Is Farmers Market Produce Organic?

FMBimage001You stroll through your local Fairfax County Park Authority Farmers Market, selecting fresh berries, inhaling the wonderful smells of baked goods, and learning about the farmers’ growing methods. You are looking over some zucchini when you wonder: is this organic?

This can be a complex question. It is one that you may ask yourself because you want to protect yourself and your family from pesticides, or because you do not want to eat GMOs. In general, most of the produce at our farmers markets is not organic. This means that most of the farmers who sell produce at our farmers markets are not USDA Certified Organic. However, the organic label is not the only important thing to look for on your produce, and farmers who grow and sell their food locally have many practices that are important to consider and are good for the farms and for you.

FMBimage003You have a unique learning opportunity at our farmers markets that you will not get at your regular grocery store, including the ability to ask the farmers themselves questions about their practices. You can learn about whether or not they use pesticides and their growing process. Through this transparency of where your food comes from and how it is treated, you can learn more about your food than you could at the store. All of the products at our farmers markets are producer-only, which means that the farmers themselves grow or make everything that they sell. You have access to the source of the food that you eat, which is a really useful and comforting ability.

Organic certification is in part meant to ensure sustainable practices, but having organically certified produce is not the only way in which food can be sustainable. Since many of our vendors are small local farms, they usually have a variety of plants, which make it easier to deal with pests and weeds. With a farm that only grows one kind of plant, they need to spray the plants with pesticides in order to ensure that they don’t lose their entire farm. Some of our farmers spray pesticides, but many of them use alternative pest management systems like Integrated Pest Management. This technique combines different ways of managing pests, by selecting hardy plants and controlling pests in the best ways possible. For example, some farmers may plant marigolds with produce to keep insects away.

FMBimage005Local farmers are more sustainable than their long-distance counterparts through transport, because they only move their produce within 125 miles to get to one of our farmers markets. This uses less fuel than shipping produce across the country, and lessens the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted through the production of the food.

You may still want that USDA Certified Organic stamp of approval on your veggies. If so, our certified vendors are listed here, along with their locations.

  • Jerry’s Organic Berries            Reston, Sat 8am-12pm
  • The Byrd Farm                        Wakefield, Weds 2pm-6pm
  • The Farm at Sunnyside           Reston, Sat 8am-12pm
  • Toigo Farm (tomatoes only)    Reston, Sat 8am-12pm
  • Radical Roots Farm                Burke, Sat 8am-12pm

We also have two Certified Naturally Grown Vendors, listed below. This certification is similar to growing food organically in that they do not use GMOs or synthetic pesticides, but is a different certification.

  • Terembry Farm                        Lorton, Sun 9am-1pm
  • Honey Brooke Farm               Burke, Sat 8am-12pm & McCutcheon/Mount Vernon, Weds 8am-12pm

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As you leave one of our 11 farmers markets, you can rest assured that the herbs, raspberries, and hot house tomatoes in your tote bag are local and grown in the way that you want. You have spent the morning talking to the farmers themselves about their sustainable practices. If the food you chose is not USDA Certified Organic, you know that it was grown on a small farm by the person who you shook hands with when you bought it.

 

 

 

Author Lauren Rhodes is a student at Oberlin College and a summer intern for the Resource Management Division of the Fairfax County Park Authority.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .

About Fairfax County Park Authority

HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 11 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2008. Another Park Bond Referendum will be held in November 2012. Today, the Park Authority has 420 parks on approximately 23,168 acres of land. We offer 371 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park System is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: o Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist. o Eight golf courses including Laurel Hill, our newest, upscale course and clubhouse located in Southern Fairfax County o Five nature and visitor centers. Also seven Off-Leash Dog Activity areas o Several lakes including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax o The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter o Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel o An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter o Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel o Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent o A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly o A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale o Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community o Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center o Provides 274 athletic fields, including 30 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 500 school athletic fields PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: • A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/social-hub/ for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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