WHY EAT ORGANIC?
A Casual Interview with an
It’s Saturday, family day for us. My husband is driving us all to an orchard so we can walk our one-year-old son around, take in the foliage, and get some fresh air. This is a time for my husband and I to catch up after a long week of farming and childcare. We usually end up having philosophical discussions about music, art, humanity, food or farming. Today the topic was farming practices and organic food. He is an organic farmer, going on his sixth year. His hands are permanently dirty by this point in the season; soil caked under his nails and tattooed in the creases of his skin. His face is dark and his body is tired.
His farming practices are what some call “beyond organic”. This term can sometimes be controversial, especially in the eyes of those who are certified organic. I won’t get into that, because it’s a big can of worms. But what “beyond organic” means to him is that he uses methods that are all completely natural and that allow the ecology to thrive and do its thing. For example, he doesn’t use any sprays (there are organic ones that are certified) for pests. Instead he lets the weeds grow in some areas to invite beneficial insects to take care of certain pests. His farm is bordered by a considerable amount of forest, which also invites beneficial critters in to do some of the pest control. The soil here is key. Nothing unnatural is added to the soil nor does he use black plastic mulch to suppress weeds and therefore all of the wonderful microorganisms can thrive and create a “living soil”. This creates the healthiest soil, which then allows for the healthiest vegetables to grow. Let nature do her thing, and she will provide for you.
So I ask him, “why should we be eating organic food”? He explains that it’s not so much about organic vs. non-organic, or conventionally grown food. Yes, there is the very simple fact that pesticides are made up of toxins and therefore in eating organic you are choosing not to eat certain toxins. But even organic sprays contain elements that are not natural for our bodies. He stressed the notion that those who are growing organic are more likely to be taking better care of their produce from seed to harvest and making sure they are growing healthy and delicious fruits and vegetables. He also said that forming a relationship with your local farmer and talking to them about their practices goes way beyond just buying organic produce at the super market. This way you can know exactly what’s going into your food. You will most likely find that your local, even non-organic, farmer is taking better care of their crops than a large scale organic farmer who produces for a super market.
Personally, I buy organic as much as I can. I still believe in casting my vote at the super market and making a choice to purchase food that isn’t grown with toxic pesticides. I made it a rule to always avoid buying the “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables unless they are grown organically. Those include:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Grapes (Imported)
According to organic.org, this list of produce contains the highest amount of pesticide residues. If you’re interested in gathering more information about food and pesticides, a great site to check out is whatsonmyfood.org
It’s important that we all stay aware to what’s going on with our food supply. We can gain a lot of power through investigating what’s going on our plates. Forming relationships with local farmers and investing in good foods means we are investing in our overall health. That being said, I leave you all with this powerful quote:
“I like to say, ‘pay more, eat less.’ There’s no escaping the fact that better food—whether measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond)— costs more, usually because it has been grown with more care and less intensively. Not everyone can afford to eat high-quality food in American, and that is shameful; however, those of us who can, should. Doing so benefits not only your health (by, among other things, reducing your exposure to pesticides and pharmaceuticals), but also the health of the people who grow the foods as well as the people who live downstream and downwind of the farms where it is grown. So while it would have been much simpler to say ‘eat organic’ instead I suggest eating well-grown food from healthy soils. It is true that food certified organic is usually well grown in relatively healthy soils—soils that have been nourished by organic matter rather than synthetic fertilizers. Yet there are exceptional farmers and ranchers in America who for one reason or another are not certified organic and the food they grow should not be overlooked. Organic is important, but it’s not the last word on how to grow food well.” - Michael Pollan
Good Food, Good Body
I didn’t always have the best relationship with food. For the majority of my life I treated it as just a necessity and not as something to actually enjoy. In my mind food was something that grew out of the grocery store shelves and I was totally disconnected from understanding the benefits of eating the right things that would give my body what it needs. I was clueless, lethargic, and hungry for nutrients.
Five years ago my husband decided he wanted to learn how to farm so he started an internship on a vegetable farm in Perkasie, PA. He and I both had lived in NYC for 7 years and had the New York lifestyle coursing through our veins. We ate out almost every night and never investigated what was going into our take-out. We were in our twenties and keeping up with the pace of the city, not really taking our health into consideration. When we decided to make a life change and move to the country so he could farm, we couldn’t have imagined how this would affect our lives holistically. The more he learned about farming, the more connected he was to the vegetables he was growing, and the more we were both learning about the benefits of real food. We tried new things like kale, watermelon radish, and swiss chard. We started getting our beef locally from the farm that was right next to where he worked, and the flavor awakened our taste buds! We were excited to try every vegetable he brought home. We educated ourselves on the different ways to prepare all of these new goodies. One of my favorites is our home made cheese steaks where we incorporate kale, swiss chard, and onions in the meat. Along with this culinary excitement came the health benefits. We were finally eating good ingredients, and therefore feeling good. I shed the 5 extra pounds I was carrying around and my skin started to clear up. I had a lot more energy too. My mind felt more clear and I had a feeling of lightness throughout my body. We have since made it a point to really understand our food; where it comes from and how it is grown.With this newfound understaning we changed our diets. We eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, grains, and proteins on a daily basis. We source what we can locally and eat organic as much as possible. We ditched any refined sugar (except for the occasional treat) and stopped eating white bread. It was amazing how much of a difference just the bread alone made. The multi-grain bread didn’t sit so heavy in my stomach as the white did. I could feel my body actually pulling nutrients from it. We learned that good, real ingredients and balance were the ultimate key to our health and well being. The more he farmed, the more our excitement grew with each season. My relationship with food has done a complete 180. I went from not thinking about it at all to it becoming a beautiful and respected daily ritual. I realize now that good food is the foundation for a good body. It is the jumping point for any fitness program. It all starts with food.