27 Jul

The Farmer’s Market

Posted by Jenna, Under Food

Before I had a baby, the farmer’s market seemed impossible. I wanted to sleep in! How could this place full of folding tables and farmers be worth the loss of sleep?

Now I’m singing a totally different tune, and the list of reasons why I would skip out on a week at the farmer’s market is very small. Who needs sleep when you can walk away with (resuable) grocery bags full of fruit and veggies picked hours earlier by the very person standing in front of you?

You can find the closest farmer’s market in your area by visiting Local Harvest. Though it looks like it was designed by a seven year old, the site Pick Your Own is an awesome resource for finding out about farm locations you can visit and harvest your food yourself. Doing the work means you get a better price AND the benefit of some fresh air and physical labor. You’ll feel so good afterward! I think the easiest way to get more produce in your life is to join a CSA. With a CSA you’ll get a box of fruits and vegetables delivered to a specified location (sometimes to your door!), and you know they’ll be super fresh and delicious (well delicious as long as you like the vegetable in question). If you’re a picky eater a CSA might be a tough thing because you don’t have control over what you get, but I know I’ve lately enjoyed learning how to work with vegetables I’ve never tried before due to my trips to the farmer’s market where I can’t always by the standard array of broccoli/avocado/banana/apple/carrots like I used to. We didn’t join a CSA this year because I wasn’t sure when/where/if we would be moving, and I didn’t want to buy into something and then have to worry about selling off my share shortly afterward. Next year for sure though!

I’ve been to three different markets in Dallas. The Dallas Farmer’s Market, the White Rock Local Market, and the Coppell Farmer’s Market.

The Dallas FM was a huge disappointment for me, with only one or two sellers that were both local and organic, and only a few booths of produce that are local (yet conventional). Most of what you will find is the same thing shipped up from Mexico that you can get at your local grocery store. Except you have to lug it back to your car in your arms instead of pushing it in a cart.

I really love the White Rock Local Market and go at least once a month, mostly to make sure I never run out of my favorite nut bars from Wholesome Foods Bakery. It’s drawback is that it is about 30 minutes from where I live though, and it’s too similar to the one that’s only 10 minutes away for me for me to go every week. And it only happens on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each moth.

The Coppell FM is really close to where I live, happens weekly, and I think it has a great selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, bakery items, and other random products, with a nice mix of organic and conventional. Parking is plentiful, but be sure to get there before 10 am (at the latest) because some of the stands get close to selling out by then. If you want eggs you’re going to have to get there before they even open! This has been my experience at all the FMs I’ve been to, the eggs sell out almost immediately.

This is the dairy stand, where you can find milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, and a few other dairy products, all from pastured grass-fed cows. I was having a hard time with the taste of the mil, as grass-fed milk tastes very different from grain-fed (fun fact: I was the dairy tasting FFA champion for my area back in high school. Think Napoleon Dynamite “This tastes like the cow got into an onion patch.“ ), but I bought a second half-gallon and I’m liking it much better this time, I think because I made sure to drink it when it was very cold.

Below you can see everything I purchased that week. On this trip I was buying food for the week for us, buying a bit of extra stuff for TH’s birthday dinner, and I was taking a meal to another family so I needed to purchase some ingredients for that as well. I would say this is just a bit more than I usually buy for just our family. I know some are going to ask how much this all cost, and I admit I don’t know (my finances are a mess post-baby), but I’ve committed to taking photos and tracking costs for 30 days of food purchases and I’ll be writing a post about it next month so you can see what our attempts to be localganic in Dallas are costing us.

The past two weeks that I’ve been to the Coppell FM I’ve bought a load of produce from the same guy, because he’s the organic farmer with the biggest selection. Last week I loaded up my bags and then it took us a few minutes to look through what I had and add it all up. This week I kept a list on my iPhone as I went, and showed him the list with items and quantities. He glanced at the list and quoted me $20. For that $20 I walked away with:

2 cucumbers
2 zucchinis
3 ears of corn
3 round zucchinis (I’m not sure what they are called)
3 bins of summer squash
1 cantaloupe
1 bin potatoes
6 peaches

All organic and all completely delicious. More expensive than the conventional stuff at Walmart? Most definitely. More delicious and mouth-watering than anything you would ever find at Walmart? Abso-friggin-lutely. I also think he gave me a deal because he saw me buying from him two weeks in a row, and my likelihood of going back to see him again the next week as well is very high. This is one of the awesome benefits of buying directly from the producer! I’d like to be on a first name basis with him so I can feel like a “regular”, but we’ll work up to that.

Asking questions about what I’m buying is still one of the hardest things for me. It’s smart to find out where your produce is coming from and how it was grown. The appeal of buying from the FM is that you get local and often organic produce, if they are just buying their stuff at Smith’s and reselling it you can figure that out by asking a few simple questions. My dad (an organic farmer in WA if you didn’t know) was kind enough to send me some questions to ask, and I thought I would share his ideas with you as well:

Do you rotate your crops? (This only applies to row crops, not to orchards or berries etc.)

Do you use cover crops to build the health of your soil?

Do you use composted manure? Aged manure is not bad, but fresh, green manure I would stay away from. I apply most of my manure before I plant my cover crops. This allows me to apply a small amount of manure right before I plant the crop.

Some may say that they use compost tea. This would be a good thing, especially if they brew their own tea. I think that composted manure is the best though.

Do you plant insectaries? Or do you have natural vegetation around your farm that would attract beneficial insects?

Meat and dairy products are a completely different story and I’m still learning  about animal husbandry practices and deciphering what I am not comfortable with. I found this comment by Sophia to be particularly enlightening when she commented on my post about voting with your food dollars. I admit, not thinking about where my food came from and how it was produced was a whole lot easier than this, but both TH and I feel better physically and emotionally since we started living this way. Ignorance may be bliss, but enlightenment certainly tastes better.

After writing this post I have a few questions knocking around in my head that I’d love to hear your opinions on.

1. In your opinion, which is the better choice if you were forced to choose, local or organic? This doesn’t mean USDA certified organic, just that they are not using any chemical fertilizer or pesticides. I might write a post on this in the future. Would you rather  buy from a smaller farmer who occasionally sprays with pesticides or uses chemical fertilizer (in my experience, the farmer’s market conventional farmers only spray and treat when they really feel like they have to, as they have come to believe that chemicals are the only options sometimes) or would you rather buy organic produce from halfway across the country/world?

2. What questions do you ask when buying produce at the farmer’s market? What about meat? This is the area I would most like to improve on in my own life. I want to be able to comfortably strike up conversations, build relationships, and feel like I have a firm grasp of not only where my food came from but how it was raised/grown.

3. What farmer’s market in your area is your favorite one? Maybe this post can turn into a resource for those looking into visiting a market in their own area!

58 Comments


  1. I am curious if you drink raw milk? I think you do when it comes from your parents’ place but would you buy it from someone else and drink it?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    Whenever I visit my grandmother I do (they have a dairy).

    I’m going to look into it in Chicago. Some disagree, but I think that pasteurization is needed because of the way milk is produced, packaged, and handled, not because of some inherent problem with the cow. Instead of fixing how we raise our diary cows, we just left the problems in place and treated the products instead. We’ll drink raw if we feel like we can find a trustworthy source.

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  2. I love the farmer’s market! There are great ones here in Chicago downtown and in Lincoln Park, but I usually go to the one in my neighborhood (wicker park) on sunday mornings. there’s a mushroom vendor who makes his own veggie burgers and brats, a organic flower stand, a huge vegetable stand from a local farm, a fruit vendor, and free range meat guys too (delicious lamb that you’ll have to try when you move here!). I love the experience of being up in the morning with my neighbors at the market.

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    Turtle Reply:

    Oh I meant to respond that I think local is better than organic simply because it’s easier to be certain what that means. I know where the peach I’m eating right now came from, but what makes it “organic” is harder for me to know. Also– local things are tastier because they’re fresher so selfishly that just makes me choose it over organic if forced to choose.

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  3. Thank you for the information, I need to remember those questions for next week. I’m lucky enough to have moved near a town that has a farmer’s market/street fair on Friday nights, and then another traditional farmer’s market on Sunday morning (in Monrovia, California). I always buy lots of fruits and veggie’s but there is also a stand that sells the most amazing hummus (and the best part is I can pronounce and identify every ingredient). Heck yes!

    Reply

    Brittany Paige Reply:

    Oops, I also forgot to mention that like Turtle I would most likely purchase local over organic if I had to make the choice. I don’t fully understand what makes a product ‘organic’. Also, I like the idea that I am supporting local farms and putting money into farms in my community.

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    Sophia Reply:

    Here’s a good starter point for the requirements of organic food-

    http://www.ota.com/organic/us_standards.html

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  4. Kimberly says:

    I’m with Turtle on local over organic. I guess it’s really a matter of choose your poison, but our local stuff is so good in the summer! Living in MA you’re out of luck on farmer’s markets a good part of the year, so then I just try to make reasonable decisions on organic or not. I think every small thing you do makes a difference, so you do the best you can given convenience, finances, etc.

    I can’t help on questions – I hardly ask any because the market is SO busy when I go (on lunch break at work). So I’m picking on looks and mostly smell.

    My market of choice in Boston is the Cambridge Center Wednesday market, just because I work around the corner and that makes it super convenient (just put the bags in the fridge at work). Some weeks it seems better than others, but their fruit has been super tasty lately. I think the Kendall Square Thursday market might be better, but it’s further away so I’m less likely to get over there during work.

    I really like all the options in Boston, especially since they are often accessible without a car. And where we live, it’s actually the cheapest option for produce! Definitely cheaper than Whole Foods (and we basically need to get a Zipcar to go the regular chain store, so that’s not worth it).

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  5. At this point Local is more important to me than organic, but luckily we have lots of local organic farms around us.

    I ask the usual questions: where is your farm/plot? Who does the picking? Organic? For meat, I have settled on one ranch (Double Check Ranch, Tucson, AZ)after we tasted a few grassfed beef producers, we liked this best and we have visited the ranch and feel very comfortable with the operations and safety.

    I go to the Tucson farmer’s MArket in St Phillips Plaza weekly on Sundays and to the Oro Valley Market on Saturdays- maybe once a month.

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  6. 1. I’ll buy local long before I worry about organics. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a small, local, successful farmer whose practices are very far from organic. Plus, I like to keep my money in the local economy. It comes back around in infrastructure, education, and community programs.

    2. I’m like you and a little shy about chatting with the farmers. I don’t want to insult anyone by asking ignorant questions! I find that many of the farms and all of the ranchers at my farmer’s markets have websites full of information.

    3. My favorite is the Perry Street market in Spokane. I haven’t been to many of the others, but I think it’s basically all the same farmers. This one is close to my home and parking is easy.

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  7. I agree with your point of view on this matter. However, why denigrate the aesthetics of the Local Harvest web site in the process? What purpose does that serve?

    If you feel like the web site could benefit from some web development assistance, why not volunteer to help them make it better (if you know how to) or recommend a good, inexpensive resource where they can get the help?

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    Olivia Reply:

    She didn’t comment on local harvest’s aesthetic, she said that the pick your own website looks like it was designed by a seven year old. Which it DOES, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It’s a little goofy and silly but full of great info! I use it all the time for my area (atlanta). I think by describing it, she is encouraging people that otherwise might not have realized what a valuable resource it is to go check it out anyway! :)

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    CaitStClair Reply:

    Agreed. I’ll definitely skip over a website if it doesn’t seem professional enough. Someone saying, “it may not be what you’re used to but check it out anyways” will make me stick around and not miss out on a great resource.

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    Sarah for Real Reply:

    I second (third?) that. Jenna’s comment was helpful, not hurtful. And a little constructive criticism never hurt anybody.

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  8. Chicago has a nice network of farmers’ markets. I work downtown and am about to step out to the market 2 blocks from my office, which is set up every Tuesday through the summer for the lunch crowd.

    I prefer local, though if it’s organic AND local I’ll spend the extra dollar. One of my main concerns is reducing the fuel used to get the food to my plate, so I try to avoid produce that had to be flown in from far off.

    If I could just stop eating bananas, I would be doing better… sigh.

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  9. Local is much more important to me. If I have to think about my local cucumber driving 20 minutes to get to me, or the organic one driving hours and hours… which one hurts the environment less? Of course, I’m assuming the local farmers are being good farmers. lol.

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  10. Hmmm. good questions. Local or Organic? I think organic in produce because I know they won’t be using chemicals or pesticides, and local for dairy and meats, because I know it hasn’t been in a truck driving around for days. :P

    I love my farmer’s market, Rufe Snow Farmer’s Market. I buy my eggs and milk there, which they just started selling Local Organic whole milk that still has the cream on top, the hubs is pumped about that. And the eggs and milk are a lot less than Walmart. The eggs are enormous and they are cage free and organic. I love it there. I would love to go to one of the Farmer’s market’s that you go to–that would be heaven for this foodie but Coppell is a ways away from me.

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  11. My husband and I make a habit of going to our local famers market (in Ann Arbor, MI) every Saturday morning so I love this post. We’ve started getting up even earlier so that we can be there by 7:30am or so in order to get the best selection. We buy most (some weeks all) of our produce and eggs from there as well as baked goods and homemade pasta. In my mind local and organic is ideal, but if I had to choose one I’d definitely choose local. I like knowing where my food is coming from and supporting farmers in my community.

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  12. I love this post…I just posted about our local farmer’s markets as well! :) Yay markets!

    Personally, I think organic is more important but I’m working on only eating what’s in-season in my area. If I can’t get it at the market straight from the farmer, I’ll find something else to buy.

    http://www.eatwild.com is an AWESOME site (and my personal fav) where you can plug in your location and find markets, farms, CSAs, co-ops, etc. that sell local and organic food. We found the farm we bought an 1/8th of a cow from on Eat Wild and it’s been a great experience. You can find meat CSAs as well as places to buy ‘good’ meat. You’re going to love living in the Midwest if you like Farmer’s Markets. The breadbasket is the perfect place to live for fresh produce! As for winter – root veggies: carrots, onions, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, potatoes, etc. Also, canning and freezing your own veggies (and salsa and tomato sauce) is really fun and saves SO much money in the winter.

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    Sophia Reply:

    That website is awesome. I’ve recommended it to lots of people!

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  13. I’ve been going to the Farmer’s Market with my Mom and Nanna since I was a freshman in high school. Now at 23 it’s a staple in my life as it is all the women in my family (my mom and nana have been going since they were little girls). We love it, couldn’t live without it, and it’s a tradition that I will pass down to my daughter who is only 4 months and goes every Saturday.

    I admit, I have to get more comfortable with speaking to farmers about their produce and even their lives. I want to become a “regular” with them.

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  14. CaitStClair says:

    For me, my preference goes like this:
    Local and Organic > Local and Conventional > Distant and Organic > Distant and Conventional
    Unfortunately, our budget (and climate) doesn’t always allow for that.

    As for questions… As someone who has worked at hundreds of farmer’s markets I can say that you shouldn’t feel shy about asking questions. Those farmers probably aren’t there because they can make more money. They’re there because they want to sell directly to the consumer, and at least in my dad’s case really build up relationships with them. The future of farmers is in making the consumers feel connected to and invested in their food source so that they will protect it. Don’t give them the third degree (like you’re going to cuss them if they give you the “wrong” answer), just be interested and I’m sure they’d love to share. (And if they don’t, let them be grouchy and go to the next stand. ;-) )

    Here’s my big thing in regard to meat and dairy: It SOUNDS really good to say No Antibiotics Ever because the practice of using them as a preventative measure is a terrible one. However, this can also mean that say a cow gets an udder infection and NEEDS them to heal, she may not get them. Instead you could find her (still sick) being sold as organic burger. So I prefer the judicious use of antibiotics rather than a hard line approach.

    Oh, and Free Range can mean squat in regards to chickens. Ask them what their set up is.

    If they’re not USDA Certified Organic you can ask what “Natural” means to them since it’s practically subjective.

    And I’ll ask WHERE their farm is. I don’t usually get into more than that since I know what can grow where for the most part. For example, if they have cherries in May around here I’ll know they weren’t grown instate.

    Reply

    Sophia Reply:

    You make a really good point about the judicious use of antibiotics. Some farmers are essentially organic on every count, but because they want to be able to take care of their cows’ infections with antibiotics, they don’t qualify.

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    Wee Reply:

    I agree, that is a REALLY good point. Organic dairy and
    meat is not always best. We started buying milk from Oberweiss dairy (which is in Illinois and I’m in MN) for two reasons:

    1. the SCC (dead cells) in their raw milk is under 250,000SCC/Ml where state law mandates that 750,000 is the limit. That’s a lot fewer dead cells meaning their milk doesn’t come for sick cow.

    2. They give their sick cows antibiotics right away (not keeping them producing until they’re over 750,000SCC/ml, then sending them to slaughter) and only return them once the antibiotics are out of their system and their milk tests free of antibiotics.

    It’s available at SuperTarget. I’m sure there are local farmers around here that provide the same assurances for their milk but I confess, convenience won out on this one and we stick with the Oberweiss.

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    Jenna Reply:

    The last time I bought eggs it was from a woman who displayed a posterboard full of photos of her chickens. It was really cool to see how they live and I felt good that I was at least buying eggs from chickens that lived a good life. As for slaughter and other practices… I’m still working up to asking questions about that.

    Reply

    Wee Reply:

    I learned (from Michael Pollan) that the yolks of eggs of pastured chickens are orange. . .not yellow like grocery store eggs. You can tell a lot about the life of a chicken by the color of the egg yolk. One day I decided to compare them side by side. It’s ridiculous. I posted the picture in my blog because it’s downright creepy how pale the grocery store egg is compared to the farmer’s egg. CREEPY.

    I haven’t worked up the courage to ask about the male baby chicks either . . . I’m wondering what the most humane way to dispose of them is. Before we feel too sad about them dying, remember that male chicks and chickens are pretty aggressive and territorial. They fight and eat one another when left to their own devices. There definitely needs to be a more humane way than grinding them up though. Gah.

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    Sophia Reply:

    Another thing to remember, is that many egg operations get their laying hens from hatcheries. So, in order to learn how they dispose of the male chicks, you might have to ask “do you have your own hatchery, and if you don’t, do you know how they dispose of the male chicks?”

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  15. Thanks for this! We just moved to a new area, so we’re still scoping out the farmer’s market options here. The list of questions was helpful, especially as this weekend we went to a farmer’s market where a lot of the fruit had the same stickers you see at the grocery store. It got me thinking that perhaps the stuff we were buying wasn’t as local as I hoped. Of course, since I live in CA, a lot of the grocery store food is local – or at least grown in CA.

    I think local is more important to me at this point than organic. We’re lucky enough to get eggs from a friend. I don’t know what she feeds the chickens, but they have names and a pretty great life, and I’m ok with that.

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  16. I’d pick organic. I know local is better for the environment (not always, but generally, due to shipping pollution), but organic is better for me. The scary pesticides, fertilizers, and animal feed they use in “conventional” farms freaks me out and is the main reason I buy organic. Obviously local + organic would be ideal though.

    Jenna, if you are ever in DC you should go to the Eastern Market! It’s a huge farmers market/flea market near Capitol Hill and it’s open and packed with vendors every Saturday and Sunday.

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    Sophia Reply:

    I’m with you, it’s disgusting what they spray our food with :(

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  17. We’re lucky in that our CSA is organic and local, and is also done through our local university, so it supports local organic agriculture *and* supports the students that are learning about such practices. After that I try local over organic, unless it’s one of the “Dirty Dozen” that truly creeps me out to eat not organic.

    I have had more convos with farmers than I can even count about their practices, specifically in my research for humane sources of dairy and eggs. Some shirk the answers, some have been very blunt and honest. Unfortunately, for me, coupling those answers with my research into the industry has led me to learn things that have been troubling. The baby calves are competition with the consumer for the milk, and in every single bit of info I’ve read/talked about with the farmers, they admit that they take the calves away immediately after birth, or at most within 24 to 48 hours. The male calves are sent to veal crates, so far, no farmer has denied this. All of this has been extremely troubling to me. I guess the issue of humane milk comes down to asking oneself “Is it humane that cows are bred every year, their babies are taken from them, then we get the milk instead, and then the babies are sent to veal crates?” Veal crates are the stuff of nightmares, it’s like a puppy mill times ten :( This can be a very tricky, complex rabbit hole of ethics. And dangit I still like cheese!

    Another thing that troubles me, is that Humane Certified farmers can still do some pretty messed up things to animals, like the grinding of the chicks alive and the debeaking of chickens. This is an incredibly painful process and can make every feeding painful for the rest of the chickens life. Castrations and tail docking of pigs and cows, and tail docking and removal of horns are also done with no pain relief before during or after, and this can be certified humane.

    Basically, my partner and I have what we call the “puppy test”. When a farmer gives us an answer to a question, we substitute “puppy” for the animal in question. If we would be uncomfortable with it being done to a puppy or a cat- who aren’t that different from cows and pigs, and pigs are far smarter than puppies, cats, or cows- then we probably shouldn’t be ok with it being done to another animal. If I heard of a veterinarian declawing cats and castrating dogs while awake and without pain medication, I would be totally horrified, and I have the same distaste for farmers doing such things to chickens and cows.

    Link on tail docking- http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/07/opinion/07niman.html

    United Egg Producers confirming grinding chicks alive as industry practice- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/01/chicks-being-ground-up-al_n_273652.html

    I think **for me personally**, in all the convos I’ve had with farmers and the research I’ve done, I’ve come to the conclusion that true, free range, antibiotic free cows/pigs/chickens being slaughtered and eaten is more humane than the egg and dairy industry. I think I’d be more comfortable eating a deer someone shot in the wild than drinking milk, when it comes to animal stewardship issues.

    ***None of the above is a judgment on anyone else’s choices, just where I am now. Next year I might be happily eating a grass fed steak. I’m open to change :)**

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    Jenna Reply:

    I love this info because I think including it in my post about eating animals is really going to change the overall tone. Nwow that I know this, I admit I’m troubled but I still don’t know that I’m ready to cut dairy out of my life. This whole “ethical/humane meat” thing is a bit more of a journey than I realized if you’re not interested in going vegan!

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    Sophia Reply:

    Oh, good! I had really hoped I wasn’t being too repetitive, because honestly a lot of it I’ve learned since my last comment on your other post, because you got me to thinking and I did more research on top of the farmer’s market talking.

    I’m a firm believer in that there is a huge ethical gray area in food issues, and there are all sorts of checks and balances and things that are pro/con. I don’t know if you saw my food diary post where I talked about not being perfect, and how I’m just doing the best I can, and yes, sometimes I will eat something that has an egg in it, and sometimes I want goat cheese! And it’s not the end of the world :) The important thing is to try the best we can with the knowledge we have.

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  18. I live in Plano, TX so this post was super helpful to me! I didn’t know of the one in Coppell so I think I will check that out soon!!

    Have you found an affordable CSA around here? One that I found was like a 250 yearly fee PLUS weekly fees. A little out of my budget for right now!

    I’d have to attend them for a bit before I felt comfortable asking questions. Can’t all farmer’s markets be 100% organic, local, and perfect? Please?

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  19. I think local wins vs organic being shipped far distance (think carbon footprint). I do have to say the magic combo of local/organic is best.

    I live in Northern VA and I like to go to the Falls Church Farmers Market by my house, Easter Market in DC and Cox Farms in Vienna and Centerville.

    I have an nice sized herb garden for now, and once I get a large enough yard will grow my own produce as well.

    I am planning to join a CSA-just have to convince my husband it’s worth the money.

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  20. Hey there!

    I’m loving these posts. I feel like we have both started really thinking about these things at the same time. While I have not completely implemented this in my own life yet, I hope to in the coming months.

    I have a love/frustrating relationship with farmer’s markets. At least in my experience, here in NYC, they tend to be more expensive than going to Whole Foods. I personally hate the supermarket in my community and often leave Brooklyn to go to the closest Whole Foods in Manhattan. I want the best freshest most affordable produce that I can find. I don’t have to do that, but I do. This often requires me to lug bags on the subway (many NYers like me, don’t own cars), but I do what I have to.

    The best farmer’s market here in NYC is Union Square in Manhattan. Again, I think it’s absolutely wonderful, but I often find it more expensive so I have given up for now BUT I want to start again. CSAs are here too but with a 2 person home and a husband who works a ton and is barely ever home in time for dinner during the week, it doesn’t make much sense for us right now.

    As for your questions, I have heard that local trumps organic. The rationale being that even if you buy organic from Peru, all of the energy used to transport and preserve the food has a major environmental impact anyway. I’m with Schmei re: bananas…love them and I know they come from far away :(

    The questions from your Dad are great. I’m going to save them somewhere so I can use them when I finally start shopping at the farmer’s market as a regular part of my routine.

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  21. I grew up in a small farming/ranching community, so local produce is more important to me than organic produce. Looking the person who grew my food in the eye and asking them questions about what’s the best this week is awesome.

    I usually go to the Calgary Farmers’ Market, which is a year-round indoor market. I blogged about it a few days ago.

    The questions I ask are usually about how to prepare something or what is new and different. I have to admit, I’m relatively ignorant about the organic debate and the humanely raised livestock debate. I do plan to educate myself, but at the moment buying healthy, fresh, seasonal, local produce is my goal.

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  22. 1. In your opinion, which is the better choice if you were forced to choose, local or organic?
    I would say local. Organic foods often aren’t regulated so I always feel like I’m being lied to about how “organic” it really is and local is way better for the environment.

    2. What questions do you ask when buying produce at the farmer’s market? What about meat?
    Produce: Where was this grown? When was it shipped (if it was shipped, otherwise, picked or whatever)?
    Meat: What kinds of hormones do you use on your livestock? How are they raised?

    3. What farmer’s market in your area is your favorite one?
    I like the rooftop farmers market at my Richland Mall in Columbia, SC. Most of the stuff is ACTUALLY local. I dunno if anyone else has noticed or maybe SC just sucks about having “real” farmers markets but some places are basically outdoor Wal-Marts with chiquita bananas ect. Lame.

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    JDG91 Reply:

    @Andrea: Actually if something says it is organic it is HIGHLY regulated. That is why a lot of small local farmers can’t claim organic – it is too costly for them to be officially certified! Claims like “natural” are not regulated I believe

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  23. Thanks for the questions… I have to admit that I didn’t really even think to ask the people at the farmer’s market about their food… usually their sign has crucial info like where the food/farmer is from, whether it’s organic, antibiotic/hormone free, etc.

    I would choose local over organic every time. It’s fresher, and supports my local farmers (which is huge, because they are literally my neighbors!).

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  24. Here’s another question I’ve been tooling around in my brain along the organic lines….organic doesn’t always neccessarily imply ‘healthy’ right? You can have organic processed food, right? (like organic chocolate-Oreo-like cookies I’ve seen) Am I right to assume that just because something says organic I still need to ‘think about it’ before it I eat it?

    Just wondering!

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    Sophia Reply:

    I would say yes, definitely still think about it. I’ve seen organic pop-tarts at Whole Foods, haha. They’re sweetened with cane sugar instead of HFCS, but they’re still processed junk food in my mind. It sounds like you saw the Newman O’s- they’re organic, but look exactly like Oreos. Also, a lot of the boxed/processed organic stuff still has a *lot* of sodium in it.

    On the opposite end of the processed spectrum, I’ve found the best deals on pantry/shelf stable organics to be in the bulk bins. Organic whole wheat flour is only .99 cents a pound at my Whole Foods, and most of the organic dry beans are about $1.25 a pound. I love going in with all my little jars and home-sewn fabric bags and loading up on dry goods :)

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    If a food is really processed, or has sugar as one of the first 3 or 10 or more ingredients, I don’t see any reason to buy organic at all. I try to avoid all HFCS but if I found a package of cookies that were made with cane sugar and one was organic and one wasn’t I would go with the non.

    With produce and meat though, there are many who would argue that organic items of these nature are actually more healthy than their conventional counterparts. Not just because they are pesticide and chemical additive free, but because the plants and animals function differently while growing when they have to “fight” to survive.

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  25. If I have to choose, I always choose local over organic. A lot of times the requirements for being certified organic are such that the really small farmers just can’t afford the cost. I adore my local farmers market. Most of the farmers are from within 100 miles (although we do get some strawberries creeping up from Southern California in April before it’s strawberry season in NorCal). The market has an entire community supporting it and I think has recently celebrated 34 years.

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  26. Hi Jenna,

    I’ve been loving your posts about how you are changing your eating habits. After reading Omnivore’s Dilemma my husband and I started changing our eating habits towards more locally, sustainable food. We did a CSA for 2 summers but found that even with a tiny share we couldn’t eat all the veggies or plan meas with them before they went bad. FM is our route now!

    1. I’d rather buy local than organic for a bunch of reasons.

    2. I’m too shy to ask the farmer’s questions. But we did help out at our CSA’s farm planting tomatoes one spring. It was an awesome experience and I great chance to interact with the farmer and his family. It makes me sad that we don’t use their CSA any more because they are really awesome people, running an awesome, small operation.

    3. You’ll find that there are a ton of farmers markets in Chicago and the greater Chicago area, as well as a bunch of CSAs that deliver to the city. I used to go to some in the city when I lived there, but don’t remember the actual locations. If memory serves the Lincoln Park one was awesome! We live in far north suburban Chicago, about an hour out of the city and my favorite farmer’s market is the Libertyville Farmer’s market. I prefer this one over the Grayslake Farmer’s Market because they have more produce. That said, the Grayslake FM has waaaay better hours for those who work (Wed, 3-7pm) than Libertyville (Thurs, 8-12).

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  27. You are going to freak when you move to Chicago and get to go to our amazing Green City Market (just voted the #3 Farmer’s Market in America by CNN!). Everything is from within 90 miles so its all local. They have amazing food (crepes), music and Chef’s demos there too. Totally the highlight of my weak. We get a CSA every week (on friday) but I still go more often than not.
    Send me an email if you want info about Chicago CSAs and the like… we get a half share of eggs (6) every week and we just got our cheese share this week. AMAZING.

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  28. Melissa says:

    I love, love, LOVE going to Farmer’s Market! I live in Grand Rapids, MI and often go to the Fulton Street Market or a market closer to my house. I make my own bread, cook almost everything from scratch, and have started canning for the first time this summer. It’s hard to do because I work full-time (on top of being a wife and mom), but being a nurse means I work three nights a week, so I definitely have a lot of down time. My girls are learning the importance of buying local and fresh and I love it. We definitely spend more on the food we get from the FM, but I think it’s totally worth it! My husband and I believe that, as Christians, are body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and we need to do everything we can to honor Him–through emotional, spiritual, AND physical health. We eat very healthfully 95% of the time and consider that part of our spiritual discipline. If we eat “junk,” it’s going to be homemade and good–no store-bought cookies here, but we make amazing cheesecakes and cookies!

    This reply was a bit longer than I had intended!

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  29. Thanks to your link I found a GREAT farmer’s market so close to my house, we are planning on going this week and I’m so excited! The only downside is that it’s on Thursdays from 10am-2pm so the day and hours aren’t the best.

    As for your questions:

    1. I would choose local over organic because I would like to help support my community.

    2. I’ve never been to a farmer’s market, so I didn’t realize people ask questions when they go. Thanks for the enlightenment!

    3. I’ve never been to a farmer’s market, but the one that I’m going to check out this week since I hear it’s the best is at a local hospital.

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  30. Jenna, I just wanted to add that I love how you are promoting such good conversations around such an important issue. You rock :)

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  31. My schedule often makes it pretty hard for me to go to a tailgate market. We have a Farmer’s Market which is here all year round, every day but the produce comes from a large area.
    I’ve been to the tailgate market in my neighborhood once, but it was at the end of the market so not too much left.
    My company organized an “employee farmer’s market” as well. It’s every other week, and produce comes from the employees which are local, I bought some yummy tomatoes and fresh corn there.
    The CSA is something I’d really like to look into though because it allows me to pick a farm which practices I believe in. Thanks to your link I just did a bit of research and a lot of them are oranic farmers in my area, used to be certified but since they sell directly to the customer, they decided to keep the practice but drop the certification because of the cost.
    So I’m going to talk to my husband about maybe doing that next year because I’d love to work with what’s in season. And frankly a $20 share per week is not a bad deal at all if it’s with an organic practice too.

    Thank you for making me look more into this, the website is definitely helpful.

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  32. Oh and I forgot to say, when I went to the tailgate market I was not very regarding to being organic or not. I tend not to ask questions, but this is definitely encouraging me to.
    Do you usually ask the farmer straight forward if they have an organic farm? That’s one I wouldn’t know how to ask. I guess I could just ask what their practice is for their farm and make it a more open question.

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    Jenna Reply:

    Yes, I ask every single farmer if they are conventional or organic.
    Worded exactly like this “Are you conventional or organic?”

    Some are certified organic, some are organic but not certified, some only spray when they feel they have to, some will say “low impact” (though I really have no idea what that means), and some will just say they are straight conventional.

    Sometimes they will answer that they aren’t organic, and you can ask them if any of their produce hasn’t been sprayed. If it hasn’t, it really isn’t as big of a deal, although fully organic is always best IMO.

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  33. location: southwestern ohio
    farmer’s market: the local flea market (yes, really)
    1. i would much rather buy local. the local farmers, i believe, are not using pesticides and insecticides to the extent that commercial farms do.
    2. i usually ask what the seller (usually the farmer or their children or friends) thinks is the best this week. if i’m speaking to the farmer, i’ll ask when the items were picked or harvested. i’m working up the nerve to ask about purchasing eggs all year long.
    3. i’m partial to my flea market farmer, but the county metro parks have their own market with local sellers. i find i get better deals at the flea market (farm eggs, $1/dozen), but have fewer items to choose.

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    amanda Reply:

    i forgot to add: the farmer is always happy to see you if you bring your own bags and, if purchasing, egg cartons.

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  34. michelle says:

    I’m picking my veggies up tonight from my CSA (red fire farm, granby, ma – delivers to Boston and Cambridge)

    Sometimes they are a bit unorganized, but the veggies are so fresh and high quality (local and organic).

    For now, I would take local over organic. But with a small child I’ll prefer to go organic I think.

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  35. I always prefer local foods. My favorite way to buy produce is from a roadside stand near our home, from a farmer that a couple of my kids have picked for in the past. I like knowing that it was picked fresh that morning. We have a farmer’s market downtown (Salt Lake City), and my daughter likes to shop there, but I have space for a garden of my own and I grow squashes, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and green onions, plus apricots, apples and peaches.

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  36. Thanks for a great post Jenna!

    On local vs. organic – it depends on what I am buying – you can learn which foods are more important to get organic. To be honest, I am more focused on putting good things in my body than environmental impact right now (I am pregnant!).

    As Organic is highly regulated, I know that going that route puts the least pesticides and other bad stuff in my body. I remember that ADHD article that said that kids with higher pesticides in their urine were more likely to get ADHD – what bothered me about that was just the mere fact that kids ingest enough pesticides to be found in their urine!! I don’t want that going into my baby…..So as much as possbile, I try to get organic with the dirty dozen in produce- those with the highest pesticide content (http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/06/01/dirty.dozen.produce.pesticide/index.html), dairy products and meats…

    Just because it is local doesn’t mean it is farmed in a sustainable, healthy way. There are plenty of big industrial famrs nearby, so to me its about what learning about the specific “local” farms and then deciding. For example Whole Foods offers “local NJ corn”. Is that good? Not sure…

    Another good thing to keep in mind is to eat seasonal – that is a good way to know that things aren’t being flown in from halfway around the world – this is how our parents grew up, and its a good way to get the freshest food. Berries in summer, apples in fall…. Eating seasonal and organic is mostly my focus now, local is preferred, especially when it is a small local farm that I can learn about.

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  37. I love going to our farmers market. Its in the afternoon but now that I have a newborn I find myself happy to make that my last stop on the way home and settle in with my fresh veggies for dinner

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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