The popularity of farmer’s markets has grown exponentially over the last decade, so much so that it is rare for a community not to have a weekly farmer’s market set up. This is refreshing between the rise of processed foods in the 80’s and 90’s. Attending the market is a great way to know your local farmers, know where your food is coming from and exactly how it is grown. Is the food grown organically? GMO-free? Are there any pesticides involved? Here are 5 questions you should ask your local farmer:

How do I tell if my produce is really fresh?

Since organic food tends to expire much quicker (as they hopefully have not been sprayed with pesticides and fungicides), it is wise to find out exactly how one can tell if what you’re interested in is ripe. You will want to look for food that has been harvested as close as possible to the date of sale, preferably the day before or the morning of.

What is best to keep at room temperature versus refrigerated?

Not all vegetables are created equal! Some are best left outside the fridge and some will thrive in room temperature. Your farmer should know the answer to this question. As a general rule, most fruits and vegetables should only be placed in the fridge once they are ripened. Tomatoes and berries are an example of this, best out of the fridge until ripe. Potatoes must never chilled, they will become sweet, moist and granular. This applies to onions as well, they will develop mold and become damp if left in the fridge, these are best stored out of the sunlight, sealed in a bag and in a vegetable drawer.

Where was this produce grown?

Believe it or not, just because your local farmer is selling locally grown products, that doesn’t necessarily mean their products are all local. There are markets that only allow vendors who live within a certain distance of the location of the farmer’s market, it can’t hurt to ask exactly where they are located.

What type of fertilizer do you use?

Soil is nutrient-rich to begin with, with elements of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium. If the nutrient supply is too low the plants will not grow optimally or even at all. There are several types of fertilizer that can be used to re-fill the soil when crops are harvested and ready for human consumption. Ask your local farmer if it was a natural source, such as organic matter, compost and even plants.

What are the ingredients in the products?

If what you are inquiring about is a homemade good, such as dips, jams and bread, make sure you ask if all the ingredients used were also sustainable and local. Making the effort to stay healthy by shopping locally and sustainably is a great way to maintain your wellness lifestyle.

Getting to know your local farmers at the market is also a perfect way to get to know your food! After all, you are what you eat, they say!

Larissa Gomes is a breast cancer survivor and single mom to her spirited baby boy! Originally from Toronto turned Angeleno, she has worked in roles from writer, actor and producer for well over a decade. In that time, she’s developed concepts, film and television screenplays, short stories, along with freelance articles, blogging and editing work.