Find Sustainably Grown Food Near You

The First Family eats fresh, unprocessed and locally grown foods, and Michele Obama is urging you to do the same, reports Rachel Swarns in the front page of today’s New York Times dining section. Sounds good. If you’re wondering where to find those foods, here are some helpful tips.

Most grocery stores carry at least some organic produce, meat, and dairy products these days, but they can cost considerably more than conventionally produced items.

You can often find less expensive food at farmer’s markets. And there are a lot of them: the USDA estimates there are more than 4,600 nationwide. Local Harvest has an extensive, easy-to-use online database that will pinpoint where to find sustainably grown food in your area. In addition to farmer’s markets and food co-ops, the site also lists Community Supported Agriculture programs—where people pay for a weekly or monthly box of produce, milk, meats, etc., from local farms.

Keep in mind that farmstand veggies may be sustainably grown even if they don’t have the organic label. A growing number of small farmers are opting out of USDA organic certification because of the cost or paperwork involved. Many are developing alternative labels, advertising that they follow sustainable practices like using minimal or no pesticides (for example, nearly 500 farmers from 47 states are enrolled to use the Certified Naturally Grown label.). One of the perks of going to a farmer’s market is that you can ask the grower about his or her practices.

One last thing about farmer’s markets—many offer much more than farmstands. Cooking demonstrations and recipes are available at many of New York City’s Green Markets, for example. And at the Webb City Farmers’ Maket in Webb City, Missouri, boasts Spanish and Hmong translators, as well as wireless EBT machines that allow vendors to accept food stamps.

If you feel like getting your hands dirty, consider planting a garden. Community gardens are a great option if you don’t have the yard space for your own vegetable patch. To find a community garden near you, or to learn how to start your own, visit the American Community Garden Association’s website.

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