For high quality produce, it is always best to buy locally and seasonally when possible.
One of the best ways to find local produce, that is also in season, is to get to know the farmers in your area. This will not only help educate you as to what foods grow seasonally in your area, but also connect you to where your food comes from.
To find your local farmer, see if your area has a weekly or seasonal farmers market or try using Facebook or Google and search “Farmers markets near me”.
You can also talk to your local mom-and-pop grocery stores and see what farmers they purchase from or check localharvest.org for certified organic farms.
Tips for building a relationship with your farmer:
Do you have a store front or farm stand?
Do you ever allow tours of your farm to the public?
Would I ever be able to come by and pick my own produce?
What crops are coming up that you are excited about?
Do you have any tips on how to tell the best of the bunch?
Any ‘seconds’ available that you would sell me for a better price?
Would you ever have people volunteer on the farm?
How would you recommend cooking/preparing/preserving this item?
Do you offer a CSA box (community-supported agriculture)? Could I learn more about it?
If you are having difficulty connecting with local farms—don’t worry! Check the PLU number or Price Look Up number. This is a four or five-digit code that most medium to large retailers use to help make check out and inventory control easier. Five-digit numbers that start with a 9 are organic, four-digit numbers that start with a 3 or 4 are conventionally grown, and five-digit numbers that start with an 8 are genetically modified
No matter where you do your produce shopping, you can always ask yourself these “High Quality Questions” to help you purchase the right product:
Does this produce come from a local source or sourced within my country?
Is this produce organic?
If it is not organic, is it part of the Clean Fifteen? (This is an annual list put out by the Environmental Working Group that states the fifteen items with the lowest pesticide residue.)