What’s More Important to You? Buying Local or Organic?

Posted · 38 Comments

I’ve been thinking about this question lately – Should I be spending my money on supporting our local food economy or focus on buying organic although it’s been shipped from all over the world?

I don’t have all the right answers and I’m sure many of us will disagree with one another; however, I thought this would make a great post to open up the comments for discussion.

This year, I’ve been busy with a newborn so unable to attend the farmers market on a weekly basis like I usually do.  On the flip side, I’ve had a great gardening season at home that we haven’t had much of a need for many more vegetables.

It’s been a huge blessing; however, one thing that’s difficult to come by in the Midwest is fruit.

In Iowa, finding different varieties of fruit at a farmers market is few and far between.  What we do have, mostly apples and peaches, can be quite expensive. On top of that, I’m not aware of one local berry farm or orchard that intentionally grows organic or chemical free.

So what do I do?  Focus on buying local or buy organic from large chain natural food stores?

Trader Joes and Whole Foods

tj

In Central Iowa, we now have a local Trader Joes and Whole Foods Store.  As great as it is that we are now able to buy organic foods more freely, it makes it easier to avoid buying local.

In this season of caring for a newborn, I’ve been happy to know that if I miss the market I can still hit the natural food stores.

Once routine sets in, I can see how some might forego the farmers market all together.

Our local food shed needs us and I still believe that those that are making efforts to growing chemical free have vegetables and fruits that are far more nutritious than even their organic counterparts produced in mass amounts.  After all, it comes down to the soil it’s grown in.

Reality

In all reality, it comes down to the individual family and their real food, food budget.  I want the best food that I can get for my family; however, it needs to fall within our budget.

I’m sure most of you have noticed how prices continue to soar at the supermarket.  My feed for my chickens keeps rising as well.

So for my family buying both local and organic is important.  Here’s where we purchase our weekly food.

  • My own organic gardens
  • Des Moines Farmers Market
  • Local farmers for milk and meat
  • Trader Joes
  • Hyvee
  • Costco
  • Walmart

Not everything is organic.  Mostly the fruits that make the top 15 clean list I buy conventional.  I’ve also been buying conventional Colorado peaches that have been tasting Amazing! Shh… don’t tell ;)

So this is what’s working for my family.  I’m really happy we have so many options to choose from.  Next week I’m going to share with you exactly what I buy from each store.  I’ve had people ask me, so I think it’s time to share how I make this all work.  I’ll also share why I favor Trader Joes over Whole Foods.

So, how about you?  Do you intentionally buy organic, local, or both?  I’d love to hear where you shop and how you feel about this topic.

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38 Responses to "What’s More Important to You? Buying Local or Organic?"
  1. Danielle Hettinger Morales says:

    organic, but both whenever possible!

  2. Great topic, Diana. Growing with small businesses on my and my husband’s sides of the family, I tend to go with small businesses over organic. You have to know your farmer, ask questions, and hopefully find what is organic but not certified so. I also prefer Trader Joe’s over Whole Foods.

  3. Annie Corrigan says:

    Local hands down.

  4. Ana Maria Dudley says:

    Local, most of the small farmers can not afford the organic certification but does not mean they don’t offer quality produce. I read somewhere that “Why would you buy produce from countries that you would not drink the water without getting sick”. Local, organic and in season is what I try to do whenever possible.

  5. Steph says:

    Great topic, one I have been thinking of alot as well lately as my keeping our family’s food budget on target has become more important than ever. I personally think local is best in most situations, but I still struggle with conventional growing methods. We make a trip to an orchard each fall with the kids-fresh apples & the experience for them to us are worth supporting a local, albeit conventional farmer! We support the Farmer’s Markets for the vegetables we don’t grow & local Iowa Valley Food Coop for meat & vegetables as much as we can, and our milk & meat come from a local farm as well. Pretty much the rest of our food comes from Azure Standard in Oregon-NOT local:). I can’t speak enough good things about this company-if you are lucky enough to have them deliver to near where you live, I highly recommend them! Like you said, fruits can be hard to come by in Iowa, so we buy the majority of our fruits from them-if we had TJ’S nearby we would probably buy more from them, as their prices are pretty good as well!

    I am going to be going to the DSM Farmer’s Market one of the next 2 weekends, and am looking forward to it!

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Steph, we do have Azure Standard and I do love them. Unfortunately, we just haven’t had extra money to buy from them lately. However, what I used to buy from them, I’m not getting in smaller quantities at Trader Joes.

  6. Carol Burrow says:

    Organic! Unfortunatley I have found a lot of our local is not organic :(

  7. Organic, not necessarily certified, but just not sprayed. Lots of local farmers around here use lots of yucky stuff.

  8. Heather says:

    I’m with you and many others..I buy both!
    We tend to grow a lot and support local farmers first as that is what is important to us. I know those guys selling produce at the market are not “the bad guys”..their gardening practices may be different than mine but keeping your dollars local helps your local economy. Scratch my back I scratch yours..something the big box or big ag cannot do or not on a personal level.

    I recently learned of Azure Standard, this month I was thinking of ordering organic apples. BUT I’m torn-do I use my dollars to vote and support organic (which I LOVE and truely appreciate and believe we all need to support for multiple reasons) OR do I support our local orchards.?? Our apple trees took a hit from a late frost so until we are growing our own or enough to supple our needs I’ll probalby buy from both!

  9. Lorie Sam Cerritelli says:

    LOCAL!

  10. Yissell says:

    Hi Diana, I split between Trader’s Joe (butter, some fruits, and some salad veggies), Farmer’s Market (some fruits, honey, and some veggies), CSA (raw milk and meats) and local grocery store for the rest (laundry soaps, etc.) I find Whole Foods way too expensive, sometimes much more than my local farmer’s market. We live on a tight budget, so to my it comes down to prices, sometimes is cheaper at Farmer’s market than anywhere else and I’m very happy with that because food taste much better, others I have to pay the extra $ for those organic. I live in an apartment in the city, then growing my own veggies it’s not an option.

  11. Local, and somebody I know!

  12. So my question? How do you feel about local yet conventionally grown? I prefer organic apples versus local and sprayed. However, we are visiting the local orchard today for homeschool ;)

  13. Lorie Sam Cerritelli says:

    I prefer local even if it’s conventional because I like supporting my local economy not the supermarket, and a lot of organic produce at the store is from /mexico and other countries, which I don’t really trust…

  14. Angela Lux says:

    I would love to do all organic – but honestly it is just too cost prohibitive much of the time. I also am a glass half full kinda gal and believe that not ALL convential methods are evil. I choose to buy local as much as possible as well as garden and put up a great deal of food for our use.

  15. I go for local over organics any day, but for a lot of things that just isn’t an option.

  16. Jamie Fiene says:

    Local. But I have biodynamic farmers to buy from and that makes a difference as well.

  17. Maria says:

    This is a tough one that changes during different seasons of life for sure.

    We buy our beef, pork, and chicken locally directly from the farmers. While I love to support small business, I also just cannot justify the time and distance it takes to always do that. I try to stay really close to home when shopping which means not even going out to WDSM for Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

    I buy organic from Azure Standard once a month and that has been a God-send for our family. Organic and affordable. Of course the trade off is the distance it travels to get here so I can have the convenience of ordering online and picking up just up the street.

    Of course I grow my own, do some foraging, and trade with family for some things too. Having our own honey and eggs has been a wonderful asset.

    The small amount that I do have to buy usually comes from Fareway, Hy-vee, and bulk items from Sam’s.

    So I guess it comes down to convenience and price for me right now. I haven’t had a need to visit the Farmer’s Market in years-other than for the fun of it.

    Great topic, something I’ve wrestled with for a long time.

  18. Ana Maria Dudley says:

    I live in rural Oregon and I can tell you that getting to know this local farmers makes all the difference in the world. We have a small but powerful Wednesday farmers market at the local park and it is so inviting and reasonable priced produce. I went to my favorite farm the other day and picked vegetable for $0.45 cents a pound for anything you picked! Amazing!! Well, now back to cooking, I have tomatoes to roast!

  19. Amy Hachquet says:

    Organic

  20. Lisa C says:

    I think a big part of choosing one over the other depends on where you live. We are very blessed in Des Moines to have many options for both local and organic/chemical free. Whenever possible I buy meat and produce from a local farmer and any farmers market in town, we have lots to choose from. :) Otherwise for the other foods that occupy my pantry I try to stick with Trader Joes and sometimes Gateway market (local natural foods store but very expensive). I don’t ever feel bad at shopping at Trader Joes and a part of me believes it’s just as important both economically and nutritionally. Let’s just say they create jobs and…well, if it wasn’t for Traders and due to my budget I would have to shop at Wal Mart far more than I sometimes have to!!

  21. Lori Rice says:

    Local over organic for me. I actually buy very little produce labeled organic. I want to know what the practices are. Some organic methods are harmful to the environment. It’s about education on production, and not labels, for me.

  22. Good post, I do a bit of both as well. I’ll be sure to be back to read why you prefer Trader Joe’s over Whole Foods. I go to both for differnt reasons. Both stores are three hours away so I don’t shop at either of them very often.

  23. Local by farmers I respect. I equate certified Organic with Industrial now and while at first I had high hopes for Large Scale Organics, now I see it’s only destroying the spirit of Organic from the inside.

  24. sandra says:

    i do both–@the local farmer’s markets, but if it’s something i need for a recipe, say fresh ginger, i do organic in the health food market.

  25. Paloma says:

    I soooo wish I could buy both local and organic… but I can’t be that choosy right now… I have to buy what I can afford and organic is not affordable right now… -sigh- Praying I can do that again soon! :)

  26. Alaina says:

    Well…we just moved from Alaska to Iowa, so my idea of ‘local’ is a bit off. In Alaska, local was the state of Washington sometimes, so things are much different now.

    As a rule, I tend to attempt to buy most veggies locally and can or freeze as many as possible in the summer and fall to try to keep them around for the winter. I am still attempting to find a raw milk source here, but I do buy milk from a local creamery. Also, I want to buy beef and chicken locally, so I am slowly looking into it. Right now we’re just not eating much meat aside from some fish from Alaska that we brought with us.

    In terms of apples, I go organic. For me, anything on the dirty dozen I try my best to get both local and organic. But for those, I will go non-local in favor of organic. Typically, with those things I buy Azure because it is not major supermarket and I know the farmers are getting paid better than from a major supermarket chain.

    In all honesty, I try to stay away from the grocery store as much as possible, but our local coop just closed so I am feeling lost.

    All that to say, I tend to prefer local over organic in most cases. I do buy free-range organic meat and eggs exclusively. My milk is not organic, but it is local and not ultra-pasteurized or homogenized. With cheese I just don’t know what to do.

  27. Heidi says:

    I have to admit that I don’t buy organic, but I do have a 1/2 acre of garden, grow a lot of my own vegetables and I live in the middle of a great rural growing community where I can buy anything that I don’t grow myself. I don’t have to go to the farmer’s market – I go directly to the seller. We have several freezers that we load up during the growing season. Anything that we need fresh during the winter, I buy at the grocery store. Organic is out of my budget, so I buy and properly clean the vegetables and fruit. I know this doesn’t guarantee non GMO foods, but at the same time, I understand that most of the world wouldn’t be fed.

  28. For me a third variable is also cost. I don’t have unlimited funds to buy organic or local all the time. So if I can find a great deal on organic peaches from Azure say, that wins for me right now. I prefer organic over conventionally grown local food, honestly. But it’s such a complicated decision matrix. :-) I wish Trader Joes was closer to us. 3 hours to is just too far.

  29. Carolyn says:

    I buy mostly local with some organic and minimal grocery store unless it’s New City Market. I also love the Iowa Food Coop and Azure Standard. I find that I really don’t like to “go to the grocery store” but if I can make an order and then go pick it up at a certain time and place, it feels like I’m receiving a gift. Real food packed with a myriad of nutrients is truly a gift from God. The “certified organic” label is definitely being compromised, so I prefer to get to know the producer (Shanen :)) and ask questions about farming practices.

  30. Elissa says:

    Please, locavores, don’t take this as a criticism — I’m a libertarian and believe that every should be free to do as each sees fit. For me, I choose organic over local unless the local is chem-free and non-GMO. My body and the bodies of my husband and children need the superior nutrition of organic and NOT the chemicals and GMO of local foods. Our body cells don’t care a flyin’ fig about local if it comes with all that horrible stuff.

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