The ongoing “Organic vs Conventional” debate has resurfaced recently after a Stanford study released some ruffling results claiming that organic products were not really worth the price. There have been rebuttals and criticisms to the study, but over half a century of research seems to answer the important questions in these ways:
Is sustainable agriculture better for my body? Maybe. Most nutrients are at equal levels in organic and conventional produce, though some (notably vitamin C and phytochemicals) are found at higher levels in organics. Eating conventionally grown food could pose a risk of exposure to harmful pesiticides, but many studies show this is minimal even in the most risky crops, especially if you wash your produce. What really determines the health of your food is the quality of the soil in which it is grown (which often is much higher on organic farms) and the time that passes between harvest and consumption. The fresher it is, the more nutrients will be preserved!
Is sustainable agriculture better for the environment? Yes. Hugely. Many Organic farms show signs of improved soil chemistry, less polluted waterways, reduced erosion, healthier native pollinator populations…. on and on…..
Is sustainable agriculture better for farm workers? Definitely. If you are frightened of pesticide residue on conventional fruit and vegetables, imagine the kind of exposure farm workers receive when they apply those chemicals. Farming communities that use heavy sprays often have high levels of cancer, reproductive disorders and a myriad of other health complications. By supporting no chemical agriculture, you are helping to fight for farm worker rights and safety.
Can I be sure that an item that is USDA Certified Organic is really more healthy, sustainable, and fair than one that isn’t? Not necessarily. Gaining USDA certification is a long, difficult, tedious, expensive, and often unrealistic pursuit for many farmers, especially on small, family-run operations. Certification processes have lead to the exclusion of many of the most sustainable farms producing the highest quality food from becoming USDA certified. The consumer is frequently faced with the classic choice of whether to purchase an “Organic” item from a large farm across the country (one that is not at all fresh, from a farm that doesn’t use sustainable practices and treats its laborers poorly) or one grown locally, perhaps a bit more rugged looking, harvested at the peak of ripeness but not certified by the government.
Joel Salatin, a “Beyond Organic” farmer, once said: “You can’t regulate personal integrity with a government certification.” At the Greene Grape, we understand this, and seek out integrity in our products with a passion. We believe that the only real way to find products with integrity is to find a person with integrity who creates it. Whether we know the farmer on a personal basis (Brooklyn Grange, Feedback Farms, Project Eats, farmers in the Fingerlakes region) or have a personal liaison to the farms (GrowNYC Greenmarket, Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op), by connecting to the farms that grow our food, we can be sure that we are supporting sustainable agricultural practices and purchasing the tastiest, freshest product. When an item cannot be found in our region, we do rely on the USDA Organic Certification as a judge of integrity, but rank this kind of guidance as secondary to knowing the grower, seeing the farm, and resting assured that all components of their operation are soundly rooted in producing a healthier community. Please ask the staff at Greene Grape if you have questions about the origin of your fruit or vegetable- we are always happy to share our knowledge about the amazing produce we provide for you! Happy shopping.