As Americans become more and more savvy about natural ways to boost health and wellness, the organic food industry is enjoying unprecedented growth.
According to the Organic Farming Research Foundation there are more than 11,000 certified organic producers in the U.S. today compared to 2500 in 1999.
About 70 percent of Americans buy organic food occasionally and nearly one quarter buy it every week, according to a recent survey conducted by the Hartman Group.
While some buy organic to support its environmentally friendly practices, most are trying to cut their exposure to chemicals in the foods they eat.
Studies have linked pesticides in our food to a host of health problems including headaches, miscarriage, birth defects, nervous system disorders and asthma.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, chemical pesticides have the potential to cause an additional 1.4 million cases of cancer in this generation of Americans.
Who knows how much that will cost in tears and suffering, notwithstanding the potential bill to the nation's taxpayers under Obamacare?
Organic Nutritional Advantages
A study conducted at Rutgers University concluded that, on average, organically grown foods have an 87 percent higher concentration of magnesium, potassium, iron and copper. Organic tomatoes were found to yield 500 percent more calcium than conventionally produced tomatoes.
To classify a food as organic, it must have been grown without the use of harmful synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers and must be produced on a farmland that has been free of such chemicals for at least three years.
Feeding the soil with organic matter instead of ammonia and other synthetic fertilizers has been proven to increase the nutrients in produce, resulting in foods with higher levels of vitamins and minerals.
Higher Costs Explained
Organic foods generally cost more but they can be well worth the extra money, considering the higher nutritional values they deliver.
Another cost factor: Organic farmers don't receive federal subsidies like traditional farmers; therefore, the price of organic food reflects the true costs of growing and delivering.
Organic farms also tend to be smaller and more labor intensive. (Bear in mind that the price of conventional food does not reflect the cost of environmental cleanups that we pay for through our tax dollars.)
Tasting the Organic Difference
Locally grown organic food is said to be superior in terms of taste and freshness by enthusiastically loyal consumers who disdain the commercially grown crops in the markets.
Considering that most U.S. grown produce is picked up four to seven days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped from an average distance of 1500 miles before being sold, certainly the quality of taste can suffer.
And since much of the produce available in supermarket chains is imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America and other countries, the time from harvest to market is greatly extended even longer, costing nutritional value as well as taste.
The Bigger Cause
In addition to providing superior nutritional benefits to humans, organic foods are also better for the health of Mother Nature.
Organic foods promote sustainability by establishing an ecological balance to prevent problems with soil fertility such as those prevalent in most soil used by mega farms.
Additionally, from a long term perspective, organic farms actually conserve energy and further protect the environment by maintaining ecological harmony in a truly local sense of the word.
Support Your Local Grower
You are encouraged to do some research to find out where you can find locally grown produce in your area. It makes good table sense to eat seasonably and by doing so, supporting your local organic farmers market on a year-round basis.
Buying from your local farmers market, produce or fruit stand also has the added benefit of contributing much-needed dollars to the local economy, as well as providing you and your family an opportunity to make new friends.
While today's down economy is putting a damper on organic food sales growth, it only serves us better to know that local farmers markets and independent growers provide us with a thrifty and healthy alternative to the commercial organics currently sold in supermarkets.
And considering the fact these fresh local products can cost you so much less, you best be putting local organic farmers and growers on your grocery to-do list today!