Organic vs. Conventional Produce by Troy Alexander Thompson
Published Date: 11-09-2015
When I was a child, my mother used to quip that “an Apple a day keeps the doctor away,” always ensuring that I added one of the succulent little tree fruits to my sack lunch before heading off to school each day. Hers was a sentiment that resonated even into my latter years, when I was constantly reminded to add a pound or two of produce to supplement the bulk packages of Ramen noodle cups, instant oatmeal packets, and peanut butter sandwich fixings that were staples of my college-era diet.
As a young consumer, merely browsing the aisles at the local grocery store was an eye-opening experience. There was a huge price disparity between certain items such as apples, for example, that weren’t easily justified. Honestly, why should I spend $5 to $7 on a pound of “organic fruit,” when I could get the same items, or so I thought, for $2.00? What I failed to appreciate, at the time, was the revolution taking place on farms around the country, where some farmers were rejecting traditional agricultural practices and embracing ecologically sensitive methods resulting in better care for their land. Although in some cases more costly, I was to learn these methods were more sustainable and better for both people and our planet.
At that time I knew very little regarding the difference between “organic and conventionally grown produce.” My perspectives began to broaden, however when I enrolled in an environmental chemistry course and was introduced to the “organically grown” phenomena unfolding across the country. “Organic farming,” I
learned, has to do primarily with care for the soil in which crops or plants are grown. Plants receive nourishment from the soil systems in which they grow and soil that is better cared for yields healthier produce with fewer environmental consequences such as, soil erosion or groundwater contamination. In simpler terms, farmers who take better care of their soils, and who use fewer agricultural chemicals are better stewards of the environment.
Currently, the vast majority of agricultural production in the United States is grown on what we call “conventional farms,” in soil that’s treated with alarming quantities of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Collectively, these chemicals expose agricultural workers to toxins when applied, impact pollinating insect populations, seep into and pollute soil and groundwater systems, and are generally detrimental to human health.
Alternatively, an increasing number of farms across the country are experiencing a renaissance — an upswing in “organic” or sustainable farming. Grown in nutrient rich soil that’s not treated with agricultural chemicals, organic produce is harvested on farms that fanatically manage their soil systems and cringe at the mere thought of introducing toxic agricultural chemical compounds into it.
Soil, from a biological standpoint, is the birthplace of vegetation; and thus, soil that is unhindered by agricultural chemicals or toxins is alive and thriving, ultimately giving rise to healthier produce.
While many individuals suggest that organically grown produce is more nutritious than its conventionally grown counterparts, some researchers have disputed these claims. One such study, for example, published by Stanford University in 2012, found there was “little evidence of health benefits from organic foods.” The study did, however, go on to mention that consuming organic food may significantly reduce the risk of exposure to agricultural chemical residues and antibiotic resistant bacteria.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, whether or not organically grown produce is equally or more nutritious than conventional produce is a “red herring” argument, which fails to address the fundamental reasons behind why it’s so important to support organic farming by purchasing organic foods. Organic farmers deeply care for their land in a holistic manner using little to no environmental toxins, and they reject unsustainable practices that, in turn, reduce workers’ exposure to those environmental toxins.
At Bluebird Canyon Farms we grow organic produce because doing so promotes soil health, improves resiliency and renders the site practices more sustainable. By doing this we believe our efforts give rise to more environmentally-sound cropping than our conventional farming contemporaries.
So, the next time you happen to find yourself walking through the produce section of your local grocery store, consider the fundamental reasons why you should purchase organically grown produce. The disparity in price over its conventional equivalent may, at time seem a bit unreasonable, but by buying organic not only are you doing your body a favor, you’re also supporting agricultural practices that helps make the world a more environmentally-sound place to live for generations to come.