Sustainability Update: Local versus Organic

Sustainability Update by Jenna Keany

Sustainability Update: Local versus Organic

What is the difference between local and organic? Which is better for the environment? Is local food always organic? These are some of the hottest questions in the food industry today, and what better time to address them than during our local month?

Firstly, buying local or organic food (or both) is beneficial to the environment and will reduce your overall carbon footprint, but there are differences between the two labels. Many consumers misunderstand local food as always being organic, or organic as always being local; this is simply not the case. Organic food, is certified by the US Department of Agriculture based on predetermined guidelines on sustainable farming practices, non-synthetic pesticides and herbicides, and non-GMO seeds. Farming practices include tillage, crop rotations, and composting to ensure sustainable soil health, while pests, weeds, and diseases are managed through biological methods. Some synthetic fertilizers are used if approved by USDA, although this is to be avoided if possible. And lastly, all seeds must be organic and not genetically engineered or modified. Organic produce has no restrictions on miles traveled, and therefore is not necessarily going to be local.

On the other hand, local produce is not as straight forward because it is not regulated by any national body. However, there is a general understanding that ‘local’ food is sourced within 400 miles of its destination. This is of course, subjective, and there are some that believe local to be strictly under 200 miles. Keany Produce & Gourmet’s local partners are, on average, 132 miles from our Landover, MD warehouse. Buying local not only reduces the miles traveled from farm to fork, it supports local business and boosts the economy. In terms of environmental reasons, local farms are normally smaller and family-owned; therefore, they are invested in the longevity of their farm including the soil health, surrounding community, and overall environmental sustainability. Many local farms will use limited to no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, in accordance with organic regulations, however do not have the USDA official certification (which can be a costly process). Although varying in farming practices, local farms consistently provide fruits and vegetables that are in-season, fresh, and flavorful. Buying local will not only ensure you are supporting family-owned and small business, it also reduces your carbon footprint and supports sustainable, seasonally-produced food.

Keany Produce & Gourmet is proud to support both organic and local farms. For 40 years, Keany has developed partnerships with farms from VA, MD, NC, NJ, DE, WV, and PA, providing the most extensive local program in the region. Please contact your sales representative for additional information on both our organic and local products.