By Arwen McGilvra –
In today’s market we are truly lucky to have so many choices. Just look at the salad choices in a normal supper market; iceberg, romaine, red leaf, green leaf, kale, arugula, frisée, radicchio and bagged salad of every variety, the list goes on. Then add to the mix terms like organic, natural, locally grown, grass-fed, free-range, fat-free, sugar-free, gluten free…. What does it all mean? And how do you separate the hype from the facts?
Over the next several weeks we are going to be posting blogs to help you sort through all of the hype.
As the market for food labeled “organic” and “natural” has grown, and big box stores like Walmart and Costco get in on the trend the terms come to mean less and less. As Elisabeth Rosenthal put it in her article for the New York Times titled “Organic Agriculture May Be Outgrowing Its Ideals”
…the products are increasingly removed from the traditional organic ideal: produce that is not only free of chemicals and pesticides but also grown locally on small farms in a way that protects the environment.
Even going to stores that specialize in these type of foods like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s doesn’t fulfill the ideas of local and sustainable that most people are really looking for when they purchase “organic” food. Trader Joe’s is owned by a German billionaire and makes about 8 billion in annual revenue according to Fast Company. In 2013 Whole Foods posted a 12.9 billion dollar annual revenue. The fact is these are just big box stores too.
Recent recalls of dips, and salad mix at Trader Joe’s have left some leery. But for those who want to shop locally might want to look elsewhere. Danielle Maestretti pointed this out in her article The Eco-Myth of Trader Joe’s.
But as Sustainable Industries points out, it’s difficult to know how sustainable its operations really are—the company is “notoriously tight-lipped” about where its store-brand products come from.
On top of that the competition from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods has put pressure on many local co-ops. As reported by the Huffington Post, “Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s Force Local Food Co-Ops To Make Big Changes.”
So what can you do to really support the kind of agriculture that is local and sustainable? Well we’re going to answer that question over the next few weeks. For now we encourage you to explore the wealth of farm stands and farmers markets we enjoy in Oregon. We’ve put together a resource for you, that includes a chart of seasonal foods and guides to locating those farm stands. Go to our local foods page for more info.
Arwen McGilvra is a farm girl, whose family owns a multi-generation farm here in the Willamette Valley. Currently the farm raises seed crops, mostly grass seed. But in the past they’ve raised everything from strawberries to flax (which was used to make linen parachutes for WWII) to onions. She’s a member of American Agri-Women and it’s local affiliate Oregon Women for Agriculture. Passionate about farming and science, Arwen also enjoys gardening. Professionally she is a content manager and web developer known as The Tech Chef.