Thursday 29 March 2012

The Organic Dilemma

I was asked recently, when given the choice, would I choose an organic product from somewhere like Brazil or a non-organic product that was local.
Having to make that kind of choice turns buying food into a moral dilemma for which there is no answer.

We do our best to buy all organic food.  Food grown and produced without unnatural chemicals.
Food produced as close to us as is possible.  Food that is derived from a sustainable production model.
Food that does not compromise the living standards of people, animals, and fragile ecosystems.

There is big brand honey that is produced in Hungary, packaged in Australia, and sold in Haliburton.
A great deal of grass fed organic beef comes from Brazilian rain-forest cleared for commercial pastures.
I suspect that .79/pound organic bananas do little to foster health and education in the plantations.
Buying a $3.99 500g bar of chocolate is tantamount to buying blood diamonds.
The list goes on and on.

Living in a sparsely populated part of the world compounds the problems associated with choice.
Especially with a subdued economy, choice has been whittled down to little more than the corporate decisions made for the grocery chains.
The fact is that most people want cheap food.
The remaining consumers are left with nothing but agonizing choices. 
The two grocery stores in our community offer little in the way of locally sourced foods.
The organic choices are few and far between.
There are, of course, big brand organics in non-perishable forms, but I question the integrity of the products due to the nature of their stewardship.

Today, grocery shopping was especially disheartening.
We will no longer be shopping at one of the two stores.  There is simply nothing there for us.
The other store carries some suitable dairy products and a crap-shoot of organic produce.
We left the stores today wondering where we can buy food.
With the rows and rows of heavily stocked shelves and coolers, there are few real choices.
We have tried the larger city centers but have found that the corporate format prevails.
The stores may be located in a metropolitan area, but they look the same to me on the inside.

We are fortunate to have a privately run health food store in Haliburton.
Through them we are able to be supplied with basics such as flours, grains, canned goods, and most importantly, fair-trade organic cocoa.
I asked them today where they buy their produce.(They don't offer produce through the store.)
They shop a grocery store close to Toronto when they are making a purchasing run to the city.
For us, that is out of the question.
For them, even the best option offers relatively little choice.

The summer is a little easier, but not as much as you might expect.
Few of the local farms offer organic produce.
We like to pick huge amounts of berries at the pick-your-own place, but that is not organic either.
Since last year, however, we found out about Ellenberger Organic Farm.  We will be picking our berries there this season.  Though, I expect that we will be buying more than just berries 

If you don't buy into the organic choice then you need to do some more research.
We expect our government to keep our food supply safe.
While the food supply may be protected from the atrocities of commercialized food production, there remains the silent toxicity that is being built up in our environment and in our bodies.
If you say that our society is just fine eating grocery store fare, I will point you towards the doctor's offices, the hospital, and the clogged and failing healthcare system wracked with countless diseases and maladies.
Alive, yes.
Healthy, no.

Here at home, the solution is becoming staggeringly clear.
The only way to have control over our food supply is to produce our own or to buy from people we know and trust.
We trust our local health food store.
They have been struggling with food choices for many more years than we have even been shopping.
Their integrity is judged by the products they stock on their shelves.
Hopefully, you have someone like that in your community.

For those of you who must continue shopping the corporate chain stores, consider this.
Even if you doubt the integrity of the organic options available to you, remember that you cast a vote every time you purchase a product.
When you buy food labelled organic, you are voting for fewer artificial chemicals in yours or someone else's environment.
When you choose organic, you are voting for sustainable agriculture that is considerate of future generations.
Vote for fair-trade.
Vote for local.
Vote for less packaging.
Vote for fresh, raw ingredients.
Vote for sustainable fisheries.
Vote for less meat.
Every time you purchase the mainstream products or for the lowest price, you are voting against the development of a responsible food supply.
Whichever you choose, you are casting a vote.  

I have heard that there are two major food movements at play in North America.
There is the local, organic food movement.
There is the heavily prepared and industrialized food movement.
It is obvious which has the greater inertia.
As difficult as it is to meet the household food budget,
the decisions we make, when we buy food, directly affect the health of the food supply,
and more importantly, the health of our families.

Our local health food store is Marty's in Haliburton.
They also have an excellent selection of fibers for needlework.


  1. It is a tough one for sure. Of course local and organic are ideal.
    I happen to know of a pretty great little certified organic farm that offers pick your own strawberries and raspberries. We should go this summer ;)
    We have high hopes of freezing and canning as much as we can this summer so we can attempt more seasonal eating.
    The shopping choices here are frustrating and the prices at Marty's can be a bit staggering. I would like to look into PC Organics and how their practices differ...
    so much to say and think about.

    1. Since posting, I have had some good suggestions for sourcing local, organic produce.
      It is time to leave the supermarket completely except milk (Organic Meadow, not PC) and yogurt. I need to figure out a dairy strategy though.
      The best prices are found by buying in bulk which also reduces packaging. We have found that convenience items add considerable cost, so with good planning and a strategy based on the year instead of the week, price becomes less relevant.
      Of course it's not simple, but good home economics are worth striving for.

  2. Great post! We've gone over to the organic side and were particularly thrilled that a booth that offered a great deal of variety in produce in our local farmer's market was also organic. Until market politics got ugly and booted them out. Now we're back to chancing Goodness Me, our Fortino's carries quite a good variety of organic and local meat/produce/dairy and we've gone over to the dark side of buying raw dairy products until the shade of night ;) But this is our inbetween solution until we can grow as much of our own food supply as possible, which hopefully isn't too far of! I might have missed a past post, but how did the soap turn out? It was looking good and my kids loved the play dough recipe, it seems to last longer than the recipe we usually use which is awesome!

    1. No, I am afraid that you did not miss a past post on soap.
      The second attempt turned out pretty much like the first one.
      The two batches are together in the corner of shame.
      Perhaps they will saponify someday. Though I tend to doubt it.
      I have another batch of wood lye ready to go.
      The next rainy day we are going to try again.
      This time, we are going to stop stirring sooner.
      When (if) I get soap, I'll be sure to post it.
      In the meantime, I am using all-purpose household soap.
      Soap of shame.