We are losing our connection to the source of our food; when we can buy it anywhere, it seems to come from nowhere. -Alex Steffen, World Changing

The conventional tomato path

The tomatoes are grown from hybrid seeds to produce a consistent crop. Farmers are dependant on the seed companies to purchase the hybrids, since the seeds can't be saved from a grown crop. To prevent negative economic consequences from crop loss, conventionally grown tomatoes are treated with pesticides. These chemicals kill the insects but also kill important organisms in the soil and can leave a residue on the tomato. The tomato is picked green before it is ripe, so as to increase the shelf life. As a result, nutritional quality is often lower than in field-ripened produce. According to the USDA, California is the leading producer of all tomatoes in the United States. This means that the processed and fresh tomatoes that you purchase from the supermarket were likely grown in California and shipped to Indiana. That's an 1800-mile journey to bring you a tomato that has been treated with chemicals, which might contain a harmful residue.

Do you buy this conventionally grown tomato from the supermarket in the winter? Or, do you go without, and plan on canning your own grown tomatoes next season?

The organic mango path

Imagine it's late fall, and you visit the local supermarket and spot a certified organically grown mango for sale in the produce section. The label states that it's been grown in California, and you consider the 1800-mile journey it has made to get here and the amount of fuel it took to make that trip. You then remember that your neighbor down the road has been growing organic apples this season, and has some leftover from the farmer's market that didn't sell. Which one will you purchase?