Eating Local & Organic = Better Health, Better Taste

27 Jun

My Saturday Farmers Market Haul

Having just wrapped up my 30 Days of Sustainability project, I have now embarked on 30 Days of Eating Local & Organic. They sort of go hand in hand, except of course this 30 Day project will be completely focused on food.

I love food. I love healthy & natural. I love Austin and the cool people we have here. I love shopping for food and I really, really love cooking food. So all of these things combine to make me a perfect locavore. What is that, you might ask? It is a person committed to buying and eating local, organically grown food in an effort to be healthier, support your local economy and farmers, and have a lower impact on the planet.

As I discovered, to a far greater degree than I had already known, while doing my research and intense investigation into sustainable living practices for my last experiment – it is absolutely appalling how many chemicals, pesticides, preservatives and other nasty things go into a whole, whole lot of the food we are eating. Especially anything that is processed and mass produced. It really makes you not want to buy anything processed and in plastic or a can. The nutritional value of organic food is typically higher than non-organic – by over 20% for most vitamins and minerals. You can use the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce – and stay away from the Dirty Dozen: ALWAYS eat organic with these foods.

Not only is eating whole foods that are locally and organically grown much healthier for us, they also just quite simply taste a whole lot better. Like living sustainably, it’s not new or trendy or hippie – it is extremely old fashioned. We have, as a society, become completely disassociated from where our food comes from, how it is produced, and what is done to it before it goes into our bodies.

“Organic food increases nutrient intake, and alters consumption patterns away from less healthy choices. Organic food isn’t a luxury. It’s how food is supposed to be and a valuable part of any regimen intended to maintain, improve or restore health.” ~Dr Vaidehi Nawathe

Read "10 Ways to Become a Locavore" from the PBS NOW series

I have always loved going to farmers markets, and fortunately I live in a place where being a locavore is relatively easy. Austin has a lot of farmers markets, and I live within 3 miles of five urban farms – two of which are right down the street from me and have market stands twice a week. There are even locally-based blogs such as Austin Locavores and Texas Locavore. We also enjoy a pretty decent number of restaurants that are committed to sourcing local, organic ingredients as much as possible; I wrote an article on the Top 10 Eateries where Local really means Local for AOL.

I started my Locavore Experiment on Saturday, June 25, by going to the downtown farmers market with my sweetie. We had a great time strolling around the dog and family friendly market, picking out delicious food as well as grabbing some Thai food for lunch. All in all, this is what we included in our haul:

  • Okra & Eggplant from the market

    1o pounds of tomatoes from Johnson’s Backyard Garden. Yes, you read that right – everyone is knee-deep in tomatoes these days and Johnson’s was having a fire sale at $1.40/pound. Keith ordered a 10-pound box ahead of time and we picked them up at the market.

  • A bushel of okra, carrots and a sugar baby watermelon from Urban Roots. I can’t wait to try out this small, very sweet watermelon. I love watermelons but most of them are way too big and end up wasting a lot.
  • A poblano pepper, three Asian eggplants, a bunch of garlic and some really cool bi-colored (yellow and green) squash.
  • Free-range chicken from Smith and Smith Farms.
  • Two quiches from Cake & Spoon.
  • Pad Thai with tofu from Thai Fresh, a lovely market and kitchen that also offers cooking classes. I took one of Jam’s classes last year and became a whiz at one of my favorite foods in the world, Tom Kha soup.
  • A fresh canteloupe/rosemary lemonade to wash it all down on the hot Texas summer day.

Homemade salsa, as fresh as it comes!

We brought it back and immediately got to work on the tomatoes, making fresh salsa with poblano and serrano peppers, garlic and cilantro; and marinara sauce by simmering with onions and garlic for hours. After all that hard work, we ended the night by concocting a bubbly cocktail: Prosecco, fresh pureed strawberries, crushed mint leaves from my herb garden, and a dash of peach brandy. Mmmmmmmm…

In other “eating local” news for the weekend, I had a meal at Kerbey Lane Cafe with my daughter. Kerbey Lane is a longtime Austin favorite and known for its use of organic, healthy, local ingredients. They have a wide range of vegetarian and vegan options, and I had a delicious grilled panini with mozzarella, tomatoes, caramelized onions and a red pepper pesto. Oh, it was accompanied by one of my all-time faves, sweet potato fries (I gotta start making those myself!). As the Kerbey Lane website states:

A cocktail to top it all off

Our preference for local and fresh ingredients actually shaped our menu, versus our menu dictating the ingredients we used. High quality, homegrown produce and meats are at the cornerstone of our success.

More to come soon on this journey – I will be sharing recipes and interviews with some of the local farmers. If you have any tips or ideas for me, please feel free to include them in comments below or send them my way via the contact page. And below is a handy little reference guide for the Dirty Dozen – the worst produce for pesticides that you should ALWAYS buy organic – as well as the Clean 15. (Click the image to bring up a full size jpg version you can print!)

EWC Pesticide Guide

Eat well!

26 Responses to “Eating Local & Organic = Better Health, Better Taste”

  1. Bob June 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    I know you need to cite your sources because they are wrong. Pesticides do not decrease the nutrient value of a plant. If anything they increase it. With pesticedes the plant can grow and not focus its energy on fending off bugs. Without, it has to focus its energy on repairing damages caused by worms, bettles, etc. I would like to know where you have heard different, and see the publication they put out. I can assure you that many groups out there are trying to “con” the every day housewife into believing that if you spend more on organic your family will be healthier……We have been eating products that have been treated with pest/herbicides for generations and I have yet to see any real scientifically proven evidence that they effect ones lifespan or health. Please stop scaring people with your opinions and calling them facts.

    • Shelley Seale June 29, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

      Hi Bob,
      I don’t believe I am “scaring” people or claiming anything outrageous at all. It is simply that – my opinion and preference. I never claim that ALL pesticides are evil or everything about them is bad. Yes, you are right that some of them, particularly if they have more natural bug-fighting ingredients or don’t include some of the really, really dangerous ingredients, certainly benefit the plant and its defenses against bugs. Agreed.

      But for me personally, in my opinion, I would just prefer not to eat food that has been exposed to chemicals.This post is all about how supporting local farmers and their hard work and usually far superior food (in MY experience) is often better. I believe that.

      And if you’ve read any more of my blog at all, you will see that I am well aware that much of what calls itself “organic” or “green” is not that at all, but simply cashing in on a marketing trend and charging more money to do it. Check out my post here:

      I appreciate your viewpoint and comments. My main point is, quite simply, that I prefer to eat healthier, locally grown food and I prefer not to ingest potentially dangerous chemicals.


  2. oregongreen June 29, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    Interesting blog post. However I would really like to see the science behind your allegations that Organic is proven “healthier.” From the studies and scientific articles I’ve seen that is simply not true, please share your source if it’s available. Also, Organic producers use pesticides and at times conventional producers also use the same “organic pesticide”. A lot of times newer organic pesticides are not as tested as nor are all studies complete on the effects they could potentially have. I trust conventional methods way more because of time again proven research that they are safe.

    I am glad wordpress brought me to your blog. I am sure we can have an interesting, thoughtful and productive conversation. I look forward to reading your sources and more of your posts.

    • Shelley Seale June 29, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

      Hi, there – see above. I don’t have “allegations” and personally don’t believe that organic is ALWAYS healthier necessarily. The quote above in my post you might be referring to is the quote of someone in the MSN article that I cited and linked to (

      Personally, I just prefer to eat food that is natural, organic and healthy. That doesn’t mean I think everything in the stores labeled “all natural” or “organic” necessarily is, or is better. I like to shop at farmers markets and eat locally grown food.

      Thanks for contributing. On a side note, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Oregon and absolutely love that state!


      • oregongreen June 30, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

        Hi Shelley,

        Thank you for pointing out your source. However, I still find the source alarming as it doesn’t have a reference to its study that claimed Organic had the better health benefits. I have even tried to find it.

        I offer you another study that’s reviewed articles and studies over the last 50 years on organic food and health benefits and they came to the conclusion that organic food is no more nutritious that conventional. It was compiled by the Food Standards Agency in the UK. It also offers an interesting chart to what all affects the nutrient content of food. You can find that on page 7.

        I am not trying to change your mind on how, where or what kind of food you buy. That’s the beautiful thing about capitalism–freedom of choice. However, I just hate to see information being used that isn’t fact based but fear based.

        Also, glad you love visiting Oregon!

  3. Susan June 30, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    Shelley you will be happy to hear that I shared your no meat blog with a couple beef producer chatrooms, and this one with some farm chatrooms. I feel you will benefit immensely from people who actually interact with the livestock and they will tell you that you are very much in the wrong in regards to how they are managed and handled. My 30 day challenge to you is this; turn off PETA, HSUS, and CNN videos, actually go out to more than one ranch/farm and observe it yourself. Then you can come back in here and actually talk about your experience and not what you read online. They did that with some portland kids in regards to the wolves. When they left portland they hated ranchers, when they returned home to portland, they all had new pen-pals and exciting stories about cows giving birth. The biggest problem our industry is facing today is a lack of knowledge from the consumers standpoint. Thanks to HSUS, and PETA people are mortified to allow strangers on their property for fear that the visitors will filter through 8 hours of tape and present only the most unflattering images. Which makes outsiders feel that we have something to hide. HSUS has a $100 million budget for court cases alone. The beef council has $500,000. I didn’t leave off a zero, you read it right. It’s pretty hard for us to defend ourselves with that tight of a budget. So if you want a real 30 day challenge then go out and see what you can find. Noone is going to lie to you. Stop believing what you hear and read about, farmers and ranchers are real, honest, down to earth people who are excited to show off their animals and crops. I’m not just talking about small-scale agriculture I am talking about the industry as a whole. This goes to all the followers also, it’s fair season go talk to some ranchers/farmers at the fairs, see what you can take back from your experience. Ask them about pesticides, or whatever you want to know.I hope you will take this on as a challenge it will be far more rewarding than making a meatless salad on monday.

    • Shelley Seale June 30, 2011 at 9:55 am #

      Where did you get the idea this was a “no meat” blog? Because I prefer to eat less meat and when I do, to eat that which is raised locally and with higher quality? I clearly point out in several places that I myself am NOT a vegetarian, and what’s more it has been proven that eating LESS meat, not eating meat every day, is healthier for everyone.

      Read up before you reply with inaccurate accusations. People like you, who don’t bother to read everything someone such as myself has written here on this subject, astound me. If you had bothered to do that you would see that I am NOT a vegetarian. I make it clear in both this article and in the comments that I am not, that I do eat meat and even my nutritionist had once told me it was good for me to eat some meat.

      My point is that I am careful about WHAT meat I eat, and how much! Everything should be in moderation. I don’t believe an extreme vegan is healthy, and I also don’t believe that eating meat every day is healthy for you either. Too much meat is bad, and even cutting back meat and making sure that which you do eat is HEALTHY and not produced in an unhealthy manner using chemicals and bad farming practices (i.e. dirty conditions, animal excrement getting in the meat product etc which happens a LOT among the commercial meat production plants!). I prefer to eat locally, healthily produced meat from my local farmers. Nowhere have I said I never eat meat or believe that is good.

      Read what I actually say before you comment across the board.

  4. Susan June 30, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    lol, no it is people like you my dear. You make statements and then you disarm them at the end with “I’m not a vegan or vegetarian.” Which is comical because if you go to your fb page and read the no meat monday posts you seem to have a different point of view. Here is one (from this article)
    ; Not only is eating whole foods that are locally and organically grown much healthier for us, they also just quite simply taste a whole lot better. Like living sustainably, it’s not new or trendy or hippie – it is extremely old fashioned. We have, as a society, become completely disassociated from where our food comes from, how it is produced, and what is done to it before it goes into our bodies. Where is the science in that? It is your opinion you are trying to curb as facts. Sweetheart, I skim your posts because they make my blood boil and stomach churn. Are you going to take up the 30 day challenge I suggested or not? Let’s not start with the “you people” bit, unless you are referring to farmers and ranchers as a whole. You have offended 4 so far so quite obviously you aren’t trying to be very accurate and two sided in your arguments. “my personal opinion” would have been a better way to start out some of your paragraphs.

    • Shelley Seale June 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

      On the contrary regarding farmers, I support the ones who are doing it right whole-heartedly. I buy a lot of my food from the local farmers and ranchers right here in my community, not from big chains, so I don’t see how that is offensive. I go to many local farms, and I disdain PETA, so your challenge is not anything I don’t already do. But thanks for the suggestion.

      And the fact that THIS IS MY PERSONAL BLOG AND JOURNEY means that these are all my opinions and preferences. That’s what a personal blog is; they just happen to be different preferences for how I live and eat than yours, and I’m okay with yours. You get to choose for yourself and so do I. Get over it.

  5. Sujatha June 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    If anyone wants hard evidence about the dangers of pesticides, check out David Steinman’s “Diet for a Poisoned Planet.” It is very enlightening. For those who think that anti-meat organizations are based on ignorance, all I can say is the reason that I became a vegetarian 25 years ago is because I took agriculture classes and saw for myself how the animals were treated.

  6. Shelley Seale June 30, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    Interesting that so many people are so defensive of one woman’s personal eating preferences and lifestyle choices. Seems I’ve touched a nerve – when such staunch defensiveness occurs in my experience, it’s usually because they’re trying to defend the indefensible…

  7. Chandler July 1, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    The other day at central market I tried 2 different strawberries… One was organic and one was regular Driscolls…about 39 cents different in price. The organic ones were so huge and red, flavorful and really sweet, and the Driscolls looked very red and juicy but tasted sour and bland…missing a delicious taste the organic ones had. I bought 2 of the organic ones and can’t stop eating them.

    And Bob, where are your cited sources of scientific facts? I have NEVER heard that about pesticides. How can that be true what you’re saying about “the plant has to spend more energy fighting off bugs therefore it does not spend enough time making nutrients”. What kind of jibberish is that? How can something the plant does that is completely NATURAL to every plants life take away from its growth and nutrition? If you learn even a little bit about plant structure and life you will learn that plants have plenty of time and know what needs to be done to survive. It’s like the human body… our bodies have many different cells that each serve a purpose… for fighting off disease, healing our skin after trauma, healing our bones, growing, aging, learning, living, breathing, eating, digesting… how could we ever say that if we put chemicals in our body that take away a very important part of our circulatory, nervous or digestive system could possibly “add” more focus on another??

  8. Chandler July 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    I am a supporter of local food sources, not just ORGANIC. I completely agree with the idea that people are trying to hack up prices x2 because they CAN, because they approve it’s ORGANIC. I am not just a sucker to organic food, I still will read the labels, nutrition, and where it comes from. I buy the locally grown Texas peaches over the Organic California peaches, because I know it supports my fellow Texans and is usually much fresher and more ripe. Like Shelley said, it’s not just about organic supposedly being healthier, it is about local foods (usually organic; if you don’t know talk to the farmers to decide what is best) being healthier, also in most people’s opinions TASTES way way better. I choose the beautiful, juicy, flavorful tomatoes over the orange, dull colored HEB tomatoes.

  9. Chandler July 1, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    I definitely don’t want you changing your lifestyle if you think mass produced chemical pesticide filled produce contains more nutrients…. go eat your dull, lifeless produce, and leave the simple locally grown delicious and flavorful produce to us!

  10. Bob July 2, 2011 at 3:20 am #

    Who is telling you that the produce is filled with pesticides? They use the same ones on organics that they use on regular produce. Other than readers and shoppers, are any of you affiliated with any type of farm or crop? Your strawberry theory is based on what you provided for information. What I would inquire to that is, where did both the types of strawberry derive from? Out of state, same farm, which one was picked ripe, which one ripened in the refrigeration unit on the way to market, it could go on. Where I shop there are special little sections for organics and the produce is always smaller. Not just sometimes, always. Multiple chains, different days, always. Now why would the organics be smaller? Could it be that I am correct? Could they be fighting off bugs/molds while the other produce is simply growing? Could it be that organic peaches are smaller because they are fighting off leaf curl, while the neighbors, who treated the tree in the spring and fall, are thriving and have beautiful leaves?

  11. Shelley Seale July 2, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Love all the extra eyeballs that people are bringing to the site. Thanks for the traffic folks! A big thanks to everyone for the lively debate and differing points – let’s stay respectful of differing opinions and lifestyles is all I ask. Stay healthy, live and let live!

  12. Shelley Seale July 7, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    Studies led by Chensheng Lu of Emory University found that elementary school-age children’s body burdens of organophosphate pesticides, including chlorpyrifos and malathion, peaked during the summer, when they ate the most fresh produce. But just five days after switching to an all-organic diet, their bodies were essentially pesticide-free (Lu 2006, 2008).

    Check it out:

  13. Chandler July 8, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    The organics are smaller because that is how the veggies and fruits are REALLY grown…. pesticides make them abnormally large!! You can read this anywhere!!! Go pick up a book.

  14. Cristina @ An Organic Wife July 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    I’m (somewhat) shocked at the comments claiming that pesticides are safe.

    It used to be that all food was organic (although at that time they just called it “food”). Cancer rates were 1 in 50. We did not have nearly the amount of diseases, sickness, allergies, and health problems that America. Since the introduction of processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, food dyes, artificial additives, and even the subsidizing of crops (which for the sake of money, use lots of chemicals) we are now seeing cancer rates of 1 in 2! Not to mention the increase in allergies, ADD, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and so much more. You cannot say that putting all this junk on our food has no effect on our health. It just makes sense – chemicals are foreign to our bodies, and our bodies are going to react.

    • Shelley Seale July 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

      I couldn’t agree more, and I was also pretty taken aback by people commenting and claiming that pesticides are not only safe, they are beneficial! Yes, they may help the plants in the short term to fend off bugs, but there are OTHER ways to do that which don’t contain dangerous chemicals, which are horribly bad for us humans and, I believe, for the plants in the long run as well.

      As close to original nature as possible is the best, in my opinion. I wonder if the people trying to defend the safety, and even healthy benefits, of pesticides and other dangerous chemicals in our food production work for these companies???

  15. Shelley Seale August 4, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    Another great find since this post was out:
    “One of the main causes for the phenomenon of the mass disappearance of honeybee colonies is the use of pesticides in our current food system, namely for the agricultural practice of monoculture. As Michael Pollan says in the movie, “[Colony collapse] is one of the signs — a really unmistakable sign — that our food system is unsustainable.”
    By planting gardens, we can help keep honeybee populations strong.

    By planting gardens, we can help keep honeybee populations strong. Why is this important? Because insect-pollinated plants make up around one-third of the human diet, with honeybees responsible for 80% of that.”


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