In Thursday night’s class at IHN we discussed sustainable farming and the importance of eating locally and organically.

I can honestly say that up until recently I never really gave a lot of thought to where my food was coming from.  There was a complete disconnect between how my food ended up in my hands and how it got there in the first place.  Looking back, I find this surprising since I come from 400 years worth of farmers!  However with some research and education, I have learned to become much more conscious of the food cycle from farm to plate and make smart, sustainable and conscious choices when it comes to food selection. 

Over the past few years as the organic food industry has grown, I always knew that organic was better but wasn’t necessarily sure why.  I also never thought about the location of where my food was grown. 

Beautiful Ontario grown Honey Crisp apples from St. Lawrence Market:

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Now when I shop for produce I ask myself the following questions –

1. Is this item in season?
2. Is this item grown locally?
3. Is this item grown organically?

Shop locally

In my opinion I would choose a local item over an organic one (if a combination of local/organic was unavailable) because I like to know exactly where my food is coming from.  I mostly shop at farmers markets where I am able to speak directly with the farmers and they are more than happy to answer any questions about how their crops are grown.  I also want to support our local farm employees and our economy by buying locally.

To find local produce, check out farmer’s markets, food co-ops and CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), also know what foods are in season in your area.  There are also a lot of great restaurants in Toronto that support the locavore movement.  If you buy food directly from the grocery store, they almost always have a label telling you were the food was grown.  Remember that the longer the distance the food travels the more nutrients are lost in transit.

Shop organically

If I am able to purchase items organically, I will do so.  They taste better and it feels good to know that I have made a conscious decision to choose quality over quantity.  Note that some farmers use traditional farming methods however they are not financially able to purchase the organic certification or they are in the transition period – that is, farms must go through a 36 month long transition period from conventional to organic and sustainable farming methods. 

Often I hear complaints about organic foods being expensive to buy, however this is not necessarily true, you just need to explore your options.  Again, visit farmer’s markets and food co-ops, there are also organic food delivery services which will provide you with a box of organic foods on a weekly basis.

I should point out here that just because an item bears an organic label does not always make it a healthy option.  For example, an organic cookie is still a cookie so sadly this doesn’t mean you can have more of them!

It really is true that we vote with our dollars.  Educate yourself, ask questions and make smart choices and most importantly do the best you can with the resources that you have.

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