What does your food cost?

No matter how much you dress it up, we all know one thing about local and organic foods: they cost more. But there has to be a difference beyond just the price tag, right? If so, what does that extra money buy you?

One of the most obvious attributes of locally grown food is freshness. Industrially produced food can travel up to 1500 miles on average before it reaches your plate. That amount of travel takes time, not to mention a huge amount of fuel, which creates lots of pollution. Despite techniques to keep them looking fresh, including refrigeration or harvesting produce before it’s ripe, the veggies don’t lie. Most produce loses up to 30% of its nutrients within 3 days of picking. The extra money spent on local foods is really buying the vitamins and minerals you’d expect from your fruits and vegetables.

 The food from Cultivating Roots Community Garden makes it to gardeners' kitchens and local food banks the same day that we harvest it.

The food from Cultivating Roots Community Garden makes it to gardeners' kitchens and local food banks the same day that we harvest it.

So if buying locally means buying nutrients, what does the extra money on buying organic get you?

The answer to that is actually a whole lot less. The United States uses almost a billion pounds of pesticides each year. Organically grown produce avoids these harmful chemicals, as well as the fossil fuels used to create them and the pollution they create.

But what about all that extra work? Organic food is easy enough to find in grocery stores, but buying locally grown food usually requires seeking out farmers markets or visiting the farms themselves.

That extra time and effort buys you knowledge and power. Buying your food directly from the people producing it means you can ask them exactly how your food was prepared. And choosing to buy locally supports local economies, which means giving back to your own community while getting to eat the freshest and tastiest veggies around.

Just remember: as a consumer, every dollar you spend tells producers what kind of products they should be making. Buying locally and organically grown food when you can tells suppliers that you want the healthiest food possible for you, your family, your community, and the planet!