Farmer’s Markets and Your Health

Anytime I see a farmer’s market, I want to stop. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the favorites of anyone who enjoys cooking. You can usually smell how great each one is, just by walking next to the table it’s sitting on.

The fresher any fruit or vegetable is, the better for you. As it sits around, these vital ingredients begin to lose the nutrients. They don’t lose all of them, but let’s face it. Fresher is better.

There are a few things to keep in mind about these products, though. First of all, you may want to find out about the farm practices. Unless they say organic, you need to assume pesticides and perhaps herbicides have been used to protect the crop. While there are laws about how soon after applying these chemicals you can harvest, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t residual amounts on the produce.

There is something else to keep in mind. While this is not the norm, not all field hands actually follow sanitary practices. In fact, some don’t even have facilities, so the workers have to “go” somewhere in or at the edge of the field. Even if there are portapotties, there is a chance that proper hand washing wasn’t observed.

That doesn’t translate to avoiding these markets. They are too rich a source of good produce. However, it does mean that you shouldn’t just pop that strawberry into your mouth on the way home. Once you get home, wash each vegetable properly. There are products in supermarkets made to help you get them clean without damage.

The produce in your local supermarket is not immune from these problems. Again, unless it says organic, it has been sprayed or dusted. Field hands are field hands. In fact, matters might be worse in a supermarket, because we import produce off-season. Chances are good that a field without proper sanitary conditions will be found out here. It’s hard to say if such practices are observed elsewhere.

There is one other thing to think about when purchasing produce, no matter where you buy it. As you have seen over the last few months, bacterial tainting of our produce is possible. Right now, at least eighteen people have died from eating cantaloupe tainted with listeria. This makes washing your produce even more important.

By all means, we should shop at farmer’s markets. We need fresh produce, and it’s better for us raw. We just have to make sure that before we eat it, we know it’s clean.

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