Where is the best place to shop for organic food ?

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Answered by: Jack, An Expert in the All About Farmers Markets Category
You've made a commitment to healthier living which includes eating right. Wonderful! Next time you're shopping at your local supermarket try this: ask the produce clerk when the peaches were picked. Or, if they're not labeled, ask what variety they are, or what type of sprays were used, if any.

Query your butcher about what breed of cow that beautifully displayed steak is from or what it was fed when it was still on the hoof; corn? grass? a combination of both? Did it come from a feed lot or direct from the ranch? I'm guessing a shrug of the shoulders would be about all the information you would be likely to garner. It can be frustrating when you're shopping for organic food.

One of the market chains in our area has a wine expert who hosts tastings several times a week, promoting wines that are on sale and answering questions potential consumers may have. It's a great idea, plus shopping is much more fun after a few tastings. I haven't seen that same effort to educate and inform in the meat, produce, or dairy aisle of any of the chains where I still shop. You may rightfully ask, of course, "who cares?" The answer is - I do and I'm not alone.

It's no longer just members of some fringe group of granola eating fanatics who want to know where their food is coming from, under what conditions it was grown and processed, and what's in it ( or not in it). With recent incidents such as the salmonella outbreak from one of the mega egg factories in the Midwest, more and more 'average' consumers are becoming concerned about the safety and quality their food.

Enter the Farmer's Market, a place where farmers, ranchers, artisan bakers and cheese makers, et al. welcome questions about the specifics of their food. Few offer certified organic meat/produce/dairy, but most use best practices for organic farming, though it's not a prerequisite for selling at the market. Organic focus or not, what you find are people who enjoy what they do and are proud of what they produce. These are artisans who study their craft, not cogs in a food factory where a chicken or cow become merely widgets to be manipulated to increase the quantity and speed of production.

Some producers showcase their harvests by cooking up samples and offering recipes. Looking for chanterelles or lobster mushrooms and recipes? There's a booth for that. Want grass fed beef, free range chicken and pasture raised hogs? There are booths for those. Want purple carrots or cauliflower, candy striped beets or a variety of sourdough bread? No problem.

The beauty and genius of the Farmer's Market is that it represents capitalism at its finest - the marriage of producer and consumer without the middleman. A bond of trust begins to form when the farmer is no longer a faceless entity on a label and the consumer moves beyond being a marketing statistic. This is shopping for organic food at its finest because not only are you buying high quality, nutrient-dense foods, you are also buying local and in season. It's a winning recipe for your community and for your health.

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