One of the toughest things to recommit to when I returned to Toronto was to eat organic. When I was saving to travel I only ate organic, but I was making a lot of money. Now I am not. But I needed to stand by my principles, I believe we should be eating organic.
I also wanted to prove organic food is not only for the privileged.
The reason I am in Wenatchee, a place I had never heard of a month ago, is because it is a large agricultural area and one that has a unique micro-climate with cold winters that kill mildew and pests, which make it is perfect for growing organics.
I did come with some hesitation. I realize that in Canada organic has become a big market. I also believe in buying local and supporting the Canadian economy. I feel torn over the aspect of buying local and eating in season although I must admit Wenatchee is much more local to Vancouver than Ontario would be. But I also wanted to listen and learn and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Just as my visit in Montana, I have learned to listen more from others, even if I may not agree with everything they say.
Not surprisingly the organic market is growing and it’s not all from rich hipsters. Most of it is coming from new families who make the switch for their children. They don’t buy everything organic but often start with produce and dairy.
In Canada 80% of all organics sold are from the United States (mostly apples, pears and cherries). This really concerned me and I wondered why Canadians weren’t buying local. It turns out the demand is so high that local retailers often buy organics first from Canadian farms and when they no longer can supply it they’ll turn to their US counterparts. Apparently the demand for local has become so strong organics farmers in the US only attempt to provide varieties of fruit that Canada does not have or selling them when the Canadian season is over.
Canada is the largest market for organic pears and almost all Anjou pears from Wentachee go to Canada. It has been listed as one of the dirty dozen so I am not surprised that the market is growing.
Canada is the number 1 export market for these fruit, here US farmers depend on different growing seasons for Canada and Washington so they can begin supplying fruit when the Canadian farmers do not have it.
Another member of the dirty dozen. Organic apple growers in Wenatchee don’t even bother to try to compete with Canadian varietals, instead they export apples we do not grow like Gala and Granny Smith.
One of the biggest issues with apples is that no new orchards are being planted so farmers must go through the process of making current land organic certified. Not only does it take longer for organic orchards to become fruit bearing but farmers can expect a 10-15% drop in yield once the orchards are active.
I asked why farmers would go to such a financial risk and was told that for many of them it is a personal choice. For many who have owned the land through generations they want to protect both the soil and the workers and organic is the best way to do that. Also the myth that we cannot survive on organic farming is not necessarily true, while apples have a slightly decreased yield some fruit thrive on organic farming because of better quality soil.
I really do believe what we buy reflects our values and organic continues to be one of mine.
Disclosure: I was a guest of the Organic Trade Commission; Pear Bureau Northwest/USA Pears; Washington State Apple Commission; and Washington State Fruit Commission/ NW Cherry Growers. It’s a big group but none of them requested that I write a favourable review or start to wonder what local really is.