Sunday, October 18, 2009
"Local" Organics - The Locals Ain't Buying It
For the past year I've been on a high horse seeking out local "organic" food. I'd like to consider local being my immediate "valley" of approximately a 25 mile radius in the Lykens and Hegins valleys; but for a wanna-be vegan, that's near impossible when you live in rural Pennsylvania with a bumper crop of meat and potato eating Pennsylvania Dutch who really like growing things in Miracle Gro. So I expanded my "local" to a 100 mile radius. Several stores I found to carry organic foods are either not carrying organics any longer, or are just shutting their doors. Most recently, Natural Acres closed their doors. I can't say I'm surprised at this one because their prices were way, way out of line for organics. $3.95 for a dozen organic eggs? $8.00/lb for organic chicken? The entire farm is for sale -- 500 organic acres. Boy if I was wealthy I'd be sticking this farm in my back pocket and growing organic food and selling it CHEAP to compete with conventional food. One of my other weekly visits is Nude Food at the Broad Street Farmers Market in Harrisburg. They too have slowly been downsizing over the past two-three years and more recently they stopped restocking their shelves. When I asked when the next shipment of raw nuts was expected, I was told, "Pam is slowly closing down." Drat! Another one biting the dust. Last winter, I inquired at yet another local bulk food store as to when they will be stocking their organic shelves and they also said, "we're rethinking the organic food section and will not carry as much." Prior to that, the local Weis store completely eliminated their entire organic section AND another store cut their organic section in half (BG's in Millersburg). It's SO disappointing, but understandable - people simply aren't paying the prices. The most recent edition of Organic Matters (Pennsylvania Certified Organic's quarterly newsletter) has an editorial about organic milk losing steam -- folks are struggling financially and when they see a wall of choices of milk, they are going to pick the cheap one and let the organic milk sit. Hubby said the same thing and it certainly makes sense. BUT, I continue to believe that organic food does NOT have to be higher priced than conventional. I continue to believe its cheaper to raise a grass fed cow than a feed lot cow. Organic advocates will argue that point until the cows come home, but there's absolutely no reason a consumer should be denied better health with organics just because of the higher price. Health wise (and isn't that what its really all about?), it's not fair. So my garden will have to continue even though I really wanted to downsize next year. There's just some things to important to eat organically that simply aren't available locally (all the vegetables!).