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Navigating farmers markets

Article and photo by Catalin Varela

The summer months invite the farmers market season, but what is intended to be a delicious adventure can easily turn into a daunting slew of confusing terminology. What the heck is the difference between “free range” and “cage free” anyway? Let’s chat about it.

When buying food locally, the most important thing is simply just having a conversation with the farmer. Ask them how they grow their produce or raise their livestock. Are they certified organic by the USDA? It is a pretty lengthy and inclusive process to get that certification, so that is a good sign they know what they’re talking about. What sort of things do they do to maintain the health of their soil? Soil health is crucial in growing food that will ultimately fuel your body.

When buying beef, ideally you want “grass fed, grass finished”…a cow that has never been fed grain and was raised the way nature intended it to be. Even meat that is marketed as “grass fed” is legally allowed to eat grain for three weeks, which drastically changes the balance of Omega-3s and Omega-6s…making it not very heart healthy. When buying eggs, what you really want is “pasture raised.” Even chickens who are “free range” or “cage free” can grow up with little to no exposure to sunlight and grass. Ultimately, you are what your food eats. And when buying your fruits and veggies, you want something that wasn’t grown with any pesticides, herbicides, or GMOs. Plus, it is even better if it was grown locally and not imported from different states or countries.

Lastly, if you’re really stumped, you can google “Dirty Dozen” which will give you a list of the 12 fruits and veggies most affected by pesticides. And google “Clean Fifteen” to find a list of 15 fruits and veggies that are likely not sprayed with chemicals whether they are “organic” or not.

The Castle Rock markets happen every Sunday at Festival Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and every Saturday at Douglas County High School from 8 a.m. to noon. Enjoy some kombucha, grab some nutrient-dense ingredients for dinner, and maybe get a massage. Happy farmers market-ing!



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