Ran across this article the other day, about Whole Foods and buying organic: http://www.slate.com/id/2138176/nav/tap1/?GT1=7932.
It really made me stop and think. I shop at Whole Foods very rarely, usually only when I want to park in their parking garage and get validated for it. Their parking garage is centrally located to all the fun things in the Pearl District, where I like to meet people for happy hour. For the most part, I find Whole Foods to be overpriced, and I don't think they have a very good selection of "normal foods". I'd much rather be shopping at New Seasons or Trader Joe's, now that the Wild Oats in my area is closed (that was my favorite).
When I was young, my mom shopped at Honeybee Produce for natural foods. I don't think "organic" was on the horizon in those days (this was in the late 70s and early 80s), but natural foods were most definitely "in". I remember going with her and being amazed at all the different kinds of flour, grains, nut butters, and other similar things that she could get there.
When I was in college, I shopped occasionally at the local co-op. I wasn't a member, but their prices were great even for non-members. I've always loved to cook so I do buy a lot of "ingredients", and try to avoid processed and pre-packaged food, though I do use a lot more of those than I'd like since I work full-time and it's easy.
I haven't found a co-op in my area, but now I do some shopping at Trader Joe's, New Seasons, and the aforementioned Whole Foods. Mostly I shop at Winco, which is getting a better selection of natural foods, though not too many organics. I don't stress out about getting organic, mainly because we can't afford it. I find that organic vegetables are buggy and not too healthy looking, organic cereals taste about the same to me as the regular ones, and, well, I have no desire to pay $5 a pound for organic meat (we eat way too much of it) or $4 a gallon for milk. So I buy it when I can get it at a similar price to the other stuff, but I don't stress out about it.
Two points in the article intrigued me most: the fuel consumption argument (to bring organics from Chile vs. the other stuff from New Jersey), and the fact that most of the organic produce is grown on large corporate farms.
On fuel consumption: I keep reading that we should buy only seasonal, local produce. This means that I wouldn't see a fresh vegetable from November to March, so I don't really like this idea. And I'd never see citrus, and my husband would declare mutiny on me if I quit buying that (he's the one who eats two or three oranges every day - at least I know he's not going to get scurvy any time soon!). It's a good point I hadn't thought of that it takes a LOT of fuel to get some of that produce up here from South America. And with oil supplies in the world being what they are, maybe I should start looking for only "made in the USA" produce, or maybe that from our next door neighbor countries, too. I don't know. My puny little food purchases for my family of two don't amount to much, but maybe it's a start.
On organic farming: I get mail from an organic farming community somewhere in America's heartland. I really like their homey newsletter and they have good information. But I don't like the sudden realization that they could be one of these corporate conglomerate farming deals. I don't like corporate conglomerate farms. I would be willing to pay a little more to support small, local farms, because more and more of them (at least in my area) are being eaten up for subdivisions. Just in the two years I've lived in my little town, I've seen a lot of open land go, and big, overpriced houses take their place. I like farmers. I like the idea of farmers. Some of my great grandparents, and my great-great grandparents, were ranchers before the Great Depression when they lost it all. I want to support people like them. This means I have to get my rear in gear and find out when the farmer's market opens, and start supporting that. Even if it costs a little more. Which means I'll be buying seasonal, local produce. Which means Winco, New Seasons, and Trader Joe's (yes, and Whole Foods) will be getting a little less of my money.
But yes dear, I'll still buy your oranges. You know they're going to be out of season pretty soon, right?