Local, organic, seasonal, natural…oh my! There is a lot of verbiage used to describe our food these days and it can be hard to interpret what it all means and what you should really be looking for.
My priority is always local. By eating local I end up eating seasonally as well and I support my local market and my local farmers. Eating seasonally is not necessarily eating local. A strawberry in May from Wal-mart is not the same as a strawberry in May from the farm down the road. When I buy from the farmers at the market I get to hear about Eileen the cow that produced the milk for my butter from Bonnie Blue Farms and Sherry from Sheerlark Farms saves garlic scapes for me. It’s important for me to know that the people producing my food do so with good intentions and care about it as much as I do.
In Chattanooga, you can look for the Harvested Here logo to know you are buying from local vendor
Natural or organic is my next priority. I want my food to come from down the road and I want it in the most natural state it can be. Don’t get hung up on organic. Many smaller farms use organic principles but the organic certification is prohibitive due to their size. There are also other certifications that are equally as worthy as the certified organic such as certified naturally grown. Ask your farmer about their practices. They should be happy to tell you how they farm and why they utilize certain practices. The Environmental Working Group analyzes pesticide use and absorption by fruits and veggies and each year publishes a list of the most important produce to buy organic if possible to limit your pesticide exposure. You can read the most recent list here.
In the end, you have to decide your own priorities and what works best for your family and your food budget. The “it costs more to eat healthy” argument is for tomorrow…