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
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
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
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 (newmansownorganics.com).
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.
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.