Local vs Organic: Is There a difference?

At a recent local food conference in Baltimore, I was surprised to learn how incredibly popular the local food movement was. However, I found out that much of that popularity was due to the belief that if the food was local, it was organic. Surprisingly, many farmers blurred the lines between organic and local to cash in on the growing organic movement by intentionally deceiving their customers. In fact, the keynote speaker at the conference told the audience of farmers “Some of your customers believe that you are organic just because you are local, and if they do, just go with it.” Pretty sobering words if you are indeed an organic farmer!

Being local only takes into account the distance from the farm to the market, but it does not indicate exactly how the food was grown. If your snow peas come from a farmer 20 Kms away instead of being imported from China, there is obviously a huge savings for the environment by way of reduced shipping, but local farmers can do as much destructive harm as huge factory farms, to the local environment by spraying chemicals on the land and plants; pesticides(insects), fungicides(diseases), herbicides(weeds). Only Certified Organic farmers are mandated and independently audited annually to protect and respect the environment by not using harsh chemicals. That’s not to say that all conventional farmers are not good “stewards of the land”, but in the end, how good can you be if you are spraying poison?