Sunday, August 24, 2008

Eco-Neurosis: Fixating on Cucumbers (Local vs. Organic)

I embroil myself in all kinds of annoying conundrums about living a green life. For instance, take my latest: I just found out that at least one of the farmers that I buy from regularly at my local neighborhood farmer's market is "conventional" - meaning that they use pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and all kinds of ickle agrochemicals.

So the conundrum is this: is it better for the environment for me to buy cucumbers grown organically at Whole Foods, even though they were shipped in from some other state (therefore creating greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation - more "food-miles")? Or, is it better for me to buy conventional cucumbers from my local farm (less transport emissions and supporting a small farm), but also supporting the release of toxic chemicals into my LOCAL environment from the farm's runoff?

Locally Farmed Conventional Cucumbers or Organic Cucumbers from California?

Some questions that come up:

- What is each cucumber's share of emissions when being shipped from California (maybe they ship so many things that, per product, the "food-miles" are minimal)?
- How far does my local farmer have to drive to get to my neighborhood farmers' market and what are the associated "food-miles" per cucumber of that?
- Since Whole Foods (and, ack, Wal-Mart) is now trying to buy more organic AND more local, maybe the organic cucumbers at the store are not from too far away? Does that make a difference?
- Would my thoughts on the matter be different if our Chesapeake Bay was not incredibly polluted from agricultural and industrial runoff? (The "soup" of fertilizer, pesticides and sediment that flows from farmland after rain or irrigation is very damaging to local waterbodies.) Read more here about agriculture's impact on water (from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Below is some further reading, which I have not done yet. I am going to read through the lively debate of "local vs. organic" and see what I decide. Honestly, though, I think I am leaning toward organic.

Grist: Local vs. Organic

Time: Eating Better than Organic

BBC: Local Food "Greener" Than Organic

PS - Photo is of me behind a very large cucumber grown by a member of the local 4-H on Cape Cod. It was during the Barnstable County Fair.

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