Here are four top shopping tips from Amelia Saltsman, author of The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook (Blenheim Press):
Investigate Organic Organic farmers must display their certification. However, many practice organic farming without being certified because the process is costly. The only way to know for sure is to ask the farmer.
Get To Know The Farmer Look for vendors with neat, clean stalls who prominently display the farm's name and location—a mark of pride of ownership experience. Ask them friendly, open-ended questions like, "Tell me about your farm" or "How did you grow this?" to assess if their practices are in line with your values. A vendor worth buying from will give an enthusiastic and knowledgeable responses.
Shop For Flavor How a food tastes is the most obvious indicator that it was carefully grown. Be sure to ask for a sample.
Join A CSA Community Sponsored Agriculture-known as CSAs-allows you to partner with a farm by buying shares of a crop in advance. In exchange, you get a weekly box of produce. Before you sign up, ask how long the the CSA has been in business, how many people each box will feed and talk to current CSA members about their experiences. To find a CSA farm near you, visit locaharvest.org.