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Organic vs. Local: What side are YOU on?

The best of both worlds: Locally grown, organic peaches at an NYC farmers market

I know a lot of people who continuously engage in the organic vs. local debate.  A lot of misinformation is thrown around and so let’s clarify a few things by piting the unconventional purists against the locavores and see who comes out on top:

Issue: Environment

Organic: uses petroleum but improves soil quality and fertility
Local: uses pesticides and petroleum (though probably less)


Issue: Energy

Organic: saves energy by using natural fertilizer but uses energy in transport Local: saves energy by directly moving from a farm to a market (no storage required) but uses energy when crops are conventionally grown

Winner: PUSH

Issue: Community Impact

Organic: not exposed to pesticide “drift” (when sprayed pesticides are carried in the air and travel to nearby homes, yards, and schools)
Local: supports local economy, supports small farmers, and provides an opportunity to find out where your food comes from

Winner: LOCAL

Issue: Personal Health

Organic: it’s unclear if the tiny amount of pesticides on conventionally grown produce is harmful
Local: it’s unclear whether or not local foods do, in fact, have more nutrients

Winner: PUSH

Issue: Cost

Organic: crop yields are lower on organic produce so the cost to consumers is higher
Local: eating locally from farmers markets cuts out the middle man so the cost to consumers is lower

Winner: LOCAL

So, there’s the rundown. You might be asking ‘but Kate, why do I need to pick sides?’ And you make a good point, readers. You don’t – however, purchasing locally grown organic produce is not as easy outside of NYC as it is in the boroughs. So if you’re one of the people who needs to make a choice and pick a food retail outlet to shop from, now you’re armed with the knowledge to make an educated decision. 

The final question: which is more sustainable?  How are we going to feed billions of people with these novel approaches to farming?  The answer: Neither. But that’s another blog post entirely!

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