How I Feel About Organics

How I Feel About Organics -
In my grandpa’s garden.

I’m coming out of the organic closet.

Since starting my blog, I have tried to remain fairly neutral on the subject of organic food. I mention my preference for organic produce here and there, but I’ve never felt like I should force my views on others. After all, organic food can be pricey. It’s not always easily accessible in certain parts of the country/world and many can’t afford it. There is no judgement here… we are all doing our best based on our individual budgets and situations. I encourage my readers (through my recipes) to eat unprocessed, cook from scratch and enjoy a balance of healthy foods. But when it comes to organics, I’ve never taken a firm position.

Today, in the spirit of full disclosure, I feel it’s time to come clean. I admit it. My name is Tori, and I’m an organic food junkie.

I grew up around agriculture. My father was an agri-business professor (now retired) at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, one of the top ag schools in the country. I accompanied him to farm equipment shows and ranch tours. He grew up on a 1,000-acre cattle ranch in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. On my mom’s side my great uncle is also a cattle rancher. I grew up in California, where about 80% of our country’s produce is cultivated. My grandparents had a large garden at their home, which I helped them tend as a child. Needless to say, I learned a lot about farming produce and animal husbandry in my youth. Feeding the world’s growing population is a daunting task. Modern farming methods, including the use of pesticides and antibiotics, have allowed us to produce vegetables, fruit and meat on a massive scale, making affordable food available to all. But at what cost?

I lost my maternal grandmother to cancer a few years ago. It was a tough blow for our family; she was in her 70’s, young and full of energy, one of the most vital people I’ve known. The cancer came “out of nowhere”– no family history and she was not a smoker. It caused me to pause, take a step back and look at our daily habits… what we eat, what cosmetics and cleansers we use, how we clean our house, the air fresheners we use. When I began tallying up the amount of chemicals we’re exposed to on a daily basis, it was truly mind-boggling. Everywhere I looked, there was another chemical. Most of these compounds have come into existence in the last 50 years or so, which means we can’t really anticipate their long term effects. In our foods, there were pesticides and preservatives and artificial flavorings and food dyes. In our dairy and meat, there were antibiotics and hormones. So many unnatural elements… how can they help but have an effect on us?

I began the slow process of weeding out unnecessary products and finding more natural alternatives. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always cheap, but it was an investment worth making for me and my family. I can’t draw an exact line between my grandmother’s illness and our daily chemical load, but it does give me some peace of mind to know that we are living a cleaner, more natural life. I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed. If there is a cheese I love, and it doesn’t come in an organic version, I will still enjoy that cheese every once in a while. It’s impossible to get rid of chemicals entirely, they are literally everywhere… but I’m working hard to limit our exposure as much as possible.

When it comes to food, it’s becoming easier to find organic alternatives. Major grocery chains are carrying organic food lines now. Most cities and towns have farmer’s markets, where you can find affordable organic produce and meat. The more we vote with our dollars, the more we’ll encourage organic options.

At the end of the day, we are all making the best decisions we can for our families based on the resources available to us. I would never judge another person for what is in their shopping cart. I share my own experience here in the hopes that you might connect to it; perhaps it might even inspire you to work more organics into your life. I’ve even started doing things the old fashioned way, such as using natural homemade cleansers made from vinegar and lemon juice (if you’re interested in making these types of cleansers yourself, let me know and I’ll share them here!). I believe that the more we can return to unprocessed, natural food options… the foods our great-grandparents cultivated and enjoyed, without antibiotics or pesticides… the more our nation’s health will improve.

How do you feel about organics? Are they a vital part of your diet, or an unnecessary expense? Is it the wave of the future, or is it all just overpriced nonsense? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Comments (117)Post a Comment

  1. you have to be careful about what you buy – certainly the pesticide load on most fresh fruits and many vegies is high enough to warrant taking steps to reduce what you ingest, and if it can’t be washed off, then you have to buy organic instead – but the problem is being sure that what you are paying for is really organic

  2. Organic food used to just be called “food” so yes, it is amazing stuff! However, the fad of organic has caused the prices to skyrocket, and the monopoly on food products, along with skewed modern social understanding maintains the steady increase in pricing. The obvious solution is a food revolution, which is already springing up around the nation in the form of raised vegetable beds, and apartment container gardening. Food in general is over-priced nonsense. To effectively counter this, space needs to be better utilized and cared for in order to feed the masses ethically and organically.

  3. I eat organic for 10 years … for the earth and for my health … and my garden I grow 100% organic for me it is evidence and I prefer to pay a little more for it ! You made the best choice for me 😉

    1. When you consider the cost of a serious illness like cancer, the cost of organic is a pittance. Plus, you skip all that misery and pain at a lower cost for good health.

    1. So true Michelle! Sad that it is so expensive. For lower priced organic produce, I find the farmer’s market is an excellent option.

    2. Tori, I think some foods that normally qualify as “organic”, (see the clean 15) are sold in stores as “organic”, for the sole purpose of jacking up the price. Others, like peaches, are totally worth the extra money.

    3. Michelle –

      I’m with you: it is often overpriced, but it certainly isn’t nonsense. Some things I buy organic, some I don’t. It’s a balancing act between what I want and what I can afford.

      I look forward to the day when organic farmers are as heavily subsidized as “conventional” farmers are now.

  4. We need affordable organic! I grew up in farming. I know there is a lot of chemicals used, and now GMO is rampant. Exposure to chemicals being applied and then eating the foods, I believe caused a lot of health problems for the family. My mother fought 5 cancers in her lifetime(made it to 80) Father, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes-2, cancer, he died from Alzheimer, age 80. I have learned that I needed to get proactive about my health, and not be so accepting of chemicals or even drugs.

    1. Farming without any pesticides results in a much lower yield per acre. There are simply more insects than people. That is why organic is more expensive and those trying to fight world hunger see disease and pest resistant crops and grains as miracles instead of monstrosities as those protesting with full bellies and fuller wallets

    2. The biggest reason that organic food costs more is that it’s produced on smaller farms without government subsidies. If the big, corporate farms lost their USDA subsidies, most of our chemical laden foods would cost as much or more than the organic options.

  5. I’m selective about what I buy as organic. I generally only trust that it’s truly organic if it’s USA-produced, since the USDA doesn’t inspect anything in foreign countries that it certifies as organic. If it’s imported, I try to avoid it, and if I really want it, I usually am OK with conventional. I also am more apt to want organic for soft fruits (which can’t be washed well) and grains (corn, wheat, soy – don’t want to support Monsanto farming practices).

  6. Yes I beleive in the benefits of organic. It takes a critical mind to afford it. For example…Organic fish ? I don’t think so….But ever since I heard a dietician refer to reg. strawberries as “chemical soaked red sponges” I’ve become more choosey about my fruit and veg. purhasing. You have to think about what you are buying, not go totally organic and go broke. Take baby steps.

  7. If it all is as scary as what comes over my newsfeed from my friends with higher incomes and my single friends without families to feed then we indeed have an underclass that is not merely doing without smart phones–vacations–and occasionally getting a utility disconnected–we have an underclass poisoned and cancer ridden. Is that really true? I can either make fruits and vegetables a luxury item in my home or they can be a part of our daily diet. This means I buy the $1.89 quart strawberries (on sale and in season–higher when not) or I buy the $5.00 quart organic strawberries (in season). I feel great feeding my family peppers–corn on the cob and broccoli–but I bought it in the equivalent of *gen pop* in the penitentiary and not where the *good* people that love their families buy their food if I believe the hyperbolic memes I am exposed to on the internet. I do not know what the answer is. I studied political science and history in college. I was reading the works of Immanuel Kant and Thomas Hobbes and complicated chemical compounds frighten me like a tiny animal. But I do have the intellect to know that good healthy foods contain frightening sounding things like the arsenic in apples—soooooo internet you cannot scare me that easily. And the amount our family of 4 lives on an entire year will not buy a Lexus so we will not be eating all organic any time soon

    1. Susan I totally get your frustration. No judgement here! We all make the best choices we can based on our individual situations and resources. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    2. it is so hard today. All food is overpriced, and much is suspicious. If you can even grown tomatoes on your patio in a large container it’s a start. I have had a large garden for years, but now I can no longer afford the time and help. I fully intend when I downsize to recreate a small space and many containers to duplicate what I had. I healthy garden is a healthy mind, and a healthy body!

  8. well, there is “organic” like the stuff you buy in large supermarkets, and there is “organic” like the stuff you can grow yourself or get from local small farmers. The former is grown on large production farms, and is not much different from the standard production. It is amazing what you can get away with and still be able to call it organic.

  9. I’m more apt to buy from a Farmer’s Market, or a farmer on the side of the road with a truck, than I am to buy “certified organic” from the grocery. I wish we all had accessibility to just go to a farmer friend and buy direct!

    1. You have a point. I figure if he eats it, I can eat it. (With much washing, of course) It’s more the personal connection for me than anything else.

  10. Great post, Tori! I feel very strongly about this subject, too. Organic, GMO free, and humanely raised, that’s what I try to stick with or I won’t eat it. It makes it very hard to eat anywhere else but at home. We have just a few restaurants here in Denver that shop locally. I feel that the public awareness is rising which is a big step in the right direction. I hope organic standards will stay the same and won’t get watered down by the USDA giving in on the pressure/money of big factory farming companies or Monsanto.

  11. Yes!Please share your home made recipes for your cleaning products in the home. A few months ago, while I was spritzing myself with cologne, I asked myself :”Why am I spraying myself with a flammable substance?” so I ditched the cologne and now use organic rose water! Having just viewed The Truth About Cancer video series for the past 7 days, claiming Organics for myself as well.

  12. I notice a difference. I think that it is coming down in price and as more people buy it the laws of supply and demand will prevail. I would like to see vendors at Farmers Markets state whether their produce is GMO free as well.

  13. I absolutely agree with minimizing our exposure to as many chemicals as possible. There are certain things I will only buy organic including grass fed beef, soy, corn products, eggs and peanut butter. There have been so many scary stories about all of these items being contaminated or altered that I want to be sure I’m getting the best possible product. Not everyone can afford to go totally organic but we can certainly be more mindful about what we are putting into and on our bodies.

  14. Unless you grow it don’t know if it is organically grown. And I think packaged food with an organic label may be bogus and robbing you of your money.Try to buy from local fresh market is best..and wash all foods! A must.

  15. “Certified” organic requires the farmers to go through a lengthy and expensive process to receive the official certification. Many small farmers grow without harmful chemicals, but are not yet “USDA organic” due to the length or cost of the process. The high sticker price on organic, local produce is because it isn’t subsidized by corporations. Buy organic from your local Safeway and they can cut costs from all the other products in their stores. Buy chemical-free, responsibly farmed produce from your local farmers and you may pay a little more – but they grew it with their own hands on their own land, and drove it to the market themselves to bring it to you.

  16. I buy organic dairy and meat from local farm. As far as produce goes I just follow dirty dozen, clean 15 list. Cant afford all organic. I am more scaref of bovine growth hormone, than pesticides, but I am also aware that pesticides are killing off bees.

  17. I can’t afford to eat organic; we live on a very limited budget. I do try to do a lot of fresh veg, lots of grains and little meat, and shop at farmer’s markets when I can. And frankly, I live in Europe and our regulations are much. much stricter than in the USA. I do appreciate it is the healthiest option but it isn’t one that everyone can enjoy, because it is really very pricey to buy only organic. I also don’t believe some of the stuff marketed as “organic” can be very good for one’s health– various soy foods which seem very processed to me. Facit: would if I could, can’t so I don’t!

    1. Holly, you are so correct about European food standards! I spent several months in England and was amazed at the difference. Many healthier options, less processed foods and less food dyes/preservatives.

  18. I try to buy organic as much as possible, but I also buy from local farmers who haven’t gone through the long process of getting certified. Either way I use that fruit and veg spray and clean everything as best I can. I just buy what is freshest. Sometimes the organic food looks tired depending on the store. I do what I can but I don’t have an unlimited budget. I also eat out a fair amount and that isn’t organic. You do what you can. BUT when i was recovering from surgery years ago I only ate organic or farmers mkt food. I was a stickler. I recooped very quickly according to my doc.

  19. not overpriced. all food is overpriced. there isn’t much difference in price between conventional and organic and sometimes organic is cheaper! you can’t put a price on health and doctors/hospitals cost more than organic food.

  20. I do NOT think organic is overpriced. While organic farms/gardeners are not using pesticides/herbicides, they are also NOT getting the yield that non-organic growers get. And I suspect that it takes more labor to protect and grow organically.

    Now, I am not necessarily talking “certified” organic. I know many of my local Farmer’s Market folks are not certified. But I trust in their practices and since at this point in time, I choose to not garden myself – I am happy to support those who are.

    I love Farmer’s Market because I can speak directly to the growers and in my area, VISIT these growers.

    Organic certification is both costly and fraught with the usual “govt” red tape, so for my local suppliers, I need only their word, their look in my eye and the look of their produce or meat.

  21. I feel safer w organic vegetables, especially lettuces. I only buy American grown! Never from Mexico or s Americas ! I got sick once from a mango from Mexico and was in hospital a week. After all tests it was the mango cause they wash their veggies in their water! Becareful where foods from!

    1. That means you didn’t wash it properly! All fruit and vegetables must be washed, no matter where they’re from!

  22. I buy local and seasonal for the most part. At the market, I do put an emphasis on organic, especially with dirty dozen. Farming practices need to change and people need to learn to waste less.

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