[tc-my-thumb]I first became acutely aware of “organic” produce in 1989 while in grad school at BU. I’d shop at the old Boston Food Co-Op on Cambridge Street Allston where they had a the display of organic vegetables and bulk dry goods. The truth is that the veggies did not always look so appealing. Often they were wilted and mushy. nor did the multitude of bug holes look appealing. Initially it was a shock, but then I became used to the look and taste. Thankfully fresh local organic produce is much easier to purchase nowadays i New England.
Before the USDA organic standards came into play the concept of organic foods was much more of an organic process. It was small independent farmers not using synthetic chemicals selling produce locally or to small distributors such as the defunct Northeast Cooperative (which was purchased by giant Unilever about 13 years ago). “Organic” farmers used intelligent farming practices because it was a healthier way to eat and better for the environment – not a way to turn a larger profit. There were individual sates definitions of “organic” such as California, but their standards were stricter than USDA standards. Unfortunately over the past 15 years large agriculture businesses have started organic farming because of the profit. The large organic farm produce is certainly most inferior in taste to what one can get from a local farm stand this time of year.
It was the large organic farms that drove the USDA organic policy which has weaker standards than what was being used by grassroots organic farmers. From the organization Beyond Pesticides:
The organic movement was founded on the principle that we all are stakeholders in the organic food system, and promises that we would all have a meaningful say in defining what it means to be organic. Something fundamental has changed when a few large corporations can weaken the law over the protests of the hundreds of thousands of the very community members whose trust is most vital to the integrity of the organic label. The organic industry must do better than this
When purchasing “organic” produce it is most certainly wiser to choose local organic food rather than USDA organic produce from a Shaw’s or Stop & Shop. Given the multitude of farmer’s markets, organic farms and CSAs there is little reason to purchase from a Whole Foods or other grocery this time of year unless it is local produce.
Here are my favorite local “organic” farms – The first two are not USDA organic certified because it is too costly to go through the certification process:
- Small Farm Gleasondale Rd, Stow – Great folks, great prices. Not a huge variety, but what they sell is yummy.
- Applefield Farm Rt 117, Stow – The Mong’s have been farming this land for years – lots of ornimentals as well
- Hutchin’s Farm Monument St, Concord – Huge variety of produce. Fantastic farming practices as told be the vegetable vibrancy. Best apples around come the fall. (unbelievably delicious veggies but you do pay a bit more as they are USDA certified. And in Concord)
This time of year is my favorite for eating. It is the kind of produce Bay Area friends have access to all year long. Yes, I am jealous. But I enjoy the bounty while it lasts and hope you will too by supporting local organic farms and CSAs.
Yours In Health,
Licensed Dietitian / Nutritionist