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Organic and Local Produce PDF Print
thumb_p2180126aOrganic and locally produced foods are a hot topic right now.  Advocates claim that organic foods are better for our health, our environment, and our economy. 

 

What makes food organic? 

In a nutshell, organic foods are grown without using synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, and food additives.  Animals raised organically are not given routine antibiotics or growth hormones.  You may also see labels like “cage free” eggs or “free range” chickens.   

Organic farms don’t release synthetic pesticides into the environment, which may cause health problems for farm workers, harm wildlife, get into the water supply, or upset ecosystems.  Organic farms generally use less energy and produce less waste than conventional farms. Organic food producers must meet production standards and regulations.  In the U.S., producers must get organic certification from the US Department of Agriculture to label and market their food as organic.  Organic farming is practiced commercially in over 120 countries.

Most organic farms are small, and often family run.  Without the ability to market their produce on a large scale, organic farmers have traditionally sold their produce in small local stores or at farmer’s markets.  However, with the increasing demand for organic foods, many large commercial farms are starting to use organic methods, and you can find an organic version of just about everything at your local grocery store.   

thumb_100_7419.jpgWhy do people buy organic foods, even though they cost 10-40% more than conventionally grown foods?  Generally, people are trying to avoid exposure to pesticide residues, hormones, and antibiotics.  They may also be trying to support a farming method that they feel benefits the earth, the community, and the local economy. 

However, organic isn’t always better, nor is it the only way to farm in an ecologically sustainable, earth friendly way.  For example, no-till agriculture is a farming method that saves energy and decreases topsoil erosion, even while it relies heavily on herbicides to clear the land.  And although organic farmers don't use synthetic pesticides or chemicals, they do still use pesticides, some of which can have detrimental effects on the environment or on human health.  Organic farming is also more labor intensive and often produces lower crop yields.  Advocates of conventional farming methods argue that global food needs could not possibly be met using only organic methods, and that advances in science and technology are allowing us to produce food more efficiently and safely than ever before.

Many people are also making an effort to buy locally produced food.  The benefits of buying local include supporting local business people and the local economy, and putting money back into the community.  Local foods may also be fresher, more nutritious, and tastier, since they don’t have to be picked before they're ripe or shipped long distances.  Cutting back on transportation of food also helps to reduce energy consumption, decrease pollution, and curb global warming.   

The modern organic and local “movement” is really about a return to a more traditional, smaller scale way of growing and buying food. Community Supported Agriculture groups, or CSA's, are one approach that allows consumers to partner directly with local farms.  CSA members buy shares in a season’s harvest from a local farm or farmer’s co-op.  This money supports the farm throughout the year, and weekly portions of the produce in season are picked up by the customer, or sometimes even delivered right to the front door. 

Sometimes consumers are presented with an interesting dilemma: organic or local?  Is it better to buy a locally grown apple, even if it’s not organic?  Does it make sense to buy organic foods that have been trucked across the nation?  This is a decision that each consumer has to make.  Fortunately, in Yakima, we have many local AND organic choices!   

Where can you find local produce and organic foods in Yakima? 

thumb_p8120069During the summer months, you can visit the Yakima Farmer’s Market every Sunday from 9am - 3pm.  The market opens May 13th, and the last day this year will be October 28, 2007.

The Selah Farmer’s Market is held on Saturdays from 9am - 2pm from June to October, in the Wells Fargo Bank lot on the corner of 1st and Naches in Selah. 

Prosser also has an excellent Farmer’s Market, which is held on Saturdays from 8amnoon, from May to October, in the Prosser City Park at 7th Street & Sommer Avenue.  The opening day of the 2007 market will be May 5th. 

In addition to weekly Farmer’s Markets, there are also many fruitstands open daily in the summer months, and some year round, offering fruits and vegetables that are in season as well as collectibles, souvenirs, arts and crafts, antiques, and wine.   For health food, organic and natural foods, and vitamins and supplements year round, start at Beem’s Valley Nutrition or Mill Creek Natural Foods, both located in Union Gap.

 

Further Resources 

http://www.localharvest.org/csa

http://www.organicconsumers.org

http://wafarmersmarkets.com

 

 

 

 
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