Decoding Food Labels at Ventura's Farmer’s Markets

Unless you've been hiding under a rock the past decade, you’ve heard the word about organic food and seen the organic labels popping up on grocery shelves faster than you can eat your 100-calorie pack Cheese Nips Crisps.Farmers Market 1

Blessed to live in a rare Southern California town where there is one acre of farmland for every acre of city, Venturans are used to the availability of fresh produce. And, given the rise of “eating green,” you’ll likely visit a Farmer’s Market nearest you on the road to your “eat-better, eat-right” lifestyle.

At the market, you’ll also likely see a multitude of labels to help you with your choices.

But what do all those labels really mean? The Farmer’s Bureau of Ventura County breaks it down for us:

Organic: Certified by the US Department of Agriculture to meet standards that disallow the use of most conventional pesticides, genetic engineering, and routine use of antibiotics and growth hormones in livestock. Incidentally, if there is one thing you should buy organic, it’s peaches. They made the top of the “ick” list as the most pesticide rich fruit.

Buy Fresh Buy Local: There are no consistent standards for use of the term, which may refer to a region, a state, or the immediate ridgeline or watershed. It may also be applied to products that are made locally but of imported ingredients (chocolates, cheeses, pastries, locally roasted coffees).

Sustainable: “Sustainable food” certification programs address an array of social and environmental issues that go beyond “organic,” including safe and fair working conditions, healthy and humane care for livestock, reduced pesticide use, reduced water and non-renewable energy use, and enhanced soil health.

Fair Trade: Fair trade partnerships seek to offer better trading conditions to, and secure the rights of, marginalized producers and workers, especially in developing countries. Certification by the Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International guarantees that a product’s fair trade claims have been independently audited and verified.

Clean: Foods certified by organizations like Scientific Certification Systems to have met voluntary standards in one or more areas of potential concern, including pesticide residues, food pathogens, industrial contaminants and heavy metals, and food safety procedures and practices throughout the food supply chain.

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Want to learn more about pesticide free farming?
A.G. Kawamura, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, will deliver the keynote address March 3 at the second annual Spray Safe event at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Free, reservations required.
For more info go to:

Still hungry? Check out these "Foodie" articles at Wanderfood Wednesdays.

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