A Lesson in Organics

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Wenatchee, Washington

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.


bosc pears


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.


Join the Conversation

  1. This is an honorable goal, Ayngelina. It’s something I work towards but cannot afford to do all the time. For the rest of my items I buy from local farmers. It fulfills both of the goals that are important to me. 🙂

  2. Awesome post, Ayngelina. I’m genuinely surprised so many people eat organic. Apparently not too many of my friends eat healthy. 😉 I long ago decided I couldn’t “afford” organic and local, but switched my thinking a few months ago. I admit I pay a lot more for groceries (it’s generally more expensive here anyway), but I’m healthier, happier, AND hopefully supporting somebody out there.

  3. Frankie (Bird) says:

    Wow 80% of organic food in Canada is imported!? That’s a crazy stat…

    In London we ate pretty much 75% organic which depressingly was a lot more expensive than not eating organic. Now we’re travelling we always “go” organic when we can which is fairly easy in cities in Europe and now we’re back in SE Asia I do what I can to get to markets where people sell the produce they grow in their gardens/small holdings – it may not always be organic in the strictest sense of the word but it’s better than the over packaged, mass produced veggies/fruit you see in the supermarkets that are increasingly popular over here…

    A very honourable commitment Ayngelina – I look forward to hearing how you get on with it!

  4. Susan From Travel Universally says:

    That’s so nice to see that You are preferring Organic. but in some part of the world like Mumbai India, The availability of Organic food leads for lots of doubts. Here one of my colleague was told by a vegetable seller that the market vegetables are safe and organic but Alas.. that turned into a problem because of improper pesticides spray.

  5. Interesting post. During my time in the Cameron Highlands their was a French man in my dorm and we hung out often and he talked a lot about organic food and the problem farmers now planting organic food face in France and it was interesting, but you wanna know what his biggest argument was? His biggest argument was that we have become so disconnected with what real food is that we have a name for it “ORGANIC FOOD” he is angry that it’s not called FOOD because that is what it is. He thinks ORGANIC FOOD should just be called FOOD and all the rest of the food should be called “CHEMICAL FOOD”. I was honestly left puzzled, because it’s true… I mean only in the last few decades has this changed? It’s a very sad reality of what is going on in the Western world and I find it sad that it is easier for me to eat healthy in a developing country than it is in my home country. What do you think about that (the name of it)?

  6. So happy to see someone so passionate about eating ethically, and following through with it. I don’t eat fish for a variety of reasons and I get a lot of side-eye for it, but I’m living what I believe. Viva localganic eating!

  7. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    I strongly believe in eating organic as well, I just find it nearly impossible to stick to though. We don’t have a lot of organic only restaurants in our area. 🙁

  8. Meg from LandingStanding says:

    Great article. Tony and I worked on an agroturismo in Tuscany and we spoke to many locals about their farming practices and they thought it was insane that people pay more for organic produce in the states than mass produced fruits and veggies loaded with pesticides. In Italy (and many places in Europe) they ONLY eat organic produce and often organic produce from the local markets are much cheaper than in large grocery stores. We have it all backwards back home!

  9. Oh man – returning to the States always gives me sticker shock. I could buy from farmer’s markets in Europe so cheaply yet “big chains” here are SO EXPENSIVE.

    I’m always about supporting the little guys as well.

  10. We’ve definitely been trying to eat more organic everything and had not even heard of this dirty dozen. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, good to know..

  11. We have a store called Sprouts near where we live and they sell very affordable organic produce. Since we started juicing vegetables, I buy all my veggies organic and some fruit. I will sometimes buy non-organic fruit that has a peel.

    I read something recently where the writer said the amount of pesticides in produce is not going to kill the average person and my answer to that is, “Yea, the average person who rarely eats fruits and vegetables, but if that is a big portion of your diet, then going organic is smart and well worth the money.”

  12. Caanan @ No Vacation Required says:

    You are in our back yard (which has a lot of fruit trees!)

    I think it’s great that you are helping to increase awareness of local and organic produce.

  13. Emily in Chile says:

    Interesting stuff, especially the tip on how to tell when a pear is ripe! I agree with voting with your wallet, but I have to admit that I don’t tend to do it here in Santiago…I’ve been disappointed in the organic produce I’ve tried, and then only organic meat I’ve seen is crazily expensive chicken that’s not even available at my regular grocery store.

  14. I’ve only come to realize the importance of eating organic this year but I feel SO strongly about it, especially with the global dominance of corporations when it comes to food supply. I really admire the farmers who care so much about it – if not for people like them who are willing to make less money to provide a healthy, nutritional product, then we would be lost.

  15. I did some fruit picking is Oz and … man is it hard work though? Getting back to nature but please!

  16. Susan @ Travel Junkette says:

    Great post, Ayngelina! I was shocked to learn that 80% of organic food in Canada comes from the States. I think it’s super important that we all become more mindful of what we eat and how it affects the environment. Definitely something that we should all be writing about more. Love this!

  17. Interesting. Here in California it is easy to get good organic products, often for the same price or just a bit more than the regular stuff. And we can grow our own year round. Thanks for writing about this important topic–people need to keep thinking about what we eat and grow.

  18. I think I would go organic even if it were only to help protect the environment. Not getting pesticide residues in ME just happens to be another great benefit! I’m not actually buying all organic produce yet (poor student, no car, other excuses, blah blah blah), but I try to buy organic for my most commonly-bought produce and I hope it’s helpful to me.

    For those who want to learn more about sustainable/organic farming (AND get to travel to exotic locations for little money!) you should consider WWOOFing organizations. I think you went WWOOFing once, right, Ayngelina?

  19. Lauren H. of Sobremesa In Spain says:

    It’s such an important commitment, not only for ourselves and our bodies, but also the land, harvesters and future. I admire that you also make the intention to meet the folks behind the products and share with others!

  20. I eat organic, but it’s hard to change people’s eating habits.

  21. You have proved very well that organic food is not only for Privileged Ones. However I shocked at the cunning nature of US farmers.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m not sure why you would be shocked, many farmers want to do what’s best for the land so it’s not surprising to see the move into organics.

  22. Lauren@GreenGlobalTravel says:

    I have struggled with the decision to buy organic as well. Purchasing organic from a grocery store can be expensive at times depending on the product. However, having a local garden and trading crops with fellow neighbors also is a great way to eat organically. Thanks for sharing the tips on eating organically!

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