Myth: Local = organic.
Fact: Local farmers that aren’t certified organic are just as able as the big guys to use pesticides linked to ADHD, autism, diabetes, and hormone disruption. So don’t assume that just because a farmer shows up at a small market, his or her produce is pesticide-free. Under the USDA’s National Organic Program, farmers who market their product as “organic” must become certified by a USDA-accredited third party and keep very detailed records regarding their farming practices. There is an exception: If growers earn less than $5,000 a year, they can legally market their produce as organic, provided they keep records to prove they are organic. They just don’t have to go through the certifying process.
There are some farmers who do use legitimate organic growing practices but choose not to enter the certification process, but technically, they’re not allowed (legally) to say their produce is organic. Bottom line: If a farmer is marketing food as organic, ask if he or she is certified by the USDA. If the answer is no, ask how weeds and insects are controlled (more about that coming up).