Buying produce from a farmers market or nearby family farm can be just as good as buying organic at the store -- and cheaper (especially when it's in season). Not only do locally grown fruits and veggies pack a bigger nutritional punch than the stuff trucked in from hundreds of miles away, but small-scale farmers also tend to use lower levels of pesticides, says Chensheng Lu, a professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at Emory University in Atlanta, dad of two, and author of a study on pesticides in kids. Another plus: Buying local reduces pollution from transportation and helps the local economy.
Some produce, locally grown or not, is best bought organic. Soft-skin fruits and veggies (like peaches, strawberries, and spinach) are grown closer to the ground, so more pesticides are needed to fight the insects. If your local farmer doesn't use organic methods, aim for organic from the supermarket. How can you tell? "If you can, visit the farm you're buying from and check out the practices they use to grow," Lu says.
Firm-skinned produce (like citrus and broccoli), though, typically has minimal pesticides. You'll get riper, fresher fare by buying local, but conventional is fine, too.
Try to go organic when buying the following produce:
To find your nearest farmers market or family farm, go to localharvest.org