The Farmers Market can be an excellent place to pick up cheap, fresh, organic vegetables. Often times since the organic certification cost can be prohibitive to small farmers (and therefore they don’t get it), you can get the same quality produce here rather than paying top dollar at other stores. You have to be careful though.
In our farmers market we see plenty of signs on vegetables that all say “No Spray”. This really doesn’t mean anything. How would they get caught if they embellish a little? There are two ways of verifying whether or not pesticides were used in the cultivation of the product. The first is talking to the owner and the second is pulling the records.
With regard to talking to the owner I often ask how they protect their crops. My favorite response is a resigned shrug, “We lose a lot”. If you’re good at ferreting out the truth, this should be sufficient. We had another experience where we bought no-spray “organic” strawberries. They tasted way too good. The next time I stopped by I spoke to them again and asked them a series of questions and they gave me inconsistent responses from the first trip. Lesson learned.
The next option which I’ve never tried but learned about from a vendor is to get the name the farm and the county it’s located in. Then you can call the California (or similar bureau in your state) Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). Apparently this is a pretty strict system since farmers have licenses to buy certain pesticides, and the DPR sample crops to determine what substances have been used. If they detect a pesticide that the farmer is not licensed for, supposedly there are penalties. I’m not sure how much I believe the integrity of this system but there is an effort at regulation in place.
If you can find a source of safe food from a vendor at the farmers market, you’re in luck. There is nothing better than fresh fruits and vegetables.