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Farmer's market: What to ask

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Farmer's markets are a great way to buy organic, locally-grown produce. However, there are some things to be be aware of beforehand.

Generally, the purpose for shopping at a farmer's market is to buy organic produce and the consumer is assuming that the produce has been grown locally. That is not always the case. The first question should always be, "Who grew this?" Some markets allow the sellers to sell other farmer's produce. In this case, the produce may still be grown locally. The seller should be able to tell the consumer about the farm he works for. Other markets allow sellers to sell goods that have been shipped in from other states or countries. They may also sell goods that have ingredients that are not local.

If the consumer wants the produce to be truly organic, he or she should ask the seller what certifications he or she has. If a seller is labeling their produce as organic, they must be registered with an USDA-accredited third party. If this is the case, they have to keep detailed records of their methods. The consumer may ask to see the farmer's certificate or records. Not all farmers will be certified, even if they do use organic methods, especially if it is a small farm. If this is the case, ask how the food was grown, how the weeds were handled, what pesticides, if any, were used, and how they kept their soil healthy. A good grower can produce a healthy yield with weeds if he or she knows how to keep the soil healthy. The purpose of these question is to ensure that no chemicals were used on the produce. Whatever was used on the produce will end up on the consumer's plate. If the buyer does not know what the farmer is using, it is probably not something he or she would want to eat.

A very important question to ask is if the produce is in season. If it is not, then the produce is not organic. Here is a list of a few foods are in season in Texas throughout the summer months.

Early June: cucumbers, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, peaches, watermelon

Late June: mushrooms, peppers, summer squash, watermelon, onions

Early July: turnips, potatoes, summer squash, watermelon, onions, plums

Early August: apples, carrots, cabbage, onions, sweet potatoes, watermelon

Late August: peaches, sweet potatoes, onions,

There are other fruits and vegetables in season throughout the summer. It is valuable knowledge to have. Click here to find out what is in season in Texas and elsewhere.

Ask the farmer what OMRI is. It is Organic Materials Review Institute and is part of the National Organic Program. All farmers, big or small, must use it if they claim to be selling organic produce.

The Waco Farmer's Market is a year-round market located on 400 S. University Parks. Cash only. The market includes vendors within 150 miles and is open every Saturday from nine a.m until one p.m. The market is allowed to sell non-agricultural products but must maintain an 80/20 ratio.

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