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3 Most Important Questions You Must Ask to Identify Authentic Produce and Ethical Farmers at the Market

When certified organic isn't available, what should you do?

As market season kicks into high gear, farm stands beckon shoppers with signs: Local! Organic! Natural! No Spray! Sustainable! Organic is defined by strict federal standards. But what do these other claims really mean, and which are worthy of support?

My organization, the Cornucopia Institute, a farm and food policy research group, has prepared a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) organic certification guide to help you navigate your local markets and reward the most ethical farmers—while bringing home the healthiest food for your families, when a certified organic farm vendor is not available.

It’s important to know that just because it’s called a farmers market, this does not mean that all of the food for sale was grown locally or organically. There are instances of greenwashing at farmers markets, ranging from reselling industrial produce that was bought wholesale, to ‘no-spray’ and ‘natural’ signs that may, or may not, mean what you think they do.

That’s why it's highly recommended to buy from a certified organic vendor, or CSA, if there is one available. These are farmers who jump through all the hoops, maintaining scrupulous records, and opening their operations to inspections every year.