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Eating Organic

Day 5: At the Farm

Even in winter, my local farm stand — Holbrook's, in Bethel — sells organic hothouse greens. Owners John and Lynn Holbrook have not yet sought organic certification for their farm, as it would be too costly (about $20,000 they estimate). Although John says his produce is grown — and has been grown for decades — without pesticides, he is no longer legally allowed to label his vegetables "organic."


Day 6: $$ Matters

"Why do most organic meats, produce, and packaged goods cost 20 percent more than conventional?" I ask Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist and author of Living Downstream (Random House; 1998). Organic farming relies on labor — which is costly — instead of chemicals, Steingraber explains. But modern farming practices can exact a price we don't tally at the register. Among its costs: polluted water and soil and depleted ozone.



Day 7: Last Supper

Overall, I paid $50 more this week for groceries I know to be pesticide free and easier on the environment. More than anything else, the week has taught me that the little decisions I make while grocery shopping have a huge impact on the long-term health of my kids. In that light, the 50 bucks seems well spent.

Although I spent more than usual on my weekly groceries, organic food was readily available and not quite as expensive as I had originally thought. Organic packaged goods and snack foods — rice mixes, chips, salsa, ice cream, wine, even dog food — were pricey and added up quickly. If, however, you stick to more wholesome fare and purchase grains, nuts, cereal, flour, and sugar from the bulk bins, you can reduce your grocery bill considerably.

Other Things Organic

Many of our favorite products were found outside of the produce bin and dairy case. Steaz organic sodas, brewed with organic green tea, were a hit with the kids, especially the root beer. Wolaver Organic Ales were Steve's favorite.





Seventh Generation dishwashing liquid is biodegradable, works as well as conventional products, and has a fresh, clean scent. And Lady, our family's pit bull mix, gobbled up Newman's Own Organics Dog Food, one of the first organic pet food lines available nationwide (



Tips + Trade-Offs

My all-organic week required frequent forays to more kinds of stores than I typically visit in a week. I spent more on groceries, and I was in the car, driving back and forth, an extra hour. With that said, I was impressed by the many committed people — restaurant owners, farmers, grocery clerks — who are working, one apple at a time, to make organic food more accessible.

Cut Costs
It's possible to buy organic for your family without spending a fortune. Purchase grains, dried fruit, cereal, pastas, and sugar from the bulk bins at health-food store or chains such as Wild Oats and Whole Foods. Because organic manufacturers eliminate artificial preservatives, buy only the amount you'll need to avoid spoilage.

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