One of the most common questions I receive from blog readers and friends & family is, how do I find organic vegetables and pasture raised meats in my area?
In this post, I am going to help you figure out how you can locate farms and ranches in your area and I am also going to give you tips on how to eat organic on a budget. For those of you living in the Santa Cruz area, look for the “For Santa Cruz Peeps” sections. I show you where we get all of our food from, locally!
Why is it important to source organic, grass-fed and pasture-raised food?
This could be a blog post of it’s own. But, here is a quick overview.
- Organic food is free of harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
- Organic food is free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Despite what corporate giants like Monsanto want us to believe, research indicates that GMOs can cause long-term health problems.
- Organic and pasture-raised food is kinder to the planet and to animals.
- Buying organic is often a great way to support local businesses and small farms.
- Organic and pasture-raised food tastes way better!
To really nerd out on food sourcing, I highly recommend this article on Mission: Heirloom / In The Kitchen.
With all that said, I always recommend doing the best you can! Don’t be discouraged if you can’t go ahead and swap everything out right now. Those of us that have been eating this way for a long time, sometimes forget that it was a transition for us.
It took us years of swapping out conventional foods to get to where we are today. It is a lifestyle adjustment, as you have to learn to shop in a different way and it is also a financial adjustment, as you have to learn to prioritizes your budget differently. I always tell people, make swaps as you learn more or as your budget increases. Until then, buy the best food that YOU can afford.
Treat this post as a guide. Bookmark it and come to it when you are ready to make each change. I recommend making ONE change at a time.
Click HERE to PIN this post!
Sourcing Affordable Organic Vegetables and Pasture Raised Meats
How to Find Farmers Markets
I use the website, LocalHarvest to find farmers markets whenever we travel. We tend to stay in vacation houses opposed to hotels, as it is so nice to have a kitchen, especially with a little one in tow. You can use this site to find farmers markets in your area or in other towns, when you travel. In Santa Cruz, we are so lucky to have an abundance of organic farms and 5 different farmers markets every week!
In our area, you rarely come across a stand that is not certified organic, but I have heard from friends in other areas that, this is not always the case. I wouldn’t immediately write off a farm that is not certified organic. Getting certified can be expensive and some farms have not completed their certification yet. Instead I would ask questions and get to know the farmer.
Here are some questions to ask at the farmers market:
- I see that you are not certified organic, but do you follow organic practices?
- Do you spray your crops with anything?
- For meat
- How do you feed your animals?
- Are they raised on pasture?
- Do you supplement their feed with anything?
- Are they fed grains? Are they fed soy? If so, is your feed GMO-free?
Money Saving Tip: Choose fruits and vegetables that are at the height of their season. Crops tend to be more expensive at the beginning of their season, when there is not as much of them available.
For Santa Cruz Peeps:
I enjoy visiting all of the markets in our area, but the Cabrillo Market in Aptos has the most variety. There are tons of veggie stands and you can also get a variety of pasture raised meat, including goat (which is delicious!), wild caught seafood, local raw milk and raw cheese. I also love the Sunday market in Live Oak because it’s near my house and I can get pasture-raised, sugar-free bacon, delicious salami and pasture-raised ham from my favorite local butcher, El Salchichero. El Salchichero attends several markets in the area and they have a store front.
I basically go to the farmers market to buy meat. I always laugh at my haul when I get home, as it is very carnivorous. You will learn more about where I get my veggies below.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
CSAs are my preferred method of purchasing food. CSA Stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs allows city residents to have direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers. When you become a member of a CSA, you’re purchasing a “share” of vegetables or meat from a regional farmer. You often have to pay in a lump sum at the beginning of the season.
Although it ends up being a large chunk of money, it is actually a cost savings when you compare the cost of similar items at the health food store or the farmers market. It is a great way to support local farmers.
How to Find Pasture-Raised Meat?
You can always find quality meat at the farmers market. We definitely supplement some of our meat from there. We actually buy the majority of it CSA style from local ranches. Some of the ranches require us to pick it up in bulk, while others let us pick it up quarterly, monthly or weekly. I prefer CSAs because it is more cost effective.
Many people are discouraged from purchasing grass-fed beef due to the higher cost. Purchasing through a CSA is a great way to avoid paying this premium. Cooking Light did an analysis in April 2011 and found that purchasing through a CSA makes the cost of grass-fed beef only slightly higher than conventional beef. They write, “Our cost per pound of Boutwell’s beef (grass-fed beef) was $5.32 (per pound), including everything from ground beef to liver to filet mignon, which made it only marginally higher than similar quantities of regular grain-fed beef prices in local supermarkets”.
In return for this slightly higher price, comes tremendous health benefits:
- Very nutritious source of fat & protein!
- No hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs
- More Omega-3 fatty acids
- Rich source of another type of healthy fat called “conjugated linoleic acid” or CLA
- Higher in Vitamin E
- Humane animal treatment
- Reduced use of chemical fertilizers & pesticides to grow unsustainable amounts of corn and soy
Money Saving Tip: Buy meat CSA style (in bulk from a local ranch). Also, go for roasts and organ meats, instead of prime grilling cuts. They are much more affordable!
Find Pastured Product Farms in Your Area!
Eat Wild: To find a local ranch in your area, check out the website eatwild.com. They have a searchable tool that will list farms in your area for anything from Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal, Goat, Elk, Venison, Yak, Chickens, Ducks, Rabbits, Turkeys, Eggs, Milk, Cheeses, Wild-Caught Salmon and more!
Google it!: Don’t stop at Eat Wild. Our favorite ranch doesn’t show up on the list. I actually found them years ago by googling the words “Grass-fed Beef CSA Santa Cruz, CA”
Get on your local Weston A. Price Email list: Someone on this list will always have an answer for you when it comes to sourcing food. This community is also great for finding practitioners, doctors, dentists and anything else you need that requires a holistic approach.
For Santa Cruz Peeps:
- Beef: We buy a half of a grass-fed cow from Morris Grassfed every year. They also deliver all through California. Their beef is amazing and their operation is brilliant. I am convinced that cleaner meat does not exist. If you ever have a chance, attend one of their ranch days. They are super fun. The ranchers, Joe and Julie Morris are really great people. I love knowing that they are the ones raising the food that nourishes my family.
- Chicken & Pork: We buy our chicken, some of our pork and our raw milk from Fiesta Farm. The milk is actually from another local farm and Fiesta Farm distributes it. The milk is $3 cheaper for then at the health food store, for the same brand and same size bottle. Again, CSA wins! Fogline Farm also offers CSA options for pastured pork and poultry.
- Eggs: We buy our eggs through the Live Earth Farm CSA. Fiesta Farm also offers an egg CSA.
- Seafood: We also belong to an awesome seafood CSA – Local Catch Monterrey Bay, where we pick up local, fresh, wild-caught seafood weekly. I’m actually off to pick up our fish, as soon as I publish this post! 🙂
How to Find Organic Vegetables in Your Area
Again, there is always the farmers market, which we attend regularly. We tend to purchase the bulk of our vegetables through a CSA. It is so much more affordable. For $22 a week, we get a large box of vegetables and some fruit that we have to work hard to get through. For an additional $10 a week, we get some amazing fruit too.
CSA are not the best option for picky vegetable eaters or those with many restrictions. You don’t get to choose your vegetables, you get what is ready to be harvested that week. Which is awesome because the vegetables taste so much better than anything you get at the health food store. They are at their prime and freshly picked! They don’t have to be picked early to consider transporting or sitting on a store shelf.
If you like to cook, a veggie CSA is tons of fun. It has introduced me to so many vegetables that I would pass over at the store because I wasn’t very familiar with them.
You can find vegetable CSA in your area through the site, Local Harvest.
For Santa Cruz Peeps:
We have tried many CSAs in our area and we have liked them all. For the last few years we have been using, Live Earth Farm. They have just been our favorite. We love the box size, the price, their fruits and veggies and that we can get eggs through them. Another thing to consider with a veggie CSA is their drop off point. It is really nice, if it is close to your home or work.
- LocalHarvest: A great source for finding CSAs, Farmers Markets and local farms in your area
- Eat Wild: A great source for finding pasture-raised products in your area.
- Your local Weston A. Price Email list: If there is an organic or pasture-raised supplier in your area, chances are someone on this list knows about it. A great community of people to get connected with.
- Google – Never underestimate the power of Google. Google what you want and your city and chances are that you will find it.
Online Sources of Pasture-Raised Products
I recommend buying local whenever possible. It’s a great way to support your community and it is easier on the environment. However, the sources of food that you want might not be available in your area. Here are a few online resources that I love for purchasing high quality food!
We love Tropical Traditions expeller pressed coconut oil. It has no coconut flavor and it is great for cooking! We buy it by the gallon. They also have pasture raised meat, eggs, household products and so much more.
Plus, as a first time customer, you will receive their free book, Virgin Coconut Oil How it has changed people’s lives, and how it can change yours!
Click here to shop at Tropical Traditions!
TX Bar Organics is a family owned and operated ranch in Northern California. They are some really awesome people. Their grass-fed beef is some of the most tender that I’ve ever had!
Click here to shop at TX Bar Organics!
US Wellness Meats offers every type of pasture-raised meat that you could imagine. They also have some great snacks, as well as real bone broth!
Click here to to shop at US Wellness Meats!
Phew! That was a big one! If you have any questions leave them in the comments and I will try my best to help you out. If you know of any resources that I missed, feel free to add those below too!
Rachel @ Grok Grub says
That’s a good point about not immediately writing off produce that’s isn’t organic. I find it’s most effective to talk to farmers and growers… you can really get an accurate grasp of the situation that way.
We already incorporate many of the things mentioned in your post. I appreciate you including the fact that it is a transition. We are a family of 5 on one income at the moment and we have to pick and choose what we can and cannot do financially. For someone just starting the transition..it can be VERY overwhelming and seem daunting and unattainable (from my own experience and from many people who comment on my “real food crusade” lifestyle) Thank you for the resources listed! There is no excuse for families new to this to not do their research for something so important (:
Why don’t you grow your own veggies? Baby cilantro (micro green) is more nutrient dense than normal cilantro. Oat grass is free from..Anti-nutrients! Rich in some antioxidant-rich composts that you can’t find in kale,spinach,and so on. Be careful or avoid seeds sprouting: sunflower greens – why? Because of the (low or moderate) phytoestrogens content. Those greens are the REAL veggie source for Omega-3 not nuts or flax seeds lol (except high-ORAC fruit content like acai frozen pulp/powder) https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203539026729248&id=1021975411&set=pcb.10152687606292264&relevant_count=5&source=48 IT can be used to feed your backyard chickens as well.
I would love to eat pastured/grass fed meat. I also really like the idea of a CSA. I will do my research using your suggestions, but I’m not certain I would be able to find things like CSAs in my area as I live in the desert (far west Texas) and the few farmer’s markets I’ve seen have very little to offer. We also currently have to drive quite a long way to get to the only real health food grocery in our city. I am curious to know, since we travel a lot, and not always predictably, how that would work with a CSA. Also, do CSAs operate year round? And if you had a way to persuade my husband that grass fed beef tastes good… 🙂
Arsy Vartanian says
Hi Susan! Our CSA is almost year round, but we are in California where the growing season is longer, so it really varies. Try TX Bar Organics it is the most tender grass-fed beef we have ever had. My husband didn’t even believe that it was grassfed. As far as CSAs, check those tools I listed. You never know, maybe you will find something close to you. Every CSA is different, some of them offer vacation holds, where you just go into their system and say that you won’t be picking up that week. Hope that helps!