Should You Buy Only Organic Strawberries?

A reader emailed us and asked:

Should you buy only organic strawberries at farmers markets?

Good question!

The main thought is to always buy organic when at the grocery store if you can afford it. As CNN reported back in March of 2017, Strawberries still remain as one of those foods that are heavily sprayed with pesticides.  You can read the article full here.

But when it comes to vendors at farmers markets that is normally not the case as farmers generally use natural organic methods to care for their strawberry crops. Take for example Jollisant Farm in Plantersville, TX just outside of Houston.  They pride themselves on a beautiful strawberry crop where folks can pick their own strawberries and enjoy the experience. Families can know that they are taking home fresh pesticide free strawberries.

So most likely produce at farmers market won’t be grown with pesticides as these are local gardening/farming fanatics (sort of) that believe in natural methods to grow fruits and vegetables.

So how can you know if pesticides have been used? Ask them! Another GREAT BENEFIT to shopping at farmers markets and why I prefer to do so. I know I’m getting something that was probably picked just yesterday or maybe the day before… FRESH!!!! And, I can hear straight from the farmer or their staff exactly what they used to keep bugs and rodents from affecting their crops. Now that is a piece of mind I’m worth paying extra for not to mention supporting my local community.

pick your own strawberries at Jollisant Farm

So when it comes to strawberries, you are probably pretty safe at farmers markets, but just ask them because they are on the “dirty dozen” list. And, if you live in the area be sure and ask the if they are a pick your own strawberry or vegetable farm and spend a day in the sunshine picking your food. It’s really a wonderful experience and a great way to educate your children. Nothing compares to seeing a zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant or strawberry on the vine as opposed to a picture in a book.

Get outdoors… leave the cell phone in the car (unless you want to take pictures) and support your local farmer today.

Trees and the Farmer Market

Now, what on earth do trees have to do with farmers markets?  Well, that’s the point!  If farmers markets are full of things that grow locally in the area, then why aren’t trees found at local farmers markets?

Obviously, their size is a problem.  You can’t very well bring an oak tree to your booth!

Okay… let me put my sarcasm aside and talk seriously for a moment about a market that local farmers are overlooking. Trees! So many folks want to plant fruit trees, but lack the access for good organically grown saplings.  I know only of one local farmer outside of Houston, TX that specializes in selling fruit trees.  And, let me tell you.. they are not cheap, but people want them.  They are hearty, strong, and already off to a healthy bug-free start.  This guy gets almost double what you would pay at Lowe’s or Home Depot, but then again this is his specialty and he’s local, knowledgeable, and a successful fruit farmer.

So the next time you call someone like a Highpoint Tree Care and tell them to cut down your tree… stop!  Can anything be salvaged from the tree?  For instance, have you seen the show, Filthy Riches?  If you haven’t check out this trailer and notice the burl tree hunters.

Something else that farmers should consider is turning all their dead trees into a product to resell at a farmers market.  Or at the least, resell the wood to a craftsman that makes furniture or whatever out of wood.  I ran across an incredible little shop outside of Houston where this guy was making furniture from beat up old wood.  Wow!  The stuff had this shabby chic look and was painted with vibrant colors.  He was charging a lot for the furniture, but selling it like hot cakes.  So, don’t tell me wood (aka trees) don’t belong at a farmers market because trees have so much value and a ton of possibilities for making money.  Just saying!

Natural vs. Organic

All natural food growing and organic foods have been rising in popularity in recent years. Many in America want foods that don’t have chemicals or hormones added to what they consume, preferring more natural ingredients. Many farms around the country have embraced this trend and begun to switch methods of growing.

There is a difference between organic and all natural. The key difference lies in the regulation of the two. Organic foods are heavily regulated by the Federal Drug Administration. They require that if the label organic is used no pesticides or chemicals can be used in the growing of the food. All natural has far less regulation, the federal government is still debating about what the term should mean in order to be used.

In addition, the regulatory bodies constantly check organic food growers and processors with checks to their operations to ensure that they follow the rules. Since neither the Federal Drug Administration nor the Unites States Department of Agriculture has rules on what ‘Natural’ means, they have no way of checking those who place such labels on their products.

Even though there are no regulations on the ‘Natural’ label, farms use the term to describe how they grow their food. The A Natural Farm and Educational Center, which is a farm located in Florida, does not use any type of artificial fertilizers or pesticides. They primarily grow fruits and roots.

Hidden Acres Natural Farm raises lambs with no antibiotics or growth hormones. They also are not feed anything that has GMO’s or grain finishing’s. They attempt to make the entire process as natural as possible.

Farms such as Mealor Family Gardens focus on providing natural compost and avoiding pesticides while growing vegetables and fruits. These kinds of farms are primarily looking to use natural means to grow their food.

While there is no set federal definition for natural growing, many farms equate it to what organic is defined as. By using the natural label they are able to escape regulation and have more freedom in how they grow their food. It is important to do research on the farm or producer of food if they use the natural label instead of the organic as some may not truly be free of chemical enhancements.