As I’ve expressed before, eating and feeding my family local and organic food is one of my priorities. I think it makes sense for so many reasons, but most importantly for it’s impact on the environment and on our health. Unfortunately, organic and/or local foods aren’t usually available at our area grocery store so I am often forced to purchase many of our groceries at a food co-op in Minneapolis and haul them the 400 miles north. Obviously, I realize that it’s a stretch to call these local. And, yet these co-op foods are often more local than what is available to me here.
It may sound crazy, but these items that I cart north fit my definition of sustainable more than what I’d buy at the grocery store down the street. And, just to be clear I don’t make the trip to the city just to buy groceries. One thing that I’ve found is that these co-op items, in addition to being organic, are just plain better quality foods.
We buy 90% of our milk from the co-op. We buy a larger quantity and keep it longer than most people. We don’t make weekly or even bi-weekly trips to the city so we may buy a month’s supply of milk at a time. If we consumed large quantities of milk this wouldn’t be possible, especially since we only have one refrigerator. The surprising thing is that our organic milk lasts that long and sometimes even longer before it spoils. The quality far surpasses any conventional milk I’ve purchased. There are times when we run out of our co-op milk and are forced to buy the conventional stuff. Unlike the organic milk that stays fresh long past the due date stamped on the jug, the conventional milk spoils before the expiration date. This has happened time and time again.
Not long ago, I purchased some conventional broccoli. Broccoli is one of the conventional vegetables that I’ve read is low in pesticide residue so I feel comfortable buying it if I’m out of organic. But, like the milk, it spoiled and turned brown shortly after I brought it home. I don’t know if it was because it was wrapped so tightly in plastic wrap (which alone caused me concern) or if it was due to the long length of time it took to get to the store shelves.
What I do know is that it confirmed what I’ve come to expect — when I buy quality food, and that usually means local and organic, I come out ahead. There’s less waste. Chances are I am supporting a small Minnesota business. I know where my food comes from. I am not consuming dangerous pesticides. The energy to transport the food is much less. All factors that make it healthier for us and for the earth.
Kristin Eggerling is a board member for Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, the mother of two, and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota.