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Ask EcoGirl

A syndicated eco-advice column
Written by Patricia Dines

"Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone!"

"Making it easy to be green!"

This Month's Column:
Savoring the Gift of Local Organic

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Savoring the Gift of Local Organic

By Patricia Dines
Published in the Sonoma County Gazette
November 2013
(c) Patricia Dines, 2013. All rights reserved.

As the holidays come around again, and we pause to remember what we love and value, I encourage you to include the bountiful and nourishing mother earth in your embrace.

Among the items on my eco-gratitude list are the wonderful array of local organic foods in our area. I love how they fill my body with health and aliveness, even moments of time-transcending delight. Plus I'm thrilled to help nurture local eco-farmers and ecosystems.

Now I've heard some people declare that consumers should choose either local or organic. But don't we especially want the farms near us to avoid putting toxics into our air, water, and food?

The underlying problems

To me, it's vital that we find as many ways as we can to address the serious problems plaguing our current food system and harming our health, finances, communities, democracies, and planet.

Too often, our industrial food system feeds us a limited selection of toxic, contaminated, and tasteless fruits and vegetables. These are usually grown by poorly protected workers, using poisons that hurt people and ecosystems, and picked unripe for easy transport.

Then they're shipped long distances, using enormous amounts of petroleum that create large quantities of pollution and greenhouse gases. These cause health problems, foul ecosystems, and push our weather systems increasingly towards disaster. Significant packaging waste is created, and 25% of the produce doesn't even make it to our plate. Then, because of the produce's bland taste, it's often packaged with unhealthy levels of sugar, fat, salt, and fake flavors.

Worse, the supermarket's illusion of choice hides the consolidation of power into big farms and corporations that make life-and-death decisions for their benefit at our cost, and leave countless small farms struggling and considering closure. (Read more about these issues in Eat Here, by Brian Halweil.)

How local + organic can help

By buying LOCAL food, you can:

• Reduce the eco-harm from petroleum-powered transportation and storage.

• Enjoy food that's often more fresh, nutritious, and diverse (because crops are chosen for flavor not shippability).

• Support our local farmers, neighbors, and economy, and help protect our open space and rural pace of life.

• Connect to this specific place, by eating with the seasons, exploring our region's special foods, and getting to know local people's unique gifts.

• Enhance our food security and self-sufficiency, so that we're less vulnerable to disruptions of transportation systems and distant food supplies.

By buying ORGANIC food, you can:

• Remove toxic pesticides and fertilizers from our shared air, water, soil, and ecosystems.

• Savor food that's less-toxic, more nutritious, and non-GMO. Even simple preparation can yield tasty results!

• Support the farmers and producers who nurture the soil, avoid toxics, reject GMOs, and prove that farming can align with the earth's needs.

• Encourage more farmers and producers to adopt these practices. Believe me, they follow the money!

• Help this grassroots movement achieve its goal of removing toxics from all of agriculture. Countless people have worked decades to create this path.

Your next steps

1) Buy local and organic produce and packaged products; this is often easier at locally-owned stores. Encourage others to do the same. We have so many wonderful options! (Note: "Organic" has a specific legal definition, but "local" doesn't. Ideally, look for items from your county or within 100 miles of home.)

2) Make farmers' markets a joyful habit for yourself and your family. They're an easy way to get fresh local organic produce, plus jam, cheese, eggs, fish, meat, flowers, pastries, etc. Plus you can get decent prices (by cutting out the middlemen), connect with neighbors, and help children build healthy food as a lifelong habit. Find Sonoma County markets at www.bit.ly/GYtWHm.

3) Give gifts of local organic food and beverages, as unique treats and to introduce folks to our local treasures.

4) Encourage the businesses and nonprofits in your life to buy local organic products.

For more on this topic, plus lots of eco-holiday ideas, see www.patriciadines.info/EcoGirl7c.html [That's this page!]. And I wish you all a wonderful season!

 • • •

Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter. Email your questions about going green to <EcoGirl [at] AskEcoGirl.info> for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at www.AskEcoGirl.info.

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"EcoGirl: Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone."

© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2013. All rights reserved.


You can get lots more ideas for greening your holidays on my Ask EcoGirl Eco-Holidays Theme Page. www.askecogirl.info/AEThemeGreenHolidays.html


Sign up for my low-volume writing announcement list (1 to 3 emails a month), to get emails when my new print articles are published, at www.patriciadines.info/EList.


* Get to know our local organic packaged products For instance, in Sonoma County you can easily find local organic apple juice, applesauce, sparkling cider, jam, bread, olive oil, vinegar, tortillas, milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, teas, seaweed, pasta sauce, fish, meat, wine, and beer. Look on store shelves, or search online for your desired items.

* Explore local organic farms, to have a fun time in farm settings and get to know local farms. You can look them up by region in the Farm Trails guide. A new print version just came out, or you can look online at www.farmtrails.org. Maybe even sign up for a CSA (farm subscription). Look online for one in your area.


* Ask EcoGirl: Being a Smart Organic Consumer (August 2009)
Despite areas of controversy, organics are still a convenient way for consumers to choose food and agriculture that's healthier for themselves, their families, and the planet. But how do you know if something is really organic? And how do you sort out the organic issues and labels? Find out more in this column!
* Ask EcoGirl: Affording Organic (May 2008)
With today's economic uncertainties, a reader wonders, how can I still include organic in my budget? EcoGirl offers tips for saving money, and a reminder that our true survival depends on our health and the well-being of the earth.

* "Delighting in Our Delicious Local Farms,"(PDF), by Patricia Dines, West County Gazette, May 2008. Cover story. This piece savors the delights of buying in season from local farmers - and the benefits to community, earth, health, and wallet.Then it shows you how to do it, with a schedule of local farmers markets and links to directories of local farms and CSAs. There's even a table showing what's in season when. How fun! (Note: This link has the article as it appeared in the periodical, in PDF format.)

* MyAsk EcoGirl Theme Enjoying Ecological Food & Agriculture (including Organics & GMOs)
* "Why Should I Buy and Eat Local Foods?, 8 Straight-Forward Benefits of Eating Local Foods," By Molly Watson, http://localfoods.about.com/od/finduselocalfoods/tp/5-Reasons-to-Eat-Local-Foods.htm
* "The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food", By Michael Moss, New York Times, February 20, 2013, www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html
* Market Forces: Creating Jobs through Public Investment in Local and Regional Food Systems, Report Details Economic Benefits of Farmers Markets and Other Local Food Outlets, www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/solutions/expand-healthy-food-access/market-forces.html
"As farmers market shoppers have long known, buying food directly from the people who grew it is a great way to add freshness and flavor to your table and more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
//But locally grown food is not only good for your taste buds -- it creates jobs, keeps money in local economies, promotes community development, and can reduce the environmental and public health costs of the food we eat.//To maximize these benefits, we need new policies aimed at helping local and regional food systems thrive and expand, according to Market Forces, a new UCS report that reviews recent research on these systems and their economic effects. The report recommends the following policy changes:"
* About Food Miles www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/definitions/Food-Miles
"A 'food mile' is the distance food travels from the farm to the store where you buy it, and these miles are costly to the environment. They are, in fact, among the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Long-haul trucking requires enormous amounts of fossil fuel, the combustion of which releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Keeping food cold and unbruised requires even more fuel in the form of refrigeration and packaging. And let's not forget the impact of long-distance flyers such as apples from New Zealand and Chilean grapes. Distances have been increasing in recent decades, as foods increasingly are imported."
* Sonoma Organics www.sonomaorganics.com
"We work with organic farms in and around Sonoma County to get their produce to market and work closely with area chefs to provide the freshest of ingredients….Whether you are a grocery store, restaurant, caterer, co-op or other business with a discerning taste for high-quality, fresh-delivered produce, cheese and mushrooms, we've got you covered!"

* Eat Here, by Brian Halweil. This enjoyable book brings together key info on our current food system, plus lots of success stories in making change.

"[C]onsider a point made by Frances and Anna Lappé in their book Hope's Edge. The typical supermarket contains no fewer than 30,00 items. About half of those items are produced by 10 multinational food and beverage companies. And roughly 140 people -- 117 men and 21 women -- form the boards of directors of those 10 companies. In other words, although the plethora of products you see at a typical supermarket gives the appearance of abundance choice, much of the variety is more a matter of branding than of true agricultural variety, and rather than coming to us from thousands of different farmers producing different local varieties, has been globally standardized and selected for maximum profit by just a few powerful executives." Eat Here, page 15  


I'm delighted to offer you my Ask EcoGirl booklets, "Healthier Housecleaning" and "Detoxing Your Life." These unique, handy, and cheerful resources bring together key information you need to create a healthier home for your family and the planet. They make a great gift, and quantity discounts and wholesale prices are available. Plus all sales support my eco-healing community work. Tell a friend! Find out more at www.askecogirl.info/booklets.html.

For more information on related eco-topics, see my other Ask EcoGirl columns.


Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter, which gently educates readers about toxics and alternatives. For more information about my work for the planet, see www.patriciadines.info

Sign up for my low-volume writing announcement list (1-3 emails a month), to get emails when my new print articles are published, at www.patriciadines.info/EList.

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I hope that you find this information useful. I welcome your throughts and feedback! (You can email me at info [at] askecogirl.info.)

Editors: Please contact me if you'd like to publish any of these articles in your periodical, or discuss an article that I might write for you.

This entire website is (c) Patricia Dines, 1998-2013. All rights reserved.
Page last updated 11/1/13