for the same fresh produce.