The most useful blog in my world is Hawaii Agriculture. They keep up to date, and really cover the field (and sometimes stray into the ocean and forest.) A recent post alerted me to potential perils in the produce section: http://hawaii-agriculture.com/newblog/west-hawaii-today-features-food-sustainability-a-kona-vores-dilemma/ right here in Kona. The issue is produce that isn’t local, being sold as such, sometimes mixed into the same bin with local produce. Talk about a hot topic for local farmers!
But I was just thinking about what to cook for dinner the next day while shopping at my favorite local natural food store, Island Naturals. I like them so much I kind of felt bad about writing this post, but hey, guys, it’s up to you now. I found some gorgeous organic courgettes. No price, no problem, friendly Produce Man was 6 feet away. He dug around and got the tag. $2.99 a lb, the price for not going to the Farmer’s market, but they are deep green and gorgeous, and . . . they’re from MEXICO???
Trying to stay off my soap-box, I said to Produce Man as innocently as I could,”the tag says ‘Mainland,’ but the labels say they’re from Mexico (organic at least).” He stuttered a bit and said something about only having “local” and “mainland” tags, and admitted there was a problem with about four of their products. I couldn’t help saying, “Hawaii’ is my mainland, by the way, but the point is Mexico is a foreign country with different standards for organic.”
“I’m from Sweden,” he smiled, “ I see your point, and I hope by the next time you come in we’ll have that fixed.” Now that I’ve done some research, it looks like Mexico’s standards are ok. STILL! I had to go back the next day as it turns out, and the signs were the same– but that’s not much of a grace period for corporate policy changes.
A few days later I’m at my favorite conventional supermarket, KTA. The same cute Mexican courgettes with the yellow label (my phone camera doesn’t have a flash) are in the organic produce section. The nearest origin tags say “product of USA.” KTA has tracks on the shelves to put the tags on, and they don’t specifically reference the item they refer to. So, I just turned the “product of USA” label over.
Back to the Hawaii Agriculture blog. What about local-not-necessarily-organic vs organic imports? The BBC writes in a great little article, “Local food is usually more “green” than organic food, according to a report published in the journal Food Policy.”