The Organic Vacation

A number of years ago we began the tradition of going to the same spot every year for our family vacation. We love the ocean, so selected a seaside retreat and all treasure the relaxed atmosphere and long walks on the beach. Unfortunately it’s secluded spot with limited eating options. Fortunately, our accommodations include a kitchen, so I’ll be checking on organic markets as well as organic restaurants.

The Organic Vacationer

My first step was to call the retreat center to find out if they served any organic food. After several rings, a friendly trainee answered and, you guessed it, she didn’t have a clue about organic options. She transferred me to someone who would know – but that person didn’t answer. After 32 rings, I hung up.

She didn’t think they offered any organic options, but offered to check with the food and beverage manager. Of course, he was out, but after only four rings I had the opportunity to leave a voicemail message. Let’s see if he calls back.

Good news — the director of food services called back within 30 minutes. Bad news – they offer no 100% organic food options. They try to use organic ingredients in dishes when they can, but nothing is 100% organic. He did offer to research local options and mail me a packet of info including maps. It’s a good thing I started calling over a month before our trip.

If I weren’t committed to eating 100% organic I might give up — perhaps I should be committed.

By inputting the zip code for where we are staying I found 15 stores that carried organic products. The closest is over 10 miles away from where we’re staying, so we’ll have to plan ahead and pick up food on our way in. With just these two printed pages, I’m well on my way to an organic vacation!

I then spent about half an hour trying all the search words I could think of to come up with organic options. At first I had trouble, because I was using search terms that were too narrow. But when I opened up the criteria (not just searching on organic +the specific location where we’ll be staying, but organic +the state where we will be going), I found a large variety of co-ops, farms, natural food stores, cafes, and restaurants and was able to use the organic pages to find ones that are close to where we will be. Interestingly, some of our traditional favorites list organic options on their menus.

It looks like the most valuable find will turn out to be the local organic market/coop: ‘We are more than a great store; we are a community for, by, and of our member-owners, providing organically- and/or locally-grown fruits and vegetables, organic herbs and spices, fresh sandwiches, healthy snacks and deli foods, pastas, rices, nuts, dried fruits, and organic meats. We care about community, and sustainable living. We invite our customers to visit us via bicycle or bus, though we also do have parking available; bring their own bags for carrying groceries, if they wish to do so, or to use our supply of recycled bags at our cash registers.’

This market sounds like gems I have found all across the country, from small towns to big cities. My plan is to make this co-op my very first stop. Besides picking up supplies, I’m looking forward to picking up valuable conversations with staff, members, and other shoppers. As I’ve found in many other co-ops, these promise to be people in the know. If you haven’t shopped at a co-op recently, you may want to do a search for the one closest to you.

I’m very excited to find out that there is an abundance of organic food available — even on vacation. The big lesson I’m learning is that eating organic does take advanced planning and a little persistence.

When we return, I’ll let you know how it goes, but I’m sure we’ll have a great time.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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