Goodwin said consumer perceptions of what constituted “local produce” often were fuzzier than their understanding of the organic category.
That’s understandable, said Amber Kosinsky, marketing director for Wish Farms, a Plant City, Fla.-based organic berry grower.
“There are different perceptions of local, whether it’s from down the street, in the same state or region or even U.S. vs. imports,” Kosinsky said.
Organic, on the other hand, is now a legal term, as defined in detail by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Simcha Weinstein, marketing director with Bridgeport, N.J.-based Albert’s Organics.
“We therefore know how the (organic) food is grown and processed. There is no standard or definition for what constitutes local — at least not yet,” he said.
Media discussions of organic and homegrown often blur the two categories, which doesn’t help, Weinstein said.
“It’s not at all an uncommon assumption for shoppers to believe that food that is grown locally is also organic,” he said.
That’s a huge misperception, which is “confounded by the fact that so much of the food you see at local farmers markets is labeled as organic,” Weinstein said.
Homegrown may be — but doesn’t have to be — organic, Weinstein said.
“Organic and local are not the same, and just because something is grown locally does not mean that it is raised using organic farming methods,” he said.
Both categories have their strengths, Weinstein said.
“The ideal, of course, is to find food that is both local and organic. That is the optimal food system,” he said.