Farmers Market Deception: Avoid getting scammed when buying fruit and vegetables at the market
It’s safe to say that you want to eat the most delicious and nutritious fruit and vegetables available. Generally, eating local and seasonal produce is your best bet if you really care about the quality of the food you eat.
What are the best options for getting your hands on fresh, local and seasonal fruit and vegetables?
Grow your own fruit and vegetables! Okay, if you are like me and live in a cold climate and gardening just isn’t your thing, you have 3 additional options. You can visit your local natural food store, farmers market or join a CSA.
Local produce is more likely to be found in Calgary at small markets like Community Natural Foods, Planet Organic, Sunnyside Market, Blush Lane Organic Market, Calgary Farmers Market and all the local farmers’ markets.
However, just because you purchased produce at the local farmers’ market or natural food store, don’t assume it is locally sourced or organic. You need to be a detective and read the signs and when in doubt ask the staff.
It is pretty easy to be deceived when the displays of fresh produce look so beautiful. I remember visiting an outdoor local farmers market and purchasing some kale from a small farm stand and when I was washing it, I discovered it had come all the way from California even though kale was actually in season locally. Yes, I was a little disappointed.
You might come across some produce that is local but not certified organic. The organic certification process takes time and is an added expense for the farmer. They may be in the process of getting certified or may have decided to use organic practices but not bother with certification. Don’t be shy, talk to the staff and farmers to find out how the produce is grown and handled.
If your budget is limited focus your dollars on local and organic produce from the “Dirty Dozen” list. This list contains twelve of the most contaminated fruits & vegetables and you can find this list at the Environmental Working Group website.
Another option for finding the freshest fruit and vegetables is to look into the CSA’s in your area. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it is one of the best ways to get your hands local fresh produce.
How does a CSA work?
In the spring, you invest in a local farmer by giving them money to get their crops into the ground. When the produce is ready to be picked, you get a box of fresh produce weekly at a predetermined pick up location (hopefully near your home) until the end of the growing season. In Alberta, you are looking at getting 12-14 weeks of fresh produce depending on the farm.
You will also get the opportunity to meet your farmer AND find out everything you ever wanted to know about what you are eating. Many CSA’s send out a newsletter to keep you informed about their farm and how the growing season is going. Some farmers even invite you out to visit and volunteer if you are interested. Road trip anyone?
Sounds perfect, how do I sign up?
I found my CSA at www.csaalberta.com. If you are from a different area I’m sure you will be able to find a local listing on Google or ask produce vendors at your farmer’s market. The hardest part was deciding on which CSA to support. Convenience is really important to me so I chose a CSA that had a pick-up location close to my home. There was a simple form to fill out on-line and then a confirmation email to let you know that you were successful in joining the CSA.
If you are considering joining a CSA, do it now. The really popular CSA memberships sell out early. Do some quick research or poll your friends and sign-up before it’s too late.
Last year I discovered Seeds to Greens and enjoyed 12 weeks of delicious vegetables.
Let’s hope we have fantastic weather that produces a bumper crop for all farmers and gardeners this year and when shopping, don’t forget to read the fine print on the signs or talk to the vendor.
Where is your favourite place to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables in the summer?