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      Buying organic & local food

      Going organic, it TMs a craze that's cropping up all over for its health benefits, but what exactly is organic food? For produce or livestock to be labeled organic there are two requirements. First, it needs to be grown or raised without use of synthetic materials; no herbicides or pesticides. Second, it must be approved federally by the National Organic Program.

      "They go through a certification process to show what they are doing to improve the soil, what they're doing to grow the product and then what's also being put on the land and how they're controlling bugs or those kinds of things," said Natasha Gill with the Marquette Food Co-op.

      Many get their organic supply at the Marquette Food Co-op, but the Co-op also sells local produce, which isn't certified as organic. In fact most of their organic supply is from outside our area.

      But just because a farm and its produce are not certified as organic doesn't mean they actually aren't. For example, many local farms right here in the U.P. do use organic growing methods, however they find it unnecessary to register as organic.

      Seeds and spores grown organically, but can't advertise as such, because they aren't certified. Why? Because they feel that it's not worth the money. Unlike distant growers, locals can come see the organic growing process for themselves.

      "We're 100% transparent," said Jeff Chiodi, co-owner of Skandia's Seeds and Spores Family Farm. "Over time we've educated them (locals) to the point of which they trust us and it saves us some paper work and money in the long run."

      So should you buy local or certified organic? Mary Walther Rogers posted on our Facebook page, "I would love to provide my family with organic foods but can't always justify the price difference."

      To answer Mary, buying local is probably more economical, since it supports nearby growers and the food doesn't have to travel as far. Plus, if produce doesn't have travel as far, it's likely to be fresher. If you do buy produce from out of the area, and want to eat naturally, make sure it's been certified by the National Organic Program.