My Story: Why I Buy Organic

contributed by Brenna

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Regarding the article about the cost of organics and living a frugal lifestyle here, I'd like to add my two cents.

I bet you are familiar with the old saying, "He knows the cost of everything, and the value of nothing." This is the foundation of my own belief in the frugality of buying organic (I bet you'll get quite a few letters with similar thoughts). For me, frugality is part of how I express the value I place on hard work, ethics, and joy in the pleasures that life brings every day. If I couldn't spend my money on supporting the wonderful farms, dairies, breweries and so on which make my little corner of the world unique and such a pleasure to live in, what would be the point of having that money? The most important goal of frugality is not pure cheapness for its own sake!

Frugality is first, and foremost, a means to self-reliance and independence. In buying organic, I feel that I profit from things I could never accumulate enough money to buy, such as cleaner water, safer nourishment, and a community which will carry the legacy of family farms into the next generation. You can't get that in a bag of apples from Chile! How does it enrich my life or enhance my independence to eat cheap produce from thousands of miles away, but lose my local farms to nothing but real estate developments? One of the "miracles" of sustainable agriculture is that, when practiced by a farmer who makes smart choices and is willing to do the work involved, farming actually becomes profitable!

Sure, conventional produce seems cheap, but there is a catch. It's a lot like those "no interest, no penalties for 12 months" deals we see for stuff we don't need but want to buy anyway. Hidden expenses sooner or later have to be paid. If you ask yourself, "How come a conventional tomato travelling 3,000 miles from California is cheaper than an organic one that is trucked 10 miles to my local farmers market?", you have to admit something does seem a little fishy in that equation!

What is currently cheap in cash outlay for consumers is simply very, very expensive in other ways. The fact is that a lot of precious, totally non-renewable resources, are squandered in the production of conventional produce. The costs may not appear to be coming out of our pocket books, but this is an illusion created by an overly narrow focus on cash as the primary factor in the equation. The investment in fossil fuels alone from fertilizer to transportation ought to really make us ask if conventional farming is good for our economy. Never mind the hidden health costs to agricultural workers who are exposed to the chemicals involved or the loss of economic stability in communities where mega farms have virtually obliterated family farmers, and the towns that used to supply them with goods and services.

Eventually, the "no interest" honeymoon period ends, and wow, what a bill there is to pay! When fuel prices rise, the cost of produce will rise; when fuel becomes hard to get because of international conflict, the cost of produce will rise. When a health crisis devastates workers or consumers, agricultural communities will have to find ways to pay for remedies or abandon their moral and civic obligations.

Does organic food production guarantee that none of these things will happen? No, of course not. But overall, it creates a chain of practices, suppliers and services which is closer to home, closer to community influence, and more directly committed to good outcomes for all stakeholders.

Do I buy everything organic? No! But I would say at least 60% of my grocery budget is spent on organic food, and 100% is spent in locally owned, neighborhood groceries who feature local fresh produce and other regionally produced staples, like grains, locally made cheese, honey and maple syrup. Is my choice the "cheapest"? Strictly speaking, no! And it isn't right for everyone. But I believe that my choice creates benefits for many more people than myself. For me, that is a very "wow" factor to quote the Frugal Zealot!

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by email to

Take the Next Step:

  • In your corner of the world, look for grocers selling locally grown produce and grains and locally made cheese, honey, maple syrup, etc. Frequent local farmers' markets and roadside stands and don't ever feel bad to ask about growing practices. In my experience, many have enjoyed the opportunity to share their farming ideals.

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