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organic vs sustainable vs local

Organic vs sustainable vs local — which is best?

Organic vs sustainable vs local — which is best?


By the Seasonal Roots Veggie Fairy Team:

We get this question pretty much daily: “So are your farms Certified Organic?” When people ask that, we totally get where they’re coming from. We all just want to eat nutritious, safe, non-toxic, eco-friendly food, but it’s not like any of us have the time to research every item we buy. So the government’s “Certified Organic” label has become a convenient shortcut to eating healthy without harming the planet.

If only it were true.

Organic vs sustainable vs local… how do you decide which is best? Here at Seasonal Roots, we’re more concerned about sustainable and local than organic, so we don’t require our local farmers to be Certified Organic. Here’s why:

1. We partner with local farmers.

Many of them are multi-generational. That means they care for their land, crops, and animals with the next generation in mind. They use sustainable practices like rotating their crops to avoid sucking all the nutrients out of the soil. The vast majority of our farmers don’t spray, either, because that would jeopardize the integrity of their land. If they do spray, it’s minimal and only as required. One of our sustainable farmers has a friend who runs a Certified Organic farm not far from him. One year, our sustainable farmer sprayed his yellow squash one time all season because it was necessary. His Certified Organic friend, on the other hand, sprayed his squash on a weekly schedule using a spray approved by the USDA. Our farmer isn’t considered Certified Organic, but his weekly spraying friend is allowed to use that title.

2. “Organic” doesn’t equal “locally grown”.

In fact, it may even be grown in a foreign country and shipped to the U.S. The result? A bigger carbon footprint. That’s not eco-friendly. There’s also no guarantee that the food was produced under ideal conditions for farmers, laborers, or livestock, and an organic label has nothing to do with food safety.

3. The best way to know if your food is nutritional, eco-friendly, and safe is to know your farmer.

That’s not possible for most of us as individuals. But when we come together as a group like Seasonal Roots, that’s exactly what we do. We know our farmers. We talk with them, visit their farms, and develop relationships with them. We share their stories with you so you can know them too, even if you don’t have time to go visit them yourself. It’s not quite as easy as the “Certified Organic” shortcut, but it’s a lot easier than trying to do it all by yourself.

4. Most nutrients begin to degrade from the moment produce is harvested.

The sooner it gets to you the better. Also, many studies have shown that fruit that’s picked closer to the peak of ripeness (rather than being picked green and ripening on the shelf or by being gassed) is more nutritious than fruit that’s picked before or after peak, whether it’s organic or not. This is why we hustle to get your produce to you as soon as possible after harvesting, and why being local helps — it doesn’t have to travel very far. Much of the food in grocery stores has traveled thousands of miles and many days to get there, losing nutrients every hour of the way.

5. There’s no standard definition for “local”.

Our standard is within about 150 miles of our delivery areas in Virginia. So most of our local partners are in Virginia, and a few are in southern Pennsylvania or eastern North Carolina. To maintain a healthy variety of options during the winter, we partner with sustainable farmers in Florida. We call that produce “regional” because it can get to us within a day of harvest without resorting to flying. Members who prefer to eat only what’s in season locally can opt out of our winter-time regional offerings.

We support our local farmers because we know and trust them and their practices. They produce safe food for their families, our families. and your families. Wherever you may be, we hope you’ll join us in supporting your local farmers, too!

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS


Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

local produce tastes better

Why fresh local produce tastes so different

Case Study: Celery


By Kristin Henderson, Chief Veggie Communicator

It’s celery season out on the Flores family’s farm on Virginia’s Northern Neck. Gerardo and his son Omar are harvesting fresh, aromatic celery bunches from their fields. Then our veggie fairies deliver it straight to you within just a couple days.

If you ever needed proof that freshly harvested local produce tastes better than the stuff you get at the grocery story (which is at least a week old), do a celery taste test.

What is celery really supposed to taste like?

Until I discovered fresh local food, I thought celery was supposed to taste like grocery store celery – bitter or, at best, blah – useful as a crunchy delivery vehicle for peanut butter, various cheeses, or hummus, but otherwise best hidden in soups, stews, or salads.

Compared to that, the first time I bit into freshly harvested celery, the taste was a revelation. It was loaded with so much zingy flavor that I ate it all by itself as a snack. When I roasted it, that peppery flavor turned sweet. And when I made cream of celery soup with it, as much as I love any kind of grass-fed creaminess, I had to admit the celery was the star of the show.

Lots of flavor, lots of nutrients

If produce is full of flavor, that’s a good indicator that it’s full of nutrients as well. Flavor and nutrients go hand in hand – the longer produce sits around after it’s been harvested, the more they both fade away. Check out how much nutritional value is lost during the week (or more!) that it takes most produce to get from the farm to the grocery store.

So when produce is bursting with flavor, it’s usually bursting with nutrients, too. In the case of celery, that includes B vitamins, and vitamins A, C, and K, plus potassium, calcium, folate, and fiber.

Why does fresh local celery taste so different?

I’ve already mentioned one of the biggest reasons: the amount of time between when it’s picked and when you eat it. Grocery stores just can’t compete with local produce that’s home-delivered within a couple days of harvest, the way Seasonal Roots’ produce is. Even grocery stores that carry local food can’t offer it to you until after it makes its way through the delivery and warehousing system… which all takes time.

But there are other reasons why our local produce tastes better and is better for you. It starts with the dirt. Our local family farmers use sustainable practices to keep their soil nutrient-rich so the produce they grow in that soil can then absorb those nutrients.

Next, because our produce doesn’t have to sit in a warehouse, our farmers can pick it at the peak of ripeness, after it has soaked up all the flavor and nutrients that it can get from Mother Nature. Produce that’s picked early for a long trip may turn the right color along the way, but it doesn’t gain any nutrients or flavor in the process.

Also, during our more direct delivery process, our local produce gets handled less. So it’s less likely to get bruised, cut, or damaged. Damage speeds up the natural deterioration that makes flavor and nutrition go bye-bye.

Gerardo and Omar’s celery comes fresh from their fields with the flavor, nutrients, and roots still attached. Eat it raw or use it to cook up something amazing! We’ve got lots of healthy, tasty celery ideas on our Pinterest celery board.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS


Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

organic sustainable local food

ORGANIC vs SUSTAINABLE vs LOCAL

Which is best?!


By the Seasonal Roots Veggie Fairy Team

We get this question pretty often: “So are your farms Certified Organic?”

When people ask that, we totally get where they’re coming from. We all just want to eat nutritious, safe, non-toxic, eco-friendly food. But who has time to research every item we buy? So the government’s “Certified Organic” label seems like a convenient shortcut to eating healthy without harming the planet.

If only it were true.

Organic vs sustainable vs local… how do you decide which is best? Here at Seasonal Roots, we’re more concerned about sustainable and local than organic, so we don’t require our local farmers to be Certified Organic.

Here are 4 reasons why.

1. “Organic” doesn’t equal “locally grown”.


In fact, it may even be grown in a foreign country and shipped to the U.S. The result? A bigger carbon footprint. That’s not eco-friendly.

There’s actually no standard definition for “local”. Our standard is within about 150 miles of our delivery areas in Virginia. So most of our local partners are in Virginia. A few are in southern Pennsylvania or Maryland or eastern North Carolina.

To maintain a healthy variety of options during the winter, we partner with sustainable farmers in Florida. We call that produce “regional” because it can get to us within a day of harvest without resorting to flying. Members who prefer to eat only what’s in season locally can opt out of our winter-time regional offerings.

2. Organic doesn’t equal nutritious, either.


The sooner produce gets to you the better. Research shows that most nutrients begin to degrade from the moment produce is harvested. Spinach, for example, loses up to 60% of its nutrients in a week, the typical age of most grocery store produce. Our local produce gets to you within just a couple days of harvest.

Also, many studies have found that fruit that’s picked closer to the peak of ripeness (rather than being picked green and ripening on the shelf or by being gassed) contains more nutrients, more vitamins and minerals, than fruit that’s picked before or after peak, whether it’s organic or not.

This is why we hustle to get your produce to you as soon as possible after harvesting, and why being local helps — it doesn’t have to travel very far. Much of the food in grocery stores has traveled thousands of miles and many days to get there, losing nutrients every hour of the way.

3. Organic is no guarantee of food safety.


That organic label can’t tell you whether the food was produced under clean and healthy conditions. Plus, Certified Organic farmers can still use herbicides and pesticides – just certified organic ones. While this changes the mix of what’s sprayed, it doesn’t make it better, and they often spray frequently as a matter of course.

Our local farmers are low- or no-spray. Many of them are multi-generational, so they care for their land, crops, and animals with the next generation in mind. They use sustainable practices like rotating their crops to avoid sucking all the nutrients out of the soil. The vast majority of our farmers don’t spray because that would jeopardize the integrity of their land. If they do spray, it’s minimal and only as required. You could call sustainable farming “old school organic”, the way it was often done before the government got in the business of regulating it.

One of our sustainable farmers has a friend who runs a Certified Organic farm not far from him. One year, our sustainable farmer sprayed his yellow squash one time all season because it was necessary. His Certified Organic friend, on the other hand, sprayed his squash on a weekly schedule using a spray approved by the USDA. Our farmer isn’t considered Certified Organic, but his weekly spraying friend is allowed to use that title.

4. The best way to know if your food is nutritious, eco-friendly, and safe is to know your farmer.


That’s not possible for most of us as individuals. But when we come together as a group like Seasonal Roots, that’s exactly what we do. We know our farmers. We talk with them, visit their farms, and develop relationships with them. We share their stories with you so you can know them too, even if you don’t have time to go visit them yourself. It’s not quite as easy as the “Certified Organic” shortcut, but it’s a lot easier than trying to do it all by yourself.

We support our local farmers because we know and trust them and their practices. They produce safe food for their families, our families. and your families. So whether you just celebrated Halloween or simply enjoy the season’s produce, sustainably grown local food (like the pumpkins pictured here) is better for you and better for the planet!

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS


Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

frozen veggies 400x350

Do this to save fresh local produce for a year!

Third in a 3-part series on storing fresh local produce
– By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

(Part 1: You won’t believe how much nutritional value is lost)
(Part 2: 4 easy ways to max out your produce’s nutritional value)

In the last two posts, we got into some of the ways Seasonal Roots’ small family farmers are bucking the trends that are killing the nutritional value of modern-day produce… and four easy ways you can max out the nutritional value of the nutritious, delicious produce our local farmers grow. But what do you do if you find yourself with too much of it on hand?

To save fresh local produce from going to waste, freeze it. It will keep in the freezer for 8-12 months! Or can it. Where refrigeration just slows down that ticking clock of deterioration, freezing and canning both stop it cold. The remaining nutrients and flavor stay put until you’re good and ready to eat it.

Freezing requires no special gear, and it’s quick and easy. I’m all for quick and easy, so let’s focus on freezing.

1. To save fresh local produce, start with produce that’s as fresh as possible and in good condition.
2. Clean it thoroughly.
3. Boil water and either drop the produce directly into the water or steam it. Whether boiling or steaming, do this for 2-5 minutes until they’re just done.
4. From there, drop the produce into ice water. This process, called “blanching”, stops the enzyme activity that destroys nutrients and changes texture.
5. Let the produce cool, then put it into plastic freezer bags, squeezing out the air as you seal it up. Or, to keep all that produce from freezing into one big solid unwieldy block, pat it dry, spread it out in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and place the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once the individual pieces are frozen, pop them into bags. When you’re ready to use them, you can pull out a handful if that’s all you need.

Heat does cause nutrient loss, and both freezing and canning expose the produce to heat. But in most cases, you don’t lose any more than you would from cooking. And if you freeze it right away before those nutrients have a chance to slip away, you’ll generally lose less than you would if you let it sit in the fridge for a couple weeks, even if you ate it uncooked at that point.

So freezing makes it possible for you to enjoy delicious, nutritious meals made from fresh, local produce… in the off-season. Bonus!

For a deeper dive, here’s an article from the University of California at Davis, that compares how much nutritional value is lost during refrigerated storage and cooking versus freezing and canning.

Here’s a more detailed how-to on freezing from Mother Earth News.

And to REALLY get down in the weeds, the National Center for Home Food Preservation lets you look up how to freeze almost anything.

Photo from Dreamstime/Mother Earth News

beets 400x350

4 easy ways to max out your produce’s nutritional value

Second in a 3-part series on storing fresh local produce
– By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

(Part 1: You won’t believe how much nutritional value is lost)
(Part 3: Do this to save fresh local produce for a year!)

In the last post, we got to know the three biggest enemies that are killing the nutritional value of modern-day produce. But Seasonal Roots’ fearless family farmers are fighting to grow more nutritional produce by working with nature to enrich the soil on their land. They’re also growing old-fashioned heirloom varieties that haven’t been bred for nothing but shelf life.

Plus, there are things YOU control that will boost your food’s nutritional value, too. Here are 4 easy ways to max out the nutrients in the produce you eat. Bonus: in most cases, you’ll be maxing the flavor, too.

1. BUY LOCAL. As soon as produce is picked, the clock starts ticking as the produce starts losing nutrients. The sooner you get your hands on it after harvest, the more nutritional value it still has. Most grocery store produce comes from all over the world and is at least a week old. By then, green beans have lost 77% of their vitamin C. Seasonal Roots local produce doesn’t have to travel far, so it arrives at your door within a couple days of leaving the field.

2. EMBRACE THE DIRT. You should definitely wash your produce to make sure it’s safe to eat. But wait to wash until right before you eat it or cook it. Until then, leave it in its original state and handle it as gently and as little as possible. Excess moisture, bruising, pre-chopping and peeling (we’re looking at you, ready-to-eat bag o’ salad) all accelerate decay and nutrient loss. In the case of pre-processed produce, the problem is that vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants, so when produce gets cut or damaged, oxygen gets inside and the antioxidants are not happy to meet it. That’s another advantage of buying local — after the farmer harvests your produce, it gets handled once by Seasonal Roots veggie fairies, who gently handpack your order. Grocery store produce, well, it has to endure a lot of long, hard travel and repeated rough handling by lots of middlemen along the way.

3. REFRIGERATE RIGHT AWAY. For most fruits and veggies, a cold, dark place slows down the loss of nutrients, because it inhibits destructive enzymes and the loss of vitamin C. B vitamins are particularly sensitive to heat and light. There are exceptions — namely potatoes, onions, and tomatoes (this is why tomatoes lose their flavor in the fridge). Here’s a helpful infographic that shows each fruit and veggie’s happy place.

4. EAT FAST. The longer your produce sits in your fridge or pantry, the more nutrients slowly disappear. But what if you can’t eat it all right away? No worries. There’s still a way you can hang onto most of that nutritional value. In the next post, I’ll explain how.

broccoli vit c loss final

You won’t believe how much nutritional value is lost

First in a 3-part series on storing fresh local produce
– By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

(Part 2: 4 easy ways to max out your produce’s nutritional value)
(Part 3: Do this to save fresh local produce for a year!)

The fruits and vegetables your grandmother grew up eating were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today. 1950’s broccoli, for example, had 130 mg of calcium, but only 48 mg today, based on USDA data.

When it comes to the loss of so much nutritional value, soil depletion is Public Enemy #1, according to Scientific American. The modern corporate food industry uses highly intensive agricultural methods that strip nutrients from the soil, and they strip it over and over again: “Sadly, each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before.”

Public Enemy #2: Big Corporate Agriculture has been focused on developing produce that can travel from California or even New Zealand for days or weeks and still arrive at the supermarket looking good – as if shelf life and good looks are all that matter. In the process of selecting for looks and shelf life, Big Ag sacrificed yet more nutrients and flavor.

Public Enemy #3: The very act of transporting, packing, and storing produce over long distances for long periods of time makes the problem worse. Most of the produce in grocery stores is at least a week old. But just look at the graphic of what happens to the vitamin C in broccoli in that amount of time. Even when it’s refrigerated, after 3 days a steady drop in nutritional value begins — it’s even worse for tender produce like spinach and green beans. It drops even more when produce is handled roughly by machines, or when things like broccoli, carrots, and celery are pre-cut for those ready-to-eat salad bags.

Seasonal Roots is working to change all that by partnering with small local farmers who use sustainable farming practices to keep their soil nutrient-rich. Then, after they harvest the produce grown in that rich soil, it doesn’t have to travel far. So, working fast, our veggie fairies gently hand-pack your produce and deliver it to you within 48 hours. We know that as soon as it’s picked, the clock starts ticking.

Plus there are things YOU can do to make sure get you more nutritional bang for your produce buck. Next week we’ll lay out some of the ways you can stop the lost-nutrients clock… or at least slow it down!