The definition of “local” depends on who you talk to—at a farmers market, it could mean food was grown within 10 miles, while at a grocery store it could mean the product was produced in a state that borders Georgia.
- Environmental Advantages: Several studies have shown that on average food travels for hundreds of miles before it reaches our plate. If Americans ate just one local meal a week, we’d reduce the country’s oil consumption by leaps and bounds.
- Economic Benefits: Supporting local economies is a key fixture of the local food movement. According to a University of Georgia study, if Georgians spent $10 per week on locally grown products, it would add more than $1.9 billion back into the state’s economy.
So what kind of food is better—organic or local? That’s an incredibly difficult question to answer. There’s an entire spectrum of grays that should influence your food choices. And the only way to make that decision responsibly is through education.
Creating local links is crucial, but buying local food from conventional farmers doesn’t change toxic agricultural practices that poison our land, water, and bodies. The organic certification program practically eliminates the guess work for those concerned about harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
Why I Buy Local
Cathy Conway, Avalon Catering
Here is my philosophy. First and foremost for me is buying local, regardless of an organic certification. I know all of my farmers and have been to most of their farms. I know that they use biodiverse, sustainable practices when growing their food and raising livestock.
Hugh Acheson, 5 & 10 & The National, Athens; Empire State South, Atlanta; The Florence, Savannah
We buy as locally as we can. This is on itself sustainable. We encourage locally. This encourages organic practices. Local first, sustainable second and organic third but they are all intertwined with us.
I would much rather buy conventional local asparagus than organic asparagus from Peru.
Molly Gunn, The Porter
Certified organic is way less important to us than local. Most local small farmers are sustainable and organic, but not certified as such. Organic onions from California are worse for the environment than local sustainable ones. We buy local whenever we can and fill the gaps with the larger distributors. Local and sustainable means you can’t get local tomatoes all the time, but customers still expect a red tomato slice on their burger, so it’s a balance between what we can provide and what are people’s expectations. Our specials page is really the place for local and sustainable to shine, because we change it every day and therefore when our farmers are out of radishes we can change the dish to reflect that rather than using non-local radishes.