By Jesame Geldenhuys
If you are still deliberating whether organic and local fruits and vegetables are better, or worth the extra cost, then I urge you to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver embodies a relationship with food called conscious-eating, emphasising the importance of supporting organic, local and sustainable food in our society and becoming health-conscious consumers that know where our food is coming from.
Denise Williamson, owner of the new organic store Earth Produce, moved to Grahamstown with her husband to “get to know where our food came from”. Earth Produce sources their products from organic farms around the area, including two certified organic farmers and a local farm that uses aquaponics, a combination of aquaculture with hydroponics for food production, called Auqaponics Innovations.
If you are living in Grahamstown you have no reason not to support the buying of free-range eggs. With outlets like Under the Arch, Fusion and Lungi’s, the availability of local free-range eggs are everywhere.
So why should you support organic and local?
Organic farming is a natural farming method that uses environmentally and animal-friendly processes, while commercial food production is laced with pesticides and toxins, alongside the inhumane treatment of animals where the only goal in mind is converting animals into meat.
The quality of organic produce is undeniable, and the nutrition and health benefits that reap from the sustainable methods of organic farming only have advantages. Not only is organic produce a healthier option for the consumer, but it promotes the healthy use of soil, water and air to minimize all forms of pollution that result from agricultural practices.
“Your food isn’t sprayed with toxic chemicals, and today you can’t buy much food like that,” says Williamson.
A big problem that a lot of local farmers experience comes in the form of organic certification. The rigid and meticulous process and cost to be organically certified makes it difficult for a lot of farmers to get the yellow sticker tagged onto their produce.
What is important to realise, as a consume,r is that organic certification is useful when consumers purchase food at a distance, but with farmers in Grahamstown who sell directly to their customers or the surrounds, there really is no need for a watchdog.
Local is just as good as organic, if not better!
Kingsolver describes it quite wonderfully in her book, “[Local farmers] livelihood tends to be a mission as well as a business… No federal bureaucracy can replace that relationship.”
Furthermore, supporting local ensures the reduction of carbon footprint. A lot of food travels hundreds to thousands of kilometers and fuel and energy consumption is high during the agricultural process. This pollution can be drastically cut down by buying local.
John and Roz Davies, local farmers on Three Chimneys Farm in Grahamstown, have been farming pasture-raised eggs as a side venture on their farm for about 14 years.
“We let the chickens out during the day, they roam around in the fields with the goats. They’ve got a little access gate to let themselves in and out during the day and egg boxes to lay their eggs in,” explains Roz Davies. Davies explains that it is important to note that there are still some flimsy definitions of ‘free-range’ that don’t actually offer the appropriate amount of natural space and environment for the chickens.
This reaffirms why it is important to really know where your free-range egg or produce is coming from- the reason for why supporting places you know is a better option.
“The difference can mainly be seen in the freshness. The chickens get green grass and fresh air and you can see a difference in the yolks,” says Davies.
Studies have confirmed that true free-range or pasture-raised eggs are much more nutritious than commercially-raised eggs. Mother Earth News did an egg-testing project in 2007 in the U.S.A and found that hens raised on pasture had: 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta carotene, 1/3 less cholesterol, ¼ less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A and 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids than commercially raised eggs.
Read more about the Mother Earth News study showing evidence of nutritional advantages of free-range eggs here.