It's that time of year when we have vegetables a plenty hear on the shore. A lot of people are moving towards organic/naturally grown produce - and for good reason. I don't want to ingest pesticides and herbicides. If you were born and bred on the shore like I was, you probably grew your vegetables naturally anyway, just because we farmed the way our ancestors did. Now, huge mega-farms growing useless fruits and veggies (you know, that beautiful red, round tomato you find at the grocery store and then you eat it and, well, you don't taste anything) selling wonderful-looking veggies cheap, we have to make tough decisions.
Certain terms may be misleading and, coming from a long family of farmers and doing some research, I thought I would give some pointers to the come-heres on the art of buying veggies. It's Farmer's Market time, and we all need to support those men and women busting their butts to feed others the best food they can grow.
ORGANIC means grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizer. They do use natural pest control items, their hands and hoes are the herbicides, and they use all natural fertilizer (their own compost, chicken crap, etc.). The veggies are full of flavor and appear as they should - a blemish here, an odd colored tomato there, an odd shaped eggplant. Organic farmers use the nutrients already in the ground to feed their plants, and therefore they have healthy, sustainable soil as well that is better for the environment and they take care of to ensure years of healthy farming.
LOCALLY GROWN is pretty straight forward, but always ask if you are at a roadside stand or farmer's market. Just ask if they grew the produce the vegetables themselves. If you see a tomato in May or a vadalia onion anywhere, chances are they shipped the product here. Some markets are producer-only, others you just rent a table and you could have avacados shipped from California and sell them there. (Note: local farmers with a complex greenhouse system could have a tomato in May, but it is doubtful.)
In the end the best choice is LOCALLY GROWN ORGANIC. The best of both worlds, and an easy decision to make. Now it gets tricky. Everyone is getting into organic produce now, and people go out of their way to purchase organic. The truth is buying locally grown produce from a farmer that used a little pesticide is much better than buying produce from California that was grown organically. First of all, just think of the fuel used to truck the product from California to here. Then think of the packaging used to make sure the product got here 3 days later safely (often plastic wrapped in a styrofoam tray). Lastly, most vegetables continue to ripen after they are harvested. So that product had to be picked before it got ripe to ensure it was on the grocery floor at the optimum time. The last three days the fruit ripened with out any nutrients and it gets soggy and loses flavor. Also, at farmer's markets you will find that the fruit ripened on the vine and was picked ready to eat, often that morning or the evening before. You talk about fresh!
If you have any questions or concerns, head to your local farmer's market and ask any of the farmers working the stands about their vegetables. It's hard work, and if they are there, they are passionate about their food. And they love to talk about their farms and their vegetables.