“The organic industry can more broadly be seen as a subset of the larger environmental movement,” said Simcha Weinstein, director of marketing for Albert’s Organics headquartered in Swedesboro, NJ. “How we deliver our food system to our tables has a tremendous impact on our ecology. But even within the context of that system, it’s only one part of the equation. Organic refers to the process of how we grow our food, but also to how the food travels to our plates, which is another aspect entirely. And it is this aspect that is gaining awareness as the local movement moves forward.”
Weinstein said that in order to create a truly sustainable food system, both local and regional farming as well as organic farming methods must be employed. Too often, however, organic and local are discussed as an either/or choice, as though they are somehow pitted against one another.
“I find this remarkable because in conjunction they create a true sustainable food system,” he noted. “One without the other only gets us part of the way there.”
He added that there is no doubt about the emergence and popularity of eating locally grown food being a wonderful development, and Albert’s has been supporting local and regional small family organic farms since the early 1980s.
“There is something very romantic about the local movement,” Weinstein explained. “As consumers, buying locally allows us to know the person who grows our lettuce. This is far more attractive than buying lettuce from a supermarket knowing it has likely traveled thousands of miles to reach your plate from a farmer you will doubtfully ever see or know. Eating local also feels safer to many people. The community actually sees how the local grower farms. There’s a transparency that is there that we don’t always feel from larger farms. Additionally, local farms support local economies by providing local jobs and supporting local businesses. The money remains in the community.”
Weinstein foresees local as becoming even stronger over the next 10 years as more and more awareness about conventional farming methods become apparent. He pointed out that while industrial farming is often touted as being highly efficient, and the only way we can truly feed the world, the truth is that it’s become a very inefficient way to raise our food.
“While large-scale, single-crop farms produce a large output per worker, smaller, organic and diversified farms produce more food per acre of land,” he said. “This is critically important.”
But he believes that the real key to the success of the local movement will not be for it to distinguish itself from organic agriculture, but rather to align with it.
“Both systems need one another if we are to create a truly sustainable food system,” said Weinstein. “Local organically raised food is ultimately where we’re going. Albert’s has seven distribution centers around the country, and at each one we not only buy locally produced food and support local and regional organic farming, but we have an entire local program that helps our retail customers promote, sell and support local organic food.”