Monday, September 7, 2009


Over this past year I have read several articles and books on the subject of eating food grown organically or locally: eating fast food or slow food; the cost of food and other related topics. I thought this subject is one to think about as it is harvest time on farms and in backyard gardens across Canada and the U.S. I took the above picture the other day of cherry tomatoes ripening on the vine in my backyard. Besides ice cream which is one of my favorite foods to eat, eating tomatoes from my garden is on my top ten list. Actually, anything I grow in my garden is on the list. It helps that I grow only things that I like to eat. One can ask yourself, what is different between store bought tomatoes and home grown tomatoes? Simply the taste and texture; the acidity taste, the smell, the juiciness and the pure joy of picking a cherry tomato off the vine and popping it into your mouth.

The author, Michael Pollan, has written a number of books and articles about food. In his book "Omnivore's Dilemma" he writes about the politics, culture, perils and pleasures of eating. Mr. Pollan writes about the three principal food chains that sustain us - the industrial, the organic and the hunter-gatherer. He reminded me that every edible item in the supermarket, aside from salt and synthetic food additives begins with a particular plant growing in a specific patch of soil or in the sea, somewhere on earth. The book talks about the importance of corn in the american diet and it is quite scary to realize the significance of corn and its involvement in so many food items. At the end of the book, Mr. Pollan writes about the industrial prepared food we eat and how we don't know what we are eating, where it was grown, how it got to the store where we bought it and so on. I know we eat very differently than what our grandparents ate both in variety and complexity. But they knew far more about their food and its origins than us today.

The move towards buying healthier, fresher food produced locally versus buying organic food produced in another country is an interesting topic to debate. We have thought about organic food being more environmentally friendly but when you add on the transportation factor and the impact on the environment of long distance trucking are we further ahead? From a nutrition point of view, there is not enough research to show that organic foods are more nutritious than regular food. There is the debate on the level of pesticides used to grow regular fruits and vegetables and whether there is an accumulative impact on your system from consuming regular foods. I don't have those answers but I have come across a list from the U.S. on the top 10 worst vegetable and fruit offenders for pesticide use: apples, celery, cherries, grapes, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, pears, strawberries and sweet peppers.

A study done by a team of student researchers in the Department of Rural Economy at the University of Alberta showed that the greenhouse gas emitted when the organic food is transported from great distances is comparable to that of bringing the same amount of regular food grown conventionally to market and requiring less transportation. There is little difference in the cost to the environment. Reading this study makes me think twice about buying that clam shell package of organic baby greens grown in California.

If we are concerned about what we eat, where it is grown, how far it transported and wanting to support Canadian producers then we should try to buy food that is grown locally as best we can. Buy your produce and meat from local producers at the farmer's market or directly from the farm, ask your store to buy from Canadian farmers, have your own garden each year no matter how small or big the space you have and be sane in your food choices. I do try to buy sides of grass fed beef or bison from producers, chickens from the Hutterites and vegetables that I don't grow from local producers. I like the idea of the 100 mile diet but where I live I think that is an unrealistic and my circumference would need to include western Canada. Until next time.....

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