Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How Organic is the Produce at Farmers Markets?

If you are looking for certified organic produce it’s not easy. The term organic has become so synonymous with higher nutrition and higher prices that it has brought out the worst of sellers—greed.

There is a difference between certified organic produce and produce grown using organic methods. Certified organic is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and organic methods are not. Produce grown with organic growing methods is still a good choice but it should be labeled as such.

And while farmers markets are a great source of local and organic fruits and vegetables, the two terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Just because an apple is certified organic it does not mean it is local to the area.

It can be hard and confusing deciding where to buy. There could be dozens of colorful booths with fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from. Some will have banners upfront saying where they are from and some will not. Few will have their credentials displayed.

So, how do you know who you are buying from? Ask.

Once you have figured out who you are talking to, say a farmer advertising organic produce, then ask “Who is your certifier?” This is an important question and their reaction will determine if you stay or move onto the next stall.

If they are legitimate, they will immediately tell you and you can do business with them. If they act confused, then it is time to move on.

Buying organic produce from a farmers market does not guarantee you are buying certified organic produce. So ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to go to as many stalls as you need until you are satisfied with the answer to the question of who their certifier is.

For more information certified organic go to http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop

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