How to find local food, from CSAs to farmers’ markets.


Myths about good food

Organic doesn’t mean what you think.

The term “organic” used to refer to the grassroots, locally-produced market for farm products grown with care – the opposite of the industrial food complex of today’s multinational agribusinesses. Today, “organic” is a term that can only be used by those certified by the USDA. Consequently, it doesn’t have the same inherent meaning as before. In general, if your food has packaging to display terms at you, chances are you can get it fresher from the farmer’s market. Ask your local farmers at the market (or local butcher or fishmonger) where their products come from – if you can’t have a discussion about location and freshness, maybe look for another place to shop. (check our local food map search)

Organic doesn’t mean healthy.

A packaged frozen dinner could be labeled “organic”. On the other hand, produce from a local farmer might not be labeled (no packaging!) or the farmer might not be able to afford USDA certification. Just ask – if you’re not convinced you’re buying something that should be more fresh and healthy, go elsewhere. Chances are that the freshest produce is likely the healthiest – lots of nutrients and vitamins start to break down as food ages, even just by a few days. That’s why corn, for example, tastes sweetest when it’s just been picked.

Organic doesn’t mean local or sustainable.

Organic does mean, at least in the US, that food hasn’t been irradiated (this might change soon!), and hasn’t been genetically modified. It also means that no chemical means of ripening were used. It has no bearing on locality or sustainability used in producing that food – organic produce could be grown halfway around the world, with techniques that aren’t necessarily sustainable.

Los Angeles
New York

The Basics

Changing your behavior around food, even just a little bit, can help you save money and get healthier.

  1. Be conscious of where your food is coming from. If you’re not sure, just ask. Chances are, if it came from close by, it’s fresher, more nutritious, and cost less in burning fossil fuels to get it to you. If it’s in season, it’s probably even cheaper.
  2. Shop at your local farmer’s market. Food with no packaging is usually the healthiest food.
  3. Grow your own food. See our recommendations for the best low-maintenance plants for your region. Be reasonable, and plant only as much as you think you have time to take care of – even one tomato plant will produce beautiful, ripe treasures.

Remember that the freshest and healthiest is not necessarily the most expensive. While the big fancy grocery chains consistently have more information posted about organic vs conventional and where food is produced, the farmer’s market can often beat out both freshness and price. Farmers will almost always volunteer the location of their farm and their practices with pesticides – just ask, and don’t be afraid to shop around for the best-looking product and most honest sounding vendor. You can be sure the seller also has great ideas for how to prepare pretty much anything they have.