One of the most important things you can do to affect global warming, the local economy and your health is to buy food locally. You as a consumer hold the key by cutting out the huge transportation costs, supporting local growers and adding nutrient rich, and tasty foods to your diet.

Most produce is picked four to seven days before ripening and shipped a minimum of 1,500 miles before it reaches grocery store shelves; this is only when the produce is grown in the United States. Many items are shipped from Mexico, South America, Asia, Canada and elsewhere. Only 18 cents of every dollar spent on food goes to the grower! The rest of that money goes to the middlemen. Why not ensure that money goes to the local growers (many of whom use organic practices) in our community and cut out the middlemen!

Organic gardening is fast becoming the new buzzword, not only regarding our health but also in politics. Even the first lady recently spoke on “Oprah,” stating that an organic vegetable garden is going in at White House. According to the book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” by Barbara Kingsolver, in the 1990s only 5 percent of the United States farmers claimed to be organic; whereas now, organic farms have increased to 15 percent. Still this represents less than 1 percent of all food grown in the United States. The majority of these are small, family-owned farms supplying local markets and restaurants.

Organic farming is better for the environment, too. Farming by organic methods means chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are not used. Instead, natural fertilizers such as compost and manure add nutrients and condition the soil. Plants grown organically have more vigor, produce more abundantly and develop tastier vegetables. Commercial farmers use chemicals to try to achieve these results. The chemicals actually sap the soil of its natural makeup and structure, thereby requiring more chemicals. Commercially grown plants are not as resistant to insects or disease requiring more chemicals and the cycle continues.

Much research has been conducted on the amount of residual pesticides that remains on food. Dr. Marion Moses, M.D., founder of the Pesticide Education Center in San Francisco, and author of “Designer Poisons: How to Protect Your Health & Home from Toxic Pesticides,” contends that the EPA, which regulates pesticides, has not tested all of the ingredients in these chemicals and does not require companies to disclose or label the residue as inert ingredients.

Many growers may use organic methods, but may not choose to seek certification as “organic.” The certification process can take up to two years and is quite costly. The best way to find out if a grower is organic is to ask. Visit the farmer’s market and chat with the growers. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn!

As a matter of fact, from 9:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Roger T. Sermon Center in Independence, there will be an “Eat Local! 2009” fair. This is the 11th Annual Exhibition of Farmers. You will have the opportunity to buy direct from local family farms. Purchase high-quality organic vegetables, free-range meats, and eggs. Vegetable seedlings and plants will be available. Get the kids involved in gardening in your own backyard. Admission is free, and so is the parking. I’ll see you there!