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15/05/2013

Organic food, short distribution chain or urban farms? That is the question…

Taking advantage of the conclusion of the meetings organised in the frame of "Menu Friends of the Planet" project, we would like to offer a small "compass" useful to guide ourselves in the sustainable food world. In fact, during  the meetings we realised that consumers easily confuse the concepts of organic food, short distribution chain, ethical purchasing groups (EPG) and so on. Is it better an organic tomato coming from Spain or a tomato grown from our backyard farmer? And, what if the farmer is not using only natural products? In short, we will try to make things clearer:

Organic farming excludes the use of synthetic products and genetically modified organisms, promoting biodiversity and the natural fertility of soil. In general, organic foods are certified, although a lot of farmers choose not to apply for the certification because it involves time-consuming and expensive bureaucratic procedures. Consequently, farmers might tell you that their products are organic even though uncertified. Building a sincere relationship with our trusted farmer is the best way to assess the real quality of his organic products and to understand his commitment to the environment.

Short distribution chain (SDC) means "jumping" some passages of the food distribution chain by buying products directly from farmers or through EPGs. This mechanism allows small farmers to keep running, assuring them a proper income and avoiding the dumbing-down logic of large retailers. Another term (Km 0) refers to the reduced transport of goods from the point of production up to our kitchen, which reduces the amount of pollutants emitted. SDC brings another advantage to consumers: knowing exactly where products come from, allowing to develop a trusted relationship with farmers.

EPGs are groups of people who decide to get together to buy products collectively, thus dividing transport costs and other tasks. In contrast to other ways of grouping, EPGs are intended not only to save money, but also to support farmers, social projects and environmentally friendly values.

Sustainable cooking entails not only picking local and organic products, but also making our lifestyle more sustainable by, for instance, eating less meat, preferring products whose production requires less water/energy, buying fish coming from sustainable fishing practices. In short, sustainable cooking means paying attention to the choices we, as consumers, made every day. 

Urban gardens, community gardens, city farms: the phenomenon of urban gardens is booming worldwide, highlighting a large need to "get hands dirty" and to establish a close contact with healthy food. No less important, this raising phenomenon has significant educational characteristics as well: simple concepts such as understanding how cheese is made, where eggs come from or watching plants growing help building more attentive consumers.

In the end, it is not possible giving a clear answer to the questions we posed at the beginning. We believe that the right mixture of all these possibilities depends on many factors, also very personal. Where we live, how we move, our financial resources, which are our favorite dishes. The important thing is being aware that our purchasing decisions have a significant impact on the environment; therefore, we should do everything we can to reduce it.