For a long time I really believed that the only difference between organic and non-organic was that the non-organic stuff was sprayed with pesticides and fungicides. I didn’t think this was too serious. I mean, hey… I can just wash it off, right?
What I didn’t understand or appreciate was the level of what is really happening with our vegetables and fruits.
To really get this, we need to understand why it is happening. See, if you were a farmer, growing your own crops, like beans or broccoli, for example, you would want to make sure you got the most out of your piece of land and generate the most amount of crops for it. This means, you would utilize every inch of land you could to grow crops on! This means, you are likely to use the same piece of land to grow your crop on each year. Now, this means that eventually your soil is going to become depleted. You can see this yourself in the dry corn fields or maize fields—just go and have a look at the soil of some of these. It resembles sea sand!
See, farmers know that they need three minerals to make vegetables grow. They are phosphate, nitrogen and potassium. As long as they put these three minerals in the ground, the vegetables will grow. Now, because the soil is depleted and only has these three nutrients in it, the plant is also depleted. It has only 3 out of 52 different minerals that it really needs to grow healthy and strong. And so it gets sick and that attracts predators. The bugs come and the diseases come and invade the poor plants.
Of course our farmer can’t have this happen, so off he goes to the pesticide and fungicide companies and asks them to please provide him with a solution for his pest problem!
The poor plants are then sprayed with all the fungicides and pesticides to ensure they don’t get attacked again.
The difference between organic produce and non-organic is therefore not just in what they have been sprayed with but how they were grown. To use organic pesticides or to prevent disease on plants, they need to be stronger. This means, the soil that they are grown in needs to have more minerals in it. The organic pesticides are never going to be as strong as the other stuff! So, organic producers need to make sure of this. They therefore take care of the soil and ensure it is rich in minerals.
The vegetables that are therefore produced by organic farmers are nutrient rich and also don’t have the added toxins from pesticides and fungicides, which leach into the fruits and vegetables.
Organic produce just tastes better, has more nutritional benefits and is free from all those toxins we are trying to avoid!
The problem is often we try and buy our organic produce from a supermarket. The problem with supermarket stock is that it has often been transported from far away places, has then been sitting in cold storage and by the time it is actually on the shelf, it is at least a week old. It is also heaps more expensive to buy organic at a supermarket. Just think supply and demand. The supermarkets know they are not going to sell that much organic, so the price is increased to ensure the potential losses. Organic also does cost more to produce—all that real soil and time and care!
So, what can we do?
1. Buy through a Co-Op
Co-ops are great! They allow you to buy in bulk, fresh and you can get involved. There is usually a discount for becoming a member and you can help out in exchange.
Check out these websites: Cooperative Grocer and Local Harvest in the US. Just Google Co-op in your country.
2. Buy online
Online stores often don’t have the retail costs and distribution costs large producers have, so they can offer their produce for cheaper. There are heaps of these businesses popping up in every country and city! We had a great one in Queenstown, which delivered weekly and there was no difference in price and it saved a trip to the supermarket!
Just type organic online store into Google and you should find one that suits you!
3. Buy into a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program
Basically you are paying part of the expenses a farmer might have and in return you get the freshest produce, direct from the farm! I am not sure if this exists in every country but check it out!
Check out these websites:
- Alternative Farming Systems (US-based)
- Community Supported Agriculture (UK-based)
4. Buy in bulk with friends
Create a group of people who are keen to eat organic in your area or even start your own online store! Here is a list of organic farmers to contact:
5. Grow your own
Even if you don’t have your own garden, if you are living somewhere for a while, you can grow your own. Jamie Oliver started a great concept, where you can share part or help out on someone else’s land. It is called LandShare and is based in the UK. There is another one in the USA called Shared Earth. See if you can find such an organization in your own country or just go and ask a farmer if you can corner off a small piece of their land in exchange for some fresh organic veggies.
You can grow just about anything, even in a small garden or in an apartment. Even if you just grow something—it is yours and totally organic!
Organic is about getting back to nature, the way things were meant to be. The more of us who insist on organic and get better from it, the more there will be available. Don’t settle for the sad looking supermarket stuff! Explore more of the fresh, natural options—it is heaps more fun too!