What To Do When You Can’t Find Organic Food

How To Shop At The Farmer's Market When There Is No Organic Food

Hardly a week goes by in the summer that I don’t visit one or two Farmer’s Markets.  I even get my hubby to pull over when I spot one while on road trips. My love has no boundaries. Going to the market is also one of my favourite summer outings with my kids because it grows their food literacy.

Last weekend I was at a small farmer’s market and none of the food was organic. I left without buying anything, but it felt strange leaving empty-handed. It’s not the first time I’ve been faced with this dilemma at the markets. If no organic food is available, do I still buy the local food?

Local organic food is the best choice for health, sustainability and reducing the impact of our carbon footprint. How can I realistically shop and support people at farmer’s markets when organic food isn’t available? I’ve come up with four strategies to help overcome this hurdle.

How to shop for non-organic food

Review The Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen Lists: Each year Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases lists that identify the cleanest and the dirtiest fruits and vegetables. They test produce to determine levels of pesticides. These guides are useful for knowing which non-organic foods to avoid, and which non-organic produce are considered safer for you to eat.

Talk To The Farmers: Many small farmers do practice organic farming methods but aren’t officially certified organic. Ask questions about their farming practices to find out whether they are spraying with pesticides. It’s preferable to support farmers who do pay for organic certification but if this isn’t an option where you live, choose to shop from small farmers who are making efforts to grow organic food.

Wash All Produce: All fruits and vegetables should be cleaned prior to eating to remove dirt from growing, and handling. Make a batch of this simple fruit and vegetable wash recipe, paying extra attention to any foods you choose to buy from the Dirty Dozen List.

Support With Your Dollars: If you see a farmer has brought even a small amount of organic produce to market then buy the item. Don’t forget to let the farmer know how much you love seeing organic!


  • Hannah says:

    As always, effective and easy ideas! Love the fruit and veggie wash!

  • Brenna says:

    I definitely agree about talking to farmers. There is so much to learn about their philosophy and practices. Plus, you just may get them thinking more about organic certification if people are asking about it!

    • Sara Vartanian says:

      It’s true! When people see there is an interest in organic certification and practices I think it’s encouraging!

  • Green Bean says:

    Well this is handy! I do find that talking to farmers is key. I buy from several farmers who are not certified but follow organic practices. They just haven’t had the time or money to get certified.

    • Sara Vartanian says:

      I buy from several who follow organic practices too. I think the closer we can get to who grows are food the more comfortable we can be about what we eat.

  • Ira says:

    I do that too! And grow some of my own, which is not completely organic (neighbors using stuff they brought from the US on their lawns, anyone?), but as natural as I can. Still, I found the smaller the city, the more difficult it is to find good produce… last fall non of our stores had organic broccoli for a couple of months. And my kids love broccoli soup.