Friday

Organic Produce

I am very opinionated. I know. Shocker. One thing I am very passionate about it healthy living. Part of healthy living is eating right. I don't mean eating the right portions at the right times; although that certainly would be prudent regardless of what you're eating. I'm talking about ensuring that the food going into your mouth is actually food and not full of chemicals...or in some cases so chock-ful of chemicals that you wonder if there is actually any real food in there.

I won't cover everything I think about Organics right now, but this is a start.

After much research, here's the conclusion we came to. We should never again eat any food that has ever been sprayed with a pesticide or chemical nor should we ever again eat any food that has had an antibiotic or hormone put into it. Seriously. That was my conclusion.

Then reality set in. I combined that with the fact that we have a daughter who is gluten-intolerant. Then I tried to figure out how we could afford to eat that way. Then I tried to find organic produce in the town we lived in.

Then I started doing research on the farming methods of some of the "name-brand" companies that also do organic farming. Then I started doing research on the requirements (or lack thereof) for organic farmers.

Then...I realized there was a middle ground. Granted this all took place over the course of about two years and in two different states with VASTLY different agriculture sceneries.

What I have now learned is that the MOST vital thing to do is to KNOW YOUR LOCAL FARMERS. Visit the farm. Show up not only for a scheduled visit, but show up unexpectedly. Know the right questions to ask.

A farmer DOES NOT HAVE TO BE CERTIFIED ORGANIC TO GROW ORGANIC PRODUCE!!!!!

That was a shocker to me and a HUGE release on our budget. What do we look for in a local grower? Here are the questions we ask:
  • Do you spray your produce with chemicals or pesticides?
  • Do you spray after you have planted your produce?
  • Do you spray from 3wks before your produce starts to "fruit" or grow on?
  • Do you spray after the produce has started to "fruit" or grow? (They will know exactly what you mean.)
(Obviously, I stop asking questions if/when they answer no to one of mine; the sooner the better...for both of us.)

What I love to find is a local grower who NEVER sprays their produce. What I'll take is a local grower who only sprays when they plant. What I'll settle for is a local grower who doesn't spray their produce from approximately 3 weeks before it starts "fruiting" on. Obviously the 1st gets the bulk of our business but may not provide us with all of the produce we need. That's when we'll start going with grower #2 and in a "worst case scenario" grower #3.

There are some exceptions to our rule. There are some produce items that you just DO NOT buy if they have been sprayed with chemicals AT ANY POINT in their growing process. Apples would be an example. We will not buy these unless they are "organic" (or in our case...have never been sprayed...organically-certified or not).

There are also some produce items that they say are okay to buy even if they've been sprayed. I couldn't even begin to tell you what those items are. We just follow our general rule for all produce; which is obviously much easier to do in the summer than it is in the winter.

To find Farmer's Markets, organic farmers (certified or not), and/or Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in your area, check out http://www.localharvest.org/. We have used this each time we move with great success. It is often our first point of contact with a local farmer. I will blog about CSA's in more detail another time. Suffice to say, they are a great deal for those on a vegetarian diet or for those who eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies.

This is getting pretty long so I'll give my thoughts on other organics in a later thread...don't worry...I have them. Things like dairy products, meats, and poultry...

-Me

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