Why should you buy locally grown produce, when, quite often, the supermarket produce, imported all the way from America, is less expensive? The first reason is obvious enough – it is fresher. The exact times vary, but produce picked in North America has to be stored, transported sometimes long distances over land, possibly stored again at the dock, and then shipped, unloaded, and taken to the supermarkets. In Cayman it is possible to buy fruits and vegetables which have been harvested the very same day.
Fresher, of course, means tastier. But it also means more nutritious. Many vitamins and other health giving substances may lose their effectiveness, and other harmful substances, produced by bacteria or enzymatic action may begin to appear, the longer that fruits and vegetables hang around. Other fruits are picked too early and force-ripened using chemicals during transit. Health-giving properties may also relate to trace elements in the soil. Where lower-tech, more traditional approaches are used, these may be in greater abundance in the fruit. Growing the same crop on the same soil year after year means that many of these trace elements get used up. The crops still grow, because they are fed by artificial fertilizer, but there may be something missing. Large monocultures rely on a heavier use of pesticides, too, because it is essential to stop the rapid spread of a pest through a large field of the same crop.
Here in the Cayman Islands, typically, there is a mixture of organic and inorganic techniques used for crops. Many traditional, lower-tech practices survive, such as breaking up large areas of a single crop by planting other crops, as a kind of ‘pest-break.’ That means less reliance on harmful artificial pesticides. And while the label “Organic” may not apply in a strict sense, we can be surer of what we are getting if we buy from local farmers or their produce.