It's a divisive issue. Whether or not to buy organic food doesn't just affect your monthly shop, it also projects a certain image out to the world about the sort of person you are, and many don't see it as the positive lifestyle choice that we believe it to be. Dan and I have been growing and buying organic food for a number of years now, but it's only over the past six months or so that we've made a real, conscious effort to embrace it as a lifestyle choice. It's fortuitous (or perhaps serendipitous?) that we've embarked on this organic journey with full steam ahead, at the same time that supermarkets have cottoned on to the fact that people are actually interested in buying this stuff.
So why all the fuss?
Organic produce, in essence, is food that isn't grown using unnatural chemicals or pesticides; that's not to say that it doesn't receive any help during the growing process, but natural products are the order of the day. The simplest way of looking at the decision to eat organic, is as a choice not to pollute your body with these chemicals. I don't know about you, but I'm not too keen on the idea of my bloodstream swimming with pesticides and herbicides. This video from Swedish supermarket Coop, shows the effect that eating organic food can have in just two weeks; it doesn't take long to rid your body of these chemicals, the long-term effects of which are unknown.
Choosing organic is also hugely beneficial for the environment. If we don't relish the idea of flushing chemicals through our bodies, why would it be any better for the earth around us? It is estimated that the UK has only around 100 harvests left before we have depleted everything we can from the soil. What then?
Of course, there are possible solutions to this crisis, one of them being to grow your own food. Allotment holders produce between 4 and 11 times more food per hectare than farmers, mainly because their crops are hand-cultivated. If this isn't an option for you, then veg boxes could be the way forward. During the hungry gap in May, and through the winter when our own produce is scarce, we order weekly organic boxes from Riverford (not a sponsored post - I just like the company!). They're affordable and reliable, and we love the seasonal nature of the veg. They state that their organic methods of farming promote "biodiversity within fields, in the hedgerows and, most importantly, in the soil". Carbon sequestration also "removes CO2 from the atmosphere and accumulates it as increased levels of organic matter in the soil". So the soil is healthier, and I'm healthier. Surely that's a win-win?
One of the biggest arguments against organic food is the cost. However, if you're willing to do a bit of creative cooking, it really can be very affordable. As a couple, we use the following per week during the hungry gap (when we don't have any of our own produce):
- 1 x medium fruit & veg box from Riverford. It's supposed to feed 2-3 people, and comes with at least 6 varieties of vegetables and 3 fruit varieties. £16.75
- 1 x 2 litre whole milk from Riverford. It lasts us for cereal and milk for coffees for the whole week. £1.95
- Some kind of vegetable pasty or homity pie from Riverford. Will be good for one evening meal. £2.35 - £3.35
- Something for the store cupboard. This usually alternates between oats, pasta, rice and noodles. £1.79 - £2.95
- Food order from Sainsburys, which includes any fish (Dan is pescatarian and I've stopped buying meat altogether). I find that they do the best range of organic produce, and it's getting better all the time. I do one order per month and spend on average £60, so that's around £12.50 per week.
Total average spend per week = £37.50
Don't get me wrong, I know that you can spend less than this buying own-brand products from supermarkets. I'm not trying to convince you that this is the cheapest option, but it is more affordable, I think, than many believe. What's more, I haven't even touched on how much better organic vegetables can taste.
I know that for many, choosing to shop in this way isn't really a priority, but what I urge you to consider is the long-term impacts that eating organic food has on your health, and the health and well-being of the planet as a whole.
I'll leave you with this:
“Organic is something we can all partake of and benefit from. When we demand organic, we are demanding poison-free food. We are demanding clean air. We are demanding pure, fresh water. We are demanding soil that is free to do its job and seeds that are free of toxins. We are demanding that our children be protected from harm. We all need to bite the bullet and do what needs to be done—buy organic whenever we can, insist on organic, fight for organic and work to make it the norm. We must make organic the conventional choice and not the exception.”
― Maria Rodale, CEO and Chairman of Rodale, author of Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe
Eleanor is obsessed with stories. She writes for a number of online spaces including This is Your Kingdom, edits Creative Countryside, curates #aseasonalyear and teaches at Chalk House. In addition, she is currently studying for an MA in Creative Non-Fiction Writing. You'll find her roving the fields of the Lincolnshire Wolds or planning her next rural adventure.