The Best Places to Shop Organic Produce

You might be overlooking the most convenient options.

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A recent survey shows that people are shopping organic in some unlikely spots and potentially overlooking some obvious options. A recent survey by Tasting Table asked respondents to choose between national retailers like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, and Target, as well as local farmer’s markets and regional grocery stores to determine their preferred locations for shopping organic.

The results show that despite some national chain’s best efforts to promote themselves as the prime grocer for organic products, consumers still prefer smaller retailers when it comes to finding organic items.

What organic really means

Within different categories of food there are federal regulations that legally determine whether something can be labeled organic or not. For example, when it comes to meat, there are four different organic labels a product can receive. Depending on which label a product receives it could be anywhere from 70% to 100% organic.

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In the case of produce, the USDA has the standard that, “Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest.” Part of the USDA’s standards for crops to be labeled organic is based on an extensive National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. Overall, the goal is to allow natural substances in organic farming and to prohibit synthetic substances.

Where people like to shop organic

Surprisingly underrated in terms of organic selection were local farmer’s markets. Local farmer’s markets received 17.35% of votes. Survey respondents may not fully understand all that their local markets have to offer. Aside from just supporting the local economy and small business, farmer’s markets have some of the best produce options. If you ask Bob Zeni, aka the Chicago Tomato Man, other than your own garden, there’s no better place to get your tomatoes than at your local farmer’s market.

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Unsurprisingly, Target fell to the bottom of the ranking receiving only 6.12% of the total vote. Target is fantastic when it comes to household items, personal care, clothing, and a number of other categories, but I don’t think of Target when I think about picking up groceries. I might wander into the wine section or pick up a box of cereal that I forgot to buy on my regular grocery trip, but It’s not the first place to come to mind.

Although produce from smaller farms may offer a more limited selection than larger grocery chains, the exclusive offerings are actually a good thing if you want to shop organic. Some major grocery chains (not all) are able to carry items like watermelons, tomatoes, and squash in off-seasons because of the use of pesticides and other hormones. On the other hand, small farms carefully plan their crops for the best possible yield.

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Some smaller, regional grocery chains may also source their produce from these local farms which explains why that option came out on top and received almost 30% of the vote from shoppers who participated in the survey. This beat out Whole Foods which got 22.62% of votes, despite marketing the fact that it prides itself on as selling “the highest quality natural and organic foods.”

Target runs are great (albeit dangerous to my wallet), but I’ll be keeping it local when it comes to buying my produce and I’m glad others seem to be doing the same.