My in-depth review of Earth Fare caused several people to email asking about organic produce.
Why hadn’t I compared the quality and price of the produce? Which big box retailer do I like best to buy organic fruits and veggies for my family?
Organic Produce and Mega-Retailers
The hard truth is that big box retailers like Earth Fare, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market,Trader Joe’s, Sprouts etc are NOT the best place to buy organic produce.
This may come as a shock, but such a statement simply reflects the harsh realities of mass production and distribution.
If you talk to highly respected, long-time organic farmers from around the country, they will tell you that consumers are losing choice when it comes to organic produce.
Because it’s become almost impossible for local, seasonal produce, in other words, THE BEST STUFF, to find its way into natural food grocery store chains.
According to a recent newsletter from The Real Organic Project:
The system is designed to source ONLY from year-round suppliers that produce in quantities that can fill hundreds of grocery shelves across the country. Consolidation of distributors allows them to maximize profits by cutting deals with the largest growers to bring in product by the truck load. The product that ultimately wins the coveted shelf space is the one that is cheapest for the natural food distributor.
What appears as choice in the marketplace is really the option to buy from one industrial monoculture or another. (1,2)
The Best Place to Buy Organic, Local, Seasonal Produce
Back when I first started to buy organic produce in the early 1990’s, the only place to get it was a locally owned natural food store or farmers market.
I drove all the way across town each and every week to buy our fruits and veggies.
Guess what? With a few exceptions, this is still the case.
Everything changes and everything stays the same.
These small, independently owned natural grocers are STILL the only place where a local organic farmer can knock on the back door of the store, talk to the OWNER and sell their seasonal produce right then and there.
The organic produce on offer at the big box natural foods grocery stores is by and large from mega USDA Organic farms that don’t pay much attention to building healthy soil and growing nutrient dense produce. (3)
This is why the certified organic produce you get in large healthfood stores today rots or molds quickly. This is a sign of low nutrients. Moreover, it is typically a sign that the produce is hydroponically grown. The same plant cultivated in properly cared for soil beats hydroponics in taste and nutrition every single time.
Don’t believe it? Get yourself a refractometer and start measuring the brix of the juice from the produce you are buying.
Time to Change Where You Shop?
So, in answer to the questions I’ve been receiving, I buy very little organic produce from natural food mega-chains. Yes, I buy some, but it’s not where I look first.
I favor our small, locally own natural foods store like I always have! This independent natural grocer also runs an organic community farm for residents to learn how to grow their own produce at home. I shop farmer’s markets too, of course.
The beautiful blueberries in the picture above are organic and locally grown. I never would have found this quality at any of the big chains in my area. These berries pop in flavor like nothing you’ve ever tasted!
Amazing Flavor = High Nutrition
If you’ve been buying the bulk of your produce at one of the mega healthfood store chains, I encourage you to look around your community for a locally owned establishment. Find out the locations of the farmer’s markets too.
Change your buying habits, change your health.
(1) The Real Organic Project Symposium, Dartmouth College
(2) Why all Natural Foods Retailers Look the Same
(3) Soil Health and Human Health. Forever Bound
Here in the North Eastern states buying seasonally is impossible making the big grocery chains the only option and taking a chance on organic produce from another country. I buy a lot of frozen foods in the fall to limit how much I have to purchase in the winter, but there are things we prefer fresh. If you have any suggestions please let us know.
Thank you for pointing this out! We’ve been doing local CSAs (meat and produce) for years for this very reason. The most flavorful, healthy food for my family also helps support other families close to my home. Thank you for your column!