The search is on for organic produce at local farmers' markets

Organically speaking 

The search is on for organic produce at local farmers' markets

It's that time of year again -- when farmers' markets start popping up all over the metro. For those interested in organically grown produce, farmers' markets are a good source, but you should remember a few things.

For instance, many of the networks associated with promoting local organic farming offer this simple piece of advice: Know your farmer.

"It is very important that you can see the farmer's face. All of the farmers' markets in the area have some organic farmers," says Thomas Kerr of the Food Circles Networking Project, an extension of the University of Missouri/Lincoln University.

One of the goals of the Food Circles Networking Project is to increase consumption of locally produced food by educating consumers about their food choices. Kerr adds that you should not only know the farmers who provide your produce but also ask questions about claims of "organic" produce. "Ask him if you can visit his farm. You should also ask if he produces all of the varieties of food he has. Or does he buy them from somewhere else? If he buys from a farm across the country and it has to be shipped, the food may have been grown organic, but it could have been sprayed after it was harvested for shipping or the boxes could have been sprayed," Kerr says.

Although other food cooperatives are in the area, there is only one all-organic farmers' market, which is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays through Oct. 18 at the Barstow School, 11511 State Line Road.

The Troost Community Market, located at the corner of Troost and Linwood, also has many organic growers and includes local farmers, community groups, and nonprofit organizations. It takes place Saturdays from

8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and features produce, meats, and locally made arts and crafts.

The Kansas City Food Circle Directory lists about 27 farmers in the area who have attested that their produce and meat is organic. "We do not check out the farmers, but they have either had to be certified or have attested to us that they are organic," says Craig Bolland, director of the Kansas City Food Circle.

"Certified organic" means that no harmful chemicals have been applied on the farm for the past three years, the farmer and processor have passed annual certification inspections, and the farmer keeps detailed records of farming practices and uses ecologically friendly methods and substances for improving the soil and controlling pests.

Although not all area farmers' markets are organic, shopping at them is a good way to support local growers -- and the best way to "know your farmer."

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