Farmers must get certified by the government in order to label their produce organic. They are then held accountable and inspected by local organizations that are accredited by the USDA.
This doesn’t mean that everyone without the certification uses pesticides; many will opt and say “no pesticides” or “all-natural” due to the high cost of the organic certification. However, signs like “no pesticides” are not regulated in any way and can be fraudulent. If in doubt, ask the farmer about their practices.
According to Well and Good, the following is a guide for fresh produce:
|Spring||Strawberries, asparagus, peas, younger tender greens, some stone fruit (apricots, cherries)|
|Summer||Tomatoes, some stone fruit (peaches, plums), berries (blackberries, raspberries), summer squash, eggplants, hot peppers (late summer), chard, beets, winter squash (since these store well, they’re often available year-round)|
|Fall||Winter squash, pumpkins, persimmons, pomegranates, kale, chard, beets, carrots, root vegetables|
|Winter||Persimmons, pomegranates, greens, chard, kale, winter squash, root vegetables|
For a more detailed guide, refer to the Seasonal Food Guide.
If you’re not sure what something is, how to prepare it or even whether it’s ripe or not, just ask. Farmers know their products and will be a great resource if you are unsure or curious about anything. If you have a plethora of questions, it may be helpful to show up early before the market gets busy.
A quote from the Well and Good website states:
“’Before asking why a basket of blackberries costs $5, consider what it must be like to pluck perfectly ripe blackberries one at a time into small baskets for hours a day in the hot sun,’ says Avery, who adds that farmers sell their produce at the price it costs to raise it.”Although you might not want to ask for a discount, you can sometimes save by getting quantity discounts if you buy several pounds of an item. Also, comparison shopping is a good method to save! Look around the market before buying produce, as farmers offer their products at different prices. Some markets will even take EBT (a form of food stamps) or have other grant programs in place for those with limited financial resources.
Often, farmers’ markets will have other unique vendors selling cupcakes, handmade home goods, popsicles, jams, jellies, kettle corn and food truck cuisine. Give it a try and support the locals!
Until next time,
Your friends at Mountain West