Recently I’ve heard from two certified organic farmers that our Portland/Vancouver farmers markets are not watching their vendors closely enough. I buy certified organic only unless I spend time talking to the farmers. I know enough about farming to hear the truth, and sometimes I will buy non-certifed local produce. If they have a big stand, however, and say they basically are organic and it is too expensive, then I pass. It isn’t too expensive and the payoff in being able to say and charge for organics is worth it.
Some of the common scams, in no particular order:
- Saying it is organic when it is not certified organic. Basically, it is not organic unless it is certified, and it is illegal to say so anywhere on the stand or packaging. Farmers who are making under $5,000 can do this. Anyone else must be certified. Certified is work, but it is worth it for me and for you.
- Pasture raised when it is not. CHECK THIS ONE OUT, as it is so common. At one market I know of three meat producers who are lying outright about their practices.
- Buying at Costco (or somewhere cheap) and selling as local. Of course, being in season locally is one clue, so peaches in Portland in May is a clue. Again, talk to your farmers! Do they know what they spray? Do they know how produce is grown? Even kids can know the answers!
Finally, don’t eat your produce at the market before washing. Organic is not clean — think of the folks handling the foods at the market, if nothing else. Take it home and wash it well. Rodales has a good safe homemade cleanser: “Clean it with this cheap and effective produce spray: In a spray bottle, mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, and 1 cup cold tap water. Shake well to mix it up, spray on your produce, and rinse before eating.”