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Why Organic Is Worth the Cost
1. Health: There are several reasons why buying organic food is worth the extra cost, even in tough economic times. If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have small children, it definitely pays to buy organic food. The pesticides in non-organic foods alter the function of the brain and nervous system in a way similar to lead. From the time we’re fetuses until age 12, our brains are rapidly developing and therefore susceptible to these harmful substances.
2. Responsibility: If you consider yourself a friend of the planet, you should know that it takes about forty times the amount of energy to get non-organic foods to your plate than locally grown organic foods. If you really want to put your money where your mouth is and support companies that are environmentally responsible, buy organic food even though the cost is higher.
3. Taste: Food loses its color, flavor and nutritional value when it’s shipped over one thousand miles to your local supermarket. If you don’t know the taste difference between organic and non-organic, you may not have ever had true fresh produce.
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Why Does Organic Cost So Much?
The cost of organic food is about 50% to 100% higher than non-organic. Before you start to panic and completely abandon the idea of buying organic, consider ways to reduce the cost so you can still reap the benefits. If you’re wondering how in the world it could cost so much more, consider this:
1. Low Initial Yield: When the switch to organic farming first takes place, the yields are lower. This is due to the changes in the soil and lasts about three years.
2. Labor Intensive: Instead of using chemicals to kill weeds, they have to actually be pulled up.
3. Popularity: The fewer people buy organic, the higher the cost. As more people start to buy organic food, it will be more widely available and less expensive.
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How to Reduce the Cost of Organic Food
If you’re still on board with buying organic but want to lower the cost, consider these methods.
1. Be Selective: Instead of buying all organic produce, be choosy. For some items, there is little difference between organic and regular. This is the case with bananas. The harmful chemicals are removed with the peel so it isn’t worth it to pay an extra fifty cents more per pound. However, strawberries are the worst offenders with the highest pesticide content of any fruit.
Here are the other notorious offenders: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, raspberries and spinach. The safest non-organic produce items are asparagus, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples, sweet peas, sweet corn, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, avocados and bananas.
2. Buy Direct: Contact your local natural food market and ask who supplies their organic foods. Then call up the supplier and arrange to buy directly from them. Chances are that they will be able to deliver directly to you. This may seem unconventional, but for savings of 30% to 40%, it may be well worth your trouble. If their minimum order is more than you need or want to pay, find another family to place an order with and split the cost.
3. Join a CSA: Join a community supported agricultural program or CSA for short. This type of program allows you to pay for your produce up front or in installments to a local farmer in exchange for weekly supplies of fresh produce during the growing season which can be anywhere from 15 to 30 weeks. A family of four can spend upwards of $800 to $1,000 each year on produce. For as little as $300, you can purchase a share in a CSA and save big on cost. Some CSA’s will allow you to purchase a half share if you want. You can always split a share with another family, as well.
For more information about CSA’s or to find one near you, visit: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/
In Columbus, Ohio, the 15th largest city in the country, I was able to find a CSA that charges only $14.99 per week for a share of produce. The website lists local pick-up points and a detailed graph of what foods are available during each season. Each item is even hyperlinked to healthy recipes on how to prepare them.
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Buying organic does not have to cost an arm and a leg plus all of your time. Take a few minutes to identify your local resources so you can take advantage of eating fresh, tasty organic foods. Here's a list of resources to help you learn more about reducing the cost of organic food:
1. “Organic Food: Is ‘Natural’ Worth the Extra Cost?” Kathleen Zelman, PhD, RD/LD
3. The Eat Well Guide Find local resources for fresh organic food in the US and Canada.