Ever wondered why organic produce costs more than its chemical-laden counterparts? If growing organic means less pesticides, less growth-enhancing fertilizers, and less technological interventions, then why do we pay more at the check-out line?
First off, because the farmers do not use synthetic insecticides, organic crops produce a lower yield. Labor costs rise as farmers must manually tend to their crops by weeding and using organic pest control. Without these chemicals, the crops also experience a shorter (albeit more natural) growing season.
Without the use of chemical fertilizers, organic farmers use more traditional farming methods such as animal manure and compost to fertilize their crops. These natural methods are unfortunately bulkier and cost more to transport.
Organic farmers also typically rotate their crops to promote soil health and sustainability. While this is advantageous to the health of the consumer and the earth, it also means these farmers don’t utilize every acre for every growing season, which affects their profit model.
Supply and demand drives cost too. The market share for organic food is still significantly lower than conventional food. As the green movement continues its explosion, these numbers should balance out more.
Organic farmers pay fees for organic certifications. To gain certification, an organic farmer must follow a list of strict regulations and intimidating record-keeping policies. The fees and regulations of the industry add costs.
Adding to the problem, many conventional mass-scale farmers receive billions in government subsidies aimed at keeping food costs low to the consumer. However, almost all of these monies are given to farmers who use products and practices that increase yield, yet are widely known to cause adverse health effects in the consumer.
What can we do?
As a consumer, we drive the market, so its important to continue to buy organic as much as possible. If one can’t afford to buy all organic, buy where it matters. Fruits, such as strawberries and raspberries, with a lot of texture and nooks for pesticides to reside, are most important to buy organic. Whereas fruits such as bananas and oranges, with heavy peels, are much more safeguarded from harmful toxins. Think of the added cost as an investment in your health!
Ask your local representative to support the transfer of billions of dollars of farm subsidies–from large-scale conventional farmers to the organic guys, who use safer farming methods that protect our health as a nation.
GUEST POST: Darcy K. is a writer and stay-at-home mom to her young son Dax. In her blog (365) degrees, she talks about cloth diapering, breastfeeding, baby wearing, buying organic, and trying to green up her life one product at a time.
If you can afford organic (and local) foods then you are helping tell the market what’s important to you. Sadly many of us cannot justify the extra expense. The Environmental Working Group has developed a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides. By visiting www.foodnews.org you can learn about the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen – foods that are almost always safe and foods that are almost always contaminated. Thanks Darcy for your guest post. If you would like to be a guest blogger on The Eco Chic email Calley@TheEcoChic.com and submit your ideas and topics.
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My husband and I are growing an organic container garden and I have to tell you, it has made us realize why organic foods cost so much more. Our garden is small so I cannot even imagine the time an organic farmer spends tending to the produce. It takes a lot of commitment. I do not flinch now to spend more money on organic, our project has put it all into perspective.
Jessica: You are my hero! I have dreams of growing in our yard and hopefully will fulfill them soon! Kudos to you. It is interesting that even on a small scale the costs show. I wish people would see though that even though it is more cost upfront, it is less cost in health care later!
Just thought I would mention one thing my family is doing this year to buy local organic foods. Many areas have a large number of farmers that participate in community supported agriculture (CSA). These consumer programs can be very cost effective if your willing to try many different vegetables. The group we joined runs from May through October and costs us $395.00 for a family of 4. Baskets include enough vegi’s and some produce for one week and we’ve found there is plenty for our family. That’s about $17.95 per week. Just an idea…
I really enjoyed reading your article.
That’s an EXCELLENT idea! Here in San Diego they have organic veggies and fruits that can be delivered to your door and I believe it might be a CSA? I have to look into that because that is not a bad price considering how much we eat around here….
They have links to recipes too on how to use some of those weirder veggies like bok choy 🙂 helping me expand my cooking repertoire!
Hi Darcy- I’m in love with CSA 🙂 Our basket comes with recipes for those vegi’s included that week. Our youngest (8 months) loves vegi’s so this is a perfect way to get him exposed to new produce. Keeping my fingers crossed you find someone in your area.
Hello Darcy! Find the local farmers market and support the farmers directly and skip the grocery store. If we have 27 farmers markets here in Minneapolis, there must be more there in Ca.!
I’d love to buy more organic, but we simply can’t afford to buy organic only. If the price difference is small, I’d go for it and I slowly started replacing my personal care products with organic ones (you don’t buy those every day, so it is not so much of a shock when you have to pay a lot more per item). I really hope that organic products will become more accessible, but as you said, it’s up to all of us to support the movement towards organics.
Leslie @ Natural Domestic Living says
I think the key is to start small so as not to get overwhelmed. What about shopping at your local food-co op? This is definitely a coast saving alternative.
Thanks for the info Darcy!