One way to keep organic grocery costs down is to… well, get out of the grocery store! My family seasonally shops at a farmers market (especially in the spring and summer), and we’re interested in joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group in the spring. These two outlets expose consumers to a greater variety of local produce that is usually also organic.
Click through for tips on finding a farmers’ market in your area – I’ll discuss CSA groups next week!
At a farmers’ market, local and regional farmers converge at a public place – usually a park – and set up booths to sell their fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy products, and other items. The prices are usually cheaper than prices at the grocery store. As the products come from the surrounding area, the food is usually fresher and tastier. And there’s more more bonus – food at a farmers’ market has low food miles (the distance the food travels from farm to your plate), so buying local food is better for the environment, too.
Shopping at a farmers’ market is an excellent way to interact with and support local farmers and businessmen. The interaction part is important because very few small farmers have the money and resources to become certified organic via the USDA’s certification process. Talk to the farmers at your market and ask them questions like: “Do you use organic farming methods?” or “How do you control pests and weeds?” Farmers love to talk about why they do the things they do on their farm, so don’t be afraid to ask questions! I generally take a farmers’ word that a food is organically produced.
One thing to look out for at the farmers’ market is some markets also stock non-local and non-organic products. Just because a food is at a market doesn’t mean it came from the surrounding area – or even the United States – and it certainly doesn’t mean the food is organic! For example, the farmers’ market near my house in Charlotte, North Carolina sells bananas. In the fall.
In-season fruits and veggies vary greatly by your location. For more information, check out the Sustainable Table website, which offer lists of in-season produce by state.
To find a farmers’ market near you, check out Local Harvest.