I love shopping at the fruit and veggie stand near my house. It makes me feel good to know where my food is coming from.
I’ve gotten to know the farmer at my market personally. She’s shown me the organic seeds she plants, and has let me see the type of soil she uses. We even talk about her natural methods of keeping nutrients in the soil and deterring bugs.
And now I don’t need to go to a huge store any more to sort through all the produce stamped “organic.” I’m feeding my family better than organic.
What’s Wrong with Organic Fruit and Veggies at Your Grocery Store?
Ever wonder why the lettuce at your supermarket seems so lifeless? It has a lot to do with how it got there.
The food at major grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles to get there. A typical carrot is transported 1,838 miles.(1) And a lot of produce even comes from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America and other countries.
By the time it lands at your supermarket, it just isn’t the same as when it was fresh from the ground or picked off the tree. Produce loses nutrients during transport. And it loses more while it sits on the shelves at the store, and more nutrients are lost in your refrigerator.
This is true even for organic fruits and vegetables. Most don’t come from anywhere near you. They are grown at large farms across the country. Then they get trucked hundreds of miles before they get to a store where you can buy them, losing potency the entire trip.
How do fruits and veggies lose their nutrients? By getting separated f their major nutrient source – the tree, the vine or the plant.
Generally, nutrient loss depends on how fruits and vegetables are processed and stored (especially the temperature and humidity levels of storage facilities and the processing machinery – or lack of machinery used). But some produce is especially sensitive to transport and storage.
Spinach is a great example. A Penn State University study published in the Journal of Food Science found that spinach stored at 39 degrees Fahrenheit for eight days loses most of its folate and cartenoid content.(2) But many trucks ship spinach across far distances at temperatures well above 39 degrees.
Folate is a form of vitamin B that helps to prevent birth defects. And cartenoids in fruits and veggies help to prevent blindness and some cancers.
But they aren’t the only nutrients that crops lose during long transport. Vitamin C gets depleted, too. That’s because vitamin C is sensitive to heat, light and oxygen. As a result, it tends to degrade very soon after harvest. University of California researchers found that fruits and veggies lose vitamin C the longer they’re stored at higher temperatures.
This is true even in the case of citrus fruit, which tend to lose vitamin C at a slower rate due to their acidity. What’s more, leafy greens, like spinach, need water to maintain vitamin C after harvest. Storing them at high temperatures in trucks can deplete their levels quickly.(3)
So the sooner you can eat fruits and vegetables after they’ve been pulled f their nutrient source, the more your body benefits. And taking nutrients in through your food is the BEST way to get the nutrition you need.
Buying Your Fruit and Veggies From Local Farms You Trust is Better than Buying Organic – 100% of the Time
I buy fresh, local and organic food from small farms for many reasons.
First, the food is more nutritious because it’s thousands of miles fresher (which also helps our planet). Many small farmers harvest their crops a couple of days or less before they sell them. So the produce still has plenty of vitamins and minerals.
That farm freshness makes the fruit and veggies taste good, too. Better than anything you’ll find at a supermarket.
What’s more, many small farmers use organic farming methods and seeds, even though their foods aren’t certified organic. That’s because they can’t afford the government’s expensive organic certification process.
At the produce stand, I also find varieties I can’t get anywhere else. By “varieties” I mean slightly different types of the same fruits and vegetables. These selections have different genetic information that tells the plant how to grow. And this unique genetic makeup also influences flavor and appearance.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that since 1900, about 75 percent of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been wiped out. And that’s because large industrial farms only mass-produce crops that are resistant to disease, look uniform and can withstand long transport.(4)
But small farmers don’t have any of these concerns. That’s why they can raise several selections of crops – many which have been passed down through generations. The local fruit stand is one of the only places to find these rare selections.
But one of the best reasons I buy from local farms is that I want to support my community, especially in these tough times. There are less than one million farmers in the U.S. And they get paid as little as 18 cents per item at stores. But when I buy directly from small farmers, they get all the profits. And those are profits that are invested in supplying natural food to my community.
So if you want to experience all these benefits, too…
Here are Some EASY Tips for Buying Fresh, Local and Organic
1. Get the best food the best sources.
- Farms stands and u-picks – Locations can range a shed or truck to a warehouse, and you buy directly the farmer. At u-pick farms, you can pick your fruit straight the vine.
- Farmers’ markets – These are outdoor markets where farmers sell their produce to the public. You can find unique varieties of fruits and veggies – as well as organic meat and cage-free poultry. Farmers are typically able to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar you spend there, too.5 I use a great one here in my hometown of West Palm Beach. But I do find I have to talk to the vendors about their farming methods and sources.
- Community supported agriculture (CSA) groups – These are partnerships between the community and a particular local farm. In a CSA, you can buy shares for weekly food allowances – then pick your food up right at the farm.
- Supermarkets – Some supermarkets offer a selection of locally grown produce. But remember they take a big cut of the profit. So if you want to support farmers, it’s better to buy directly from them.
2. Check out these websites to get started buying locally today.
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center – Your complete library of resources about local, fresh, organic food. It includes everything f articles to full reports and databases. So it will answer pretty much any question you have on the topic.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture – Includes an excellent list of general resources about buying locally.
Eat Well Guide – Just type in your zip code to find fresh food sources in your community.
Food Routes – National nonprofit dedicated to rebuilding local food systems through outreach, events, local food guides, and educational materials. They have “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” chapters that’ll connect you to your community’s cleanest, freshest food.
Local Harvest – Online community for buying local. It includes a national directory of small farms, farmers’ markets, and other local food sources – that’s constantly updated. Plus you’ll chat online with others who share your interest in farm-fresh food here.
3. Don’t assume all Mom-and-Pop farms use organic methods. Some could use chemical pesticides and fertilizers on their crops. So the only way to know for sure is to ask. If you’re at a farmer’s market, it’s always good to find out where the produce was grown. Especially if they’re selling out-of-season produce. It’s also good to ask about the best ways to pack and store your food. And don’t forget to ask when their fruits and veggies were picked – and whether they used organic seeds. Remember, FRESH, local and organic is the goal.
4. You can’t get more local than planting your own crops. You can grow some herbs and keep them on your windowsill, or in a big backyard garden. There are countless books and online resources to get you started. With your own garden, you can make sure your family gets plenty of fruits and veggies. And you’ll save money, too.
5. Plan meals in advance to make sure you use your fruits and veggies quickly. Also, keep your refrigerator set below 40 degrees to maintain freshness. Steaming veggies for a short time helps to preserve nutrients, too.
1. Pirog, Rich and Benjamin, Andrew, “Checking the Food Odometer: Comparing Food Miles for Local Versus Conventional Produce Sales in Iowa Institutions,” Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture July 2003
2. Pandrangi, S., and LaBorde, L., “Retention of Folate, Carotenoids and Other Quality Characteristics in Commercially Packaged Fresh Spinach,” Journal of Food Science May 2006; 69: C702–C707
3. Lee, S
Dr. Al Sears is fast becoming the nation's leading authority on longevity and heart health. His cutting edge breakthroughs and commanding knowledge of alternative medicine have been transforming the lives of his patients for over 15 years.
Dr. Sears currently owns and operates a successful integrative medicine and anti-aging clinic in Wellington, Florida with over 15,000 patients. Over the course of his career, he has developed his own approach to heart health, longevity and anti-aging medicine - combining the best of modern medical science with natural holistic techniques and treatments.