Jack Frog/ShutterstockNow more than ever, people are going to farmers’ markets to get closer to the source of their favorite fruits and vegetables. They want their grocery shopping to align with their desire to live simply, meaning the food is sustainable, local, and as fresh and healthy as possible. However, just because you assume something is local and organic doesn’t mean it is. Many markets allow any vendor to set up, and while the hope is each seller’s practices are up to your standards, it truly takes investigating to be sure. Here’s what to ask:
Who grew the food, and where was it grown?
Most products are considered local if they are produced within 100 to 150 miles away, but some vendors aren’t even within this range. In fact, some cross state lines to sell wholesale produce (though if you live close to the state line, that’s not a major issue).
Is it organic, and what kind of growing practices do you use?
Because USDA organic certification is expensive, some sellers choose not to go through with the label, but that doesn’t mean they use pesticides or other harmful substances. Some farmers may be 100-percent organic, but still choose not go through with the certification program. If they aren’t certified organic, question them about the fertilizers or pest management system they use or the feed and dairy producers given to the animals.
Where do your seeds come from?
If the vendor is selling the food they’ve grown, they should be able to tell you about their seeds. Ask if they are heirloom, which means they’ve been used for generations, and are therefore not genetically modified, patented by a corporation, or used industrially.
How long will it last?
A big reason to go to the farmer’s market is to get the freshest food possible. The food should have been picked and harvested within the last couple of days. How the seller answers indicates a lot about their processes. Follow these genius kitchen hacks to keep last week’s groceries fresh.
Can I visit your farm?
A farmer should answer yes to this question, because they shouldn’t have anything to hide. But don’t just go showing up there without checking first. Some farms are so small, they are adjacent to the farmer’s home—don’t go interrupting family dinner!