Choosing to eat organic produce is a fundamental value in our household. Now that we know more about the methods for raising conventional produce and the harmful pesticides and herbicides used, and the long term affects those have on our bodies, it’s made the decision an easy one.
There are many reasons we choose to eat organic, but the main reasons are:
- Nutrient Density – Organically grown produce have more nutrients—vitamins, minerals, and enzymes—than commercially grown produce because the soil is managed and nourished with sustainable practices by responsible standards. Conventional agricultural land is sprayed with so many pesticides, it rids the soils of key ingredients like zinc, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Eating organically feeds your body these essential nutrients, which is especially important when you’re working to heal a body struggling with chronic illness or autoimmune disease. Oh, and did I mention it tastes better?! See for your self, and do a taste test of an apple and an organic apple. You won’t want to go back after that.
- Avoid Toxic Burden – Not only do the pesticides rid the soil of essential micronutrients needed by our bodies, they are also directly related to the increasing numbers of chronic illnesses in our country. According the Beyond Pesticides organization, the growing rate of the use of pesticides in our agricultural industry is staggering. Studies have directly related this use to common diseases affecting public health in the 21 century, including asthma, Alzheimers, birth defects, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, endocrine (hormone) disruption, reproductive issues, and learning disabilities, to name a few. I personally believe that we cannot turn around the health of our country without looking at the quality and sources of our food.
However, choosing organic isn’t always the most affordable, so we have to be smart and get creative at times with how we shop for our produce. My favorite way to source organic produce is through our local farmers markets and buying a share of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). CSA’s are a great way to support farmers because you buy into a small farm at the beginning of the growing season, and they return with weekly boxes of produce throughout summer and fall. Last year, our CSA worked out to costing us $20/week, including pasture raised eggs, that’s it!! I’ve spent way more than that at the grocery store, and for produce that does not taste nearly as good!
Going hand in hand with supporting local farmers, is buying seasonally. Not only does eating seasonally supply the most nutrients, its also more affordable. For example, buying strawberries in the spring is cheaper, and more delicious because they are nutrient packed at the height of their season. Buying them out of season is usually much more expensive, and their peak freshness has passed so you won’t get as many nutrients from them, and they are not nearly as tasty. Also grocery stores usually have great sales and promos on seasonal produce, so it pays to shop around.
Here is a great resource for picking fruits and vegetables while they are in their prime season. You’ll find radishes, turnips and a variety of greens on the long list for June, which is why I was able to pick up these beauties for $2.50 this weekend from Full Tilth Farm at the Poulsbo Farmers Market.
Other ways to take advantage of affordable organic produce is to find a U-Pick farm near you. You can often save a couple dollars per pound by picking your own berries. But if you’re anything like my kids, most of the berries don’t make it all the way home. =)
Farm fresh produce is not the only thing found at our local farm stands, farmers markets, and CSA programs. They are also great resources for free range eggs, grass fed beef, and pasture raised pork and poultry, as well as organic baked goods, herbs, and yarns. I’ll be sharing more about my preferred sources of meat, but you guessed it, starting at the local farms is going to be on the list. If you live in Western Washington like I do, check out the 2018 Farm Guide put out by Tilth Alliance. The website includes an interactive map so you can find the resources closest to your home, be able to shop by crop, and find recipes for your seasonal produce finds.
And let’s not forget about the joy of gardening in your own backyard! Wether you have enough space for a 40’x40′ garden, or a just a couple pots on your deck, growing vegetables in your back yard is another great way to eat organic on a budget. When trying to decide what to grow myself, I pick things that take up the least amount of space, and that we eat most often. This usually ends up looking like a variety of salad greens, green onions, tomatoes (my kids favorite), snap peas, and herbs. When I have more space, I love to add some zucchini plants, pumpkins, Brussel sprouts, cucumbers, kale, carrots, mmmmmm… now I’m getting hungry! My biggest backyard gardening inspiration is You Grow Girl, check out how she grows so much in such a small space. It’s so inspiring!
No matter where you source your produce from, it’s always a good idea to wash everything when you get home. A simple 1:10 ratio of apple cider vinegar to water is an affective and natural produce wash. I shared the process here, when I picked my first round of berries for the season. Washing produce removes any dirt and invisible mold spores, improving the shelf life of your market finds.
Now go out and enjoy the harvest!