|Organically Grown, Hydroponic Lettuce|
Food you find at the store might have an appealing label. But the Slow Food
Farm Relations Chair for the greater Orlando area says you might want to look beyond that label. Richard Kann, a respected organic farmer himself, says while organic standards are good, and he follows them, loopholes allow some food to get a USDA Organic seal even it's not the freshest pick of the crop. For instance, he points out, some food can travel long distances, even come from far outside the United States, and still end up with the seal.
The Slow Food movement promotes the value of growing, buying and eating fresh, local foods, whether or not they have an organic label. Richard says, "Vegetables and fruits, once they're picked, their highest level of nutrition is for the first 72 hours. The supermarket, when they get stuff from California, Venezuela and everywhere else, they get it at about day ten, which means you're already seven days past it being food. Now, even if it's organic, you can get as much organic nutrients eating cardboard."
Richard also says to be cautious about assuming that a local farmer grew the food at your local farm market. It pays to check out the real source, even going so far as visiting the farm and asking about growing methods. The Orlando area Slow Food group is now giving its own certifications. Richard says, "We go out and give the farms what's called the Snail of Approval. What that means is we went to the farm, we know their standards. We're not checking for organic or not, because we'll have farmers that are regular farmers too and farmers that are organic, but we'll indicate which is which. We'll also certify the farmers' markets and the vendors at the farmers' markets."
Still confused about how to make the best consumer choice, I asked Richard which is more important, local or organic? He responded, "I think I'd rather not eat the pesticides personally, but if I had a choice between local or out of the area, I'd rather have the local first, because at least it has nutrients in it, whereas if you get it from the outside (your local area), you don't get the nutrients and what does the organic accomplish?"
Richard's wife, Diane, who also manages their farm, urges families to try any sort of farm fresh foods as an alternative to fast food. "We try to keep it affordable so that the average family on today's budget can actually afford to feed their kids healthy foods." She explains that even if something like a fresh, organic pound of salad might seem expensive, it can go a long way and provide more than the average plate full of nutrients. "You need to look at what you really want for your family. Fast food might sound cheap and easy and quick, but in the long-run it's not."
One low-cost alternative is to try gardening. The Kann family is supportive of that. Diane says, "The other thing that we tell people is grow some of your own. We're not afraid of a little competition from each family. We do tours here once a month in the fall and spring, and we show people how you can set up a little bit and grow some of your own to supplement, and then we're here for the things you can't grow."