In recent years, many individuals have turned to organic foods in an effort to lead healthier lives. People buy them from the new organic aisles in grocery stores, from their local market, or pluck the food right from their own garden; Nothing better than a juicy tomato straight off the vine! The reason for this shift in dietary habits can be attributed to the processed and mass produced food we have been subjected to for far too long.
Society is reverting to old habits. More people are driving past the burger joint after work, and instead are going home to prepare a meal. Buying locally rather than from massive corporations who value their profits more than your health is becoming more prevalent. Not only that, gardening for your own produce is steadily gaining popularity and I will tell you why you should join the movement.
1. YOUR HEALTH
A diet consisting of processed food and late night drive through stops will have its consequences. Trust me, I know! Even though these foods may be delicious and not cost as much as healthier alternatives, limiting their intake can have amazing results in your life.
Raw and non-processed foods have far more nutritional value than their counterparts. In fact, about 25% more vitamins and minerals is retained in organic foods than the food derived from industrial agriculture. Antioxidant levels of organic milk are 50% to 80% higher than milk from normal cattle.
In addition, organic minerals such; as calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium in fruits and vegetables has fallen by 76% since 1940 due to the pesticides and fertilizers that have been used in the fields they are grown.
Organically farmed and raised food is free of additives which can negatively impact your health. Eating more organic food means you will be eating less flavor enhancers(MSG), artificial sweeteners(aspartame and high-fructose corn syrup), preservatives(sodium nitrate) and contaminants like mercury.
2. THE COST
Paying more for the same product because of the organic label might seem out of the question for some people because of their financial situation or moral standing. Nevertheless, I believe if the overall cost is compared, a person eating mostly organic foods would spend less money and be healthier. The common belief is since most organic versions of food have a 20% markup, the cost outweighs the benefits.
Correlating poor diets and their financial impact, a typical person eating a poor diet throughout their life will spend more on health care costs and food than a person eating a healthier diet. A more organic oriented diet will lower the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, autism, allergies, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal issues, migraines, among others. The associated health care cost and decline in quality of life should be reason enough to eat more organic.
Despite costing more now, your food budget will actually decrease when you start eating healthier. Instead of spending money at restaurants, fast food places, and convenience stores, you have motivation to cook at home in order not to waste that expensive food. Once you change your eating habits, your body will actually start craving the healthy food and rejecting other greasy options. Also, choosing to buy locally at farmer's markets like Lancaster's central market will considerably decrease your retail cost and at the same time help out your local community. You can find other ideas for saving money and still eating organic here.
We can notice the environmental impact industrial agriculture and their pesticides and fertilizers have right in our own back yard. The Chesapeake Bay has long been the victim of poor farming practices. Since the bay is an estuary, the rivers and streams which form its watershed are crucial to the health of the bay. The 64,000 square miles that the watershed encompasses is mostly covered by farms that these rivers and streams flow through. As a result, the run off from farms directly impacts the condition of the bay. Eating more organic food reduces the demand and therefore reduces the production, decreasing the amount of fertilizers and pesticides that flow into the watershed every day.
You the consumer can have an impact on the environment with your purchasing power. A less polluted agricultural system will decrease the rate at which we are degrading natural resources and decrease the overall cost to society. Just by choosing a healthier food you can do your share to help your community and at the same time become a healthier person. Can it get any easier than that?
Above I mentioned that just buying organic food can have a tremendous impact on your health and your community. Organic vegetable gardening is a fun activity which has plenty of rewarding benefits. Not only will you save significant amounts of money(depending on the size of your garden), but you will also experience the satisfaction of eating something you have grown yourself.
Gardening also creates a stronger community by eliminating international companies and substituting them with your neighbor or local farmer. Growing your own food encourages families to cook at home, strengthening the family bond.
If you are struggling to find space to have your own organic garden, container gardening is the way to go. You will be able to grow herbs and vegetables not typically hardy in your area by having full control of what kind of soil and environment you expose your container plants to. To further explore container gardening, read my article about container gardening ideas you can easily utilize.
You can also consider renting a plot of land from your local county or volunteer organization. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty and get out there! Gardening is a great activity to do with your significant other. It will save you money, help you stay in shape, and give you a nice tan! Here are several links to communal gardens in the PA area:
- Lancaster County Gardens
- Lancaster County Park Garden Plots
- Temple Community Garden
- Dauphin County Community Garden
Make a plan and take action. Whether visiting a local community garden website or researching the type of organic vegetables you want to grow, any step towards sustainability and a healthier lifestyle is a positive one. Do not let time be a deterrent either, you can grow your own organic food with 8 hours of work per year and be saving money and living healthier in no time.