A farmers market can be a somewhat intimidating experience. Especially if you aren’t used to shopping farmers market and eating local. You may see some unfamiliar terms, or maybe you are just starting out and can’t afford all organic everything. I’ve made this little post as a little helpful guide on terms to know, and tips to follow for having a great farmers market experience!
If you don’t know what a product is, don’t know how to prepare it or store it, feel free to ask the farmer!
Stock up at the farmer's market before hitting up the grocery store.
Challenge yourself to go to the market without a list, buy what looks exciting, fresh, and delicious. Plan meals after buying produce to highlight your fresh, local produce.
Try not to over buy. (I struggle with this a lot!) It’s easy to get so excited over all the produce, but the last thing you want is for things to go bad.
Being as most items bought at the farmers market are not extremely expensive, or you may buy a little here and there, bringing cash is a good idea. Not to mention not all vendors have the ability to accept checks or debit/credit.
Don’t forget to bring a bag, or reusable tote. If you plan on buying anything cool, or it’s the middle of the summer, you may want to bring an insulated bag with an ice pack for produce.
The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen
Have you heard of the clean 15 and dirty dozen? They can be a great way to transition into eating organic produce without breaking the bank. The clean 15 are foods that are least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residue. The dirty dozen are foods that are most likely to be contaminated and therefore should be purchased organic if possible.
There are a TON of phrases, and terms used to describe food these days. It can be extremely difficult to keep track of what everything means. Here's a list of some fairly common terms and what they mean.
Food products grown using organic practices, but without actual organic certification.
Food products grown in accordance with the National Organic Program’s standards. These farmers avoid synthetic inputs, including but not limited to, synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides and food additives. It also does not allow genetically modified organisms from being considered organic. Fields must be chemical free for three or more years before qualifying as organic.
Certified Naturally Grown
This is a grassroots alternative to certified organic. It is a simpler and less expensive alternative to the USDA’s National Organic Program.
USDA guidelines state that all “natural” meat and poultry products can only undergo minimal processing and cannot contain artificial colors, or flavors, preservatives or other artificial ingredients. Naturally grown/all natural is otherwise an unregulated term.
The term pastured is usually used in conjunction with hogs and poultry that are raised outdoors, on pasture. They are usually given some type of extra, supplemental feed. These animals are usually unconfined, and are able to graze and forage for food.
This is a term that varies based on who you are talking too. Eggs from the grocery store that boast free range, is quite different than talking to a farmer who has free range chickens. The industry standard on free range means the hens have access to the outdoors. That does not mean they actually ever go out. When you talk to a small scale farmer, free range likely means the chickens are out and ranging at their own discretion.
Grass Fed/Grass Finished
Grass fed is used to describe a ruminant who is raised on pasture. A cow, for example, can be grass fed, and then grain finished (a portion of grain fed until slaughter) Or it can be grass fed, and then grass finished, in which it would never eat any grain.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)
GMO’s are plants and animals whose genetic makeup has been altered to exhibit traits that they would not normally have, like longer shelf-life, different color, or resistance to certain chemicals. Genetic modification is currently allowed in conventional farming.
A term that refers to standard agricultural practices, which may include the use of pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, synthetic fertilizers and other chemical use.
Refers to products raised, bred, butchered locally versus trucked from locations far away.
Heirloom crops are those which have been passed down generation to generation. They have been developed by farmers via years of cultivation, and seed saving.
A breed of livestock that is much like heirloom crops. They have been bred over time for certain traits, such as to withstand harsh environments, or withstand disease.
Products made by hand in small batches.
Raw refers to food products (like cheese, milk, vinegars, cider, sauerkraut) that have not been pasteurized to a minimum of 145 degrees. Raw milk cheese is required to be aged for 60 days, and some states prohibit the sales of raw milk.
An unregulated term that refers to humane, viable, environmentally sound farming.
Refers to plants and fruits that are allowed to stay on the vine/tree and ripen fully before being harvested.
Much like organic and certified organic there are two options here. One is getting certified humane status, which means the animals can engage in their natural behaviors, they are raised with plenty of space, have good shelter, access to fresh water, and limited stress. The other is an unregulated term that implies animals that were treated with compassion, and given the ability to live as nature intended.
Refers to the practice of not administering antibiotics, which is commonplace in conventional farming. Some farmers may use antibiotics on an animal, but only if necessary.
Hormones are often given to beef and dairy cattle to enhance production. These hormones may be synthetic, natural or genetically engineered. A farmer who says, “no hormones” mean they do not engage in these practices. It is important to note hormones are not allowed in the raising of hogs or poultry-ever.