Thursday, January 19, 2012

Our Switch to Organic

These last several months J and I have been watching lots (LOTS!) of food-focused documentaries courtesy of Netflix. We started a few months ago with King Corn and Food Inc after being inspired by some Michael Pollan books such as the Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defence of Food (I saw Michael Pollan speak once at Butler when I was in graduate school). The message of the books as well as the films is to be more conscious of the food you eat.

Michael Pollan urges readers to shop the periphery of the grocery stores to avoid the more processed foods (he also says to only eat items your grandmother would recognize as food - blue colored go-gurts apparently dont count in his book) while King Corn draws attention to the omnipresence of corn and corn by-products in the foods that mainstream America consumes. From King Corn, you get the idea that food processing makes simple foods more complicated in an attempt to keep food cheap (the subsidization of corn production is also a major focus of the film and is a government program worthy of extensive reevaluation). Food Inc looks at food production in America on a broader scale and investigates not only mono-cropping, but also egg production, meat processing, and the control large corporations have over "their" farmers.

Time and time again the message was to eat local. If you can visit where your food is grown, there is a better chance it will be healthier for you. Not only will it have travelled less to get to your plate, but you can be more certain of the farmer's practices and see that they are proud of their product. In contrast, most of the chicken farmers interviewed for Food Inc wouldnt let visitors onto the property, cameras or not.

The concept of eating local isnt a new one for us as I had been raised on weekly trips to the local farmer markets to buy fresh produce. This is something J and I have been trying to do here in Indiana, though our farmer markets run only from June to October and curiously supplies bananas which are definitely not a locally grown fruit! In Fishers, the farmers market was small but varied and offered locally scavenged mulberries and produce stands that were often no more than the back of someones pick-up truck (gotta love Indiana!). When we chose to move to Noblesville, we took into account the presence of a local farmers market. It was supposed to be larger and better supplied than the one in Fishers so we were pretty excited. Since we moved in the dead of winter we had to wait several months for the market to start back up again and when it did we were sorely disappointed.

The beautiful market we had been promised was full of tomatoes with grocery store stickers on them, green onions with the tell-tale rubber bands of mass production, and more tie-dye stands than a small town really requires. As a result we ended up subscribing to a local organic produce delivery company called Green B.E.A.N. Delivery. Each week we get a bin full of organic produce delivered to our doorstep. Green Bean tries to source its products locally but when no local goods are available, such as during the Indiana winter, they get organic produce from the closest place possible. In addition to fruits and veggies, they offer local meat products that are often pasture raised, hormone free, and whose farms and ranches are within a days drive.

The switch to eating organic foods was one we have been wanting to make for some time. Now that we can pay our bills without worrying where the money will come from, we have made the choice to spend the extra funds on our food. They say that organic produce is about 30% more expensive than non-organic, but here in Indiana I find that its typically twice as expensive. When was the last time you paid $1.40 for a single bunch of "regular" green onions? Yeah, I didnt think so. Ours run about $2 a bunch. Just about the only thing that is 30% more expensive are bananas - go figure. So, instead of spending our few (precious) extra dollars on movies or wild nights at the local bar(s), we spend it on the thing we love the best, eating.

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