On the Cincy Locavore listserv I spotted this question:

Hey Everyone,

I put a post on our blog today about buying local over organic when you have to choose. I thought folks on this list might be interested, and I wonder if people agree with my current assessment.

Here is the link.

Any comments – here or on the blog – would be great!


Gavin DeVore Leonard

And here is my answer:

I prefer local over Organic and I am one of those growers who is not certified Organic but grows that way. But by no means are all the local growers growing Organically, even if they say they are. My farm was certified organic by OEFFA for over 6 years back before the USDA took over. I learned an awful lot about organic farm management and Organic growing during that time and find it to be vitally important to keep growing that way. But I also know that before I went through the process of transitioning to Organic and Organic Certification I would tell my customers when asked, “Yes we grow Organically” because I really thought how I was growing was Organic. I was dead wrong. I found out that Organic really doesn’t have much to do with avoiding pesticides and fertilizers. As a matter of fact both are used on well managed Organic farms certified or not. What I did fond out is Organic is all about soil management and it is this facet of Organic farm management that puts us apart from the conventional farmers. I also learned that it takes around 7 to 15 years to get one’s soils healthy after decades of abuse from conventional salt based fertilizers and pesticides, not the 3 year transition period used by the USDA (which is an arbitrary number that was used by many pre USDA Organic certifiers that would allow some recovery by the soils but not keep farmers waiting so long to get certified that it would make any economical sense to 99% of them).

Most people, including many farmers, believe that Organic farming is all about avoiding certain inputs (pesticides and fertilizers and hormones for livestock). They simply do not understand the processes that must happen to make one’s farm truly Organic and thus see no problem with using a bit of RoundUp on “really bad” weeds or some sort of chemical and very toxic insecticide like Sevin dust because they think without it they will lose their crop(s). My point is that a lot of the farmers/growers at farmers markets who are not certified Organic are also not growing Organically, even though they say they are and may believe they really are (as I used to as well until I found out I was anything but Organic at the time) so do not fool yourselves into thinking that all local farm are organic farms. Yes there are those of us who really are Organic and no longer feel the need to have papers that say we are and I do know a few farmers who have never gone through Organic cert. but are indeed deeply Organic in how they grow (generally because they worked on a certified Organic farm for a few years before going out on their own or because they are the type of person who loves to do research and have taken the time to learn what Organic farm management entails). But I find from talking to farmers at markets that most are at best quasi Organic, especially the livestock people who rarely feed Organic feed and thus are feeding GMO’s to their stock (which in my mind is NOT Organic and for me is a deal breaker).

But all that said I would rather support quasi Organic farms and conventional farms that are local to me than buying Organic from who knows where

That’s my 2¢