“I’m eating pesticides,” I thought as I bit into my apple. Not exactly a thought that makes you say “yum!”
Pesticides are often so common that we don’t even realize that we are ingesting them. But, the same chemicals used to protect our produce from getting insects may also cause health risks. The pesticides that fruits and veggies are coated with have been linked to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system disruption and IQ defects in children, according to Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) spokesman Alex Formuzis.
However, one way that we can stay away from the harmful chemicals on our fruits and veggies it to go truly organic.
Last year it was reported there are 21,000 certified organic operations in the United States found by the Agricultural Marketing Service. That’s a 12 percent increase in organic farms between 2014 and 2015.
“We have shown that consumers who buy organic fruits and vegetables are exposed to just one-third as many residues as they’d eat in conventionally-grown foods, and the residues
are usually lower as well,” says Edward Groth III, senior scientist at Consumers Union.
To keep consumers aware of the most pesticide-covered foods, EWG has developed a “dirty” list of produce. They are often called the “Dirty Dozen” and include strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.
So, how do farmers avoid pests from invading plants if they don’t use pesticides? Chris Seal, professor of food and human nutrition at Newcastle University in the U.K. gives an example of a carrot being attacked by a fly. The carrot produces compounds known as polyacteylenes, which taste bitter to the fly and can help drive the fly away.
Photo courtesy of Berry Kingdom Inc. FB page
Berry Kingdom getting ready for u-pick berry season beginning in early June and ending in July.
Organic Food Delivered to Your Door
Josh Kinser co-owner of Tampa Bay Organics, an organic delivery company that receives produce from certified organic farmers, says there is a reason that organic food costs more.
“It takes longer for it to grow,” says Kinser. “With conventional farming they add hormones which makes it grow faster.”
In addition, organic fruits and veggies tends to look and taste differently than conventional produce. Organic produce tends to look physically imperfect while non-organic produce tends to look relatively the same. This is because regular fruit is treated with a variety of growth enhancing substances. For example, apples and oranges might appear to be coated in wax and you might notice a slight sheen to cucumbers and lettuce.
At Tampa Bay Organics, to keep the produce fresh before it is shipped the team puts them in a huge walk in cooler that contains a few Ecoroq’s — a filter that removes toxins from the air and helps double the shelf life of produce.
Since organic fruit doesn’t last as long as conventional Kinser decided to see how long organic fruit could last using the new filter system. Shockingly enough, after three weeks the fruit still looked good enough to eat.
Once the produce is packed with a Temperatsure — a re-useable gel ice pack — the package is ready to be shipped. Tampa Bay Organics gets its produce from Jordan Farms (FL), Uncle Matt’s (FL), Bryson Family Farms (FL), Lady Moon Farms (FL), BlumenBerry Farms (FL), and Southern Belle Organics (NC).
Photo courtesy of A Land of Delight Natural Farm
Shoppers can choose from a wide assortment of USDA approved organic fruits and veggies.
The Guinea Pig Project
After reading some of these statistics about how unhealthy conventional fruit is I decided to go organic for a week. Trying to find restaurants that serve organic food on days that I wanted to eat out was nearly impossible.
From the various fruit I received from Tampa Bay Organics I noticed a slight difference in the taste. In comparison the organic pink lady apples, ataulfo mangos, breaker bananas, and pears tasted slightly sweeter and juicer than the non-organic fruits.
Use of organic produce lowers the overall exposure to pesticides in our environment, this may be especially important for women who are pregnant or nursing, according to BayCare. A study performed by Stephen A. Rauch published on Environmental Health Perspectives showed that expectant mothers who have elevated pesticide levels in their bodies have shown to give birth to smaller, earlier babies. Some studies suggest that eating meat from animals treated with antibiotics may contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans.
Organic is also better for the environment. Organically, managed soil holds more carbon dioxide which helps lower greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
How can you tell if fruits and veggies are organic? 73 percent of grocery stores sell organic food, according to BayCare, With so many stores claiming to be organic, it can be hard to tell which products are truly organic.
First, look at the product label. If the 5-digit number does not start with a 9 it is not certified organic by the government. Those that have a 5-digits beginning with an 8 contain GMO’s or genetically modified organisms and those with a 4-digit code mean it’s conventionally grown.
Photo courtesy of Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Facebook Page
Sweetwater Organic Farm located in Town N’ Country offers locally prepared organic veggies and shoppers can jam out to their Sunday music series.
1021 N. MacDill Ave. Tampa FL 33607
Hours: Monday-Friday: 8 am- 9 pm
Sunday 10 am- 7pm
3808 W Swann Ave Tampa FL 33609
Monday-Sunday: 8 am-9 pm
1548 North Dale Mabry Highway Tampa FL 33607
Monday to Sunday: 8 am- 10 pm
Monday through Sunday
Local Organic Co-Ops:
- DiVita Organics
323 Meadow Brook Court, Oldsmar
Buying club for organic produce and local dairy
- Lutz Local Food Club
Tampa Metro, North Tampa, New Tampa, South Pasco
Locally produced dairy, eggs, and organic produce
Food is kept fresh at Tampa Bay Organics in a large walk in fridge.
Organic Farms and Markets
A Land of Delight
2514 Leaning Pine Lane Plant City
Saturday: 8 am to 5 pm
Various fruits and veggies
14519 Balm Riverview Road, Riverview
Organic fruits and vegetables.
Big Bear Farms
7606 Kinard Rd, Plant City
Monday-Sunday: 9 am to 5 pm
U-Pick blueberry season: starts 4/21 open every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
4321 Needle Palm Road, Plant City
Provides fruits and vegetables to Plant City Green Market and other local businesses
Florida Urban Organics
11010 Riverview Dr., Riverview
Monday- Saturday: 10 am- 4 pm
Strawberries are available for u-pick.
My Mother’s Garden Farm
3819 County Road 579 South, Wimauma
Family-owned, certified organic farm and pasture that supplies Mabry’s Market in Wimauma.
Sweetwater Organic Community Farm
6942 W Comanche Ave, Tampa
Sunday: 12 pm -4 pm
Various fruits, veggies and organic coffee.
Tampa Downtown Market
400 and 500 block of Franklin Street and 200-300 Madison Street, Tampa
Mid-October through Mid-May, Fridays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Organic fruits and vegetables and homemade gifts
Tampa Wholesale Produce Market
2801 E. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, FL,
Year-round, Monday through Saturday, 3 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Locally grown organic fruits, vegetables and meats
Ybor City Saturday Market
8th Ave. and 19th Street, Ybor City, FL
Year-round, Saturdays 9 a.m.- 3 p.m.
Organic foods, entertainment, shopping
Photo courtesy of www.rabbitsectc.us
Chemically Free vegetables grown at Rabbits Etc using an upscale growing system.
Downtown Clearwater Farmers’ Market Clearwater City Hall, 112 S. Osceola, Clearwater
Sept. – March; Wednesdays 8 a.m. -1 p.m. Fruits, veggies, specialty products
1 Dunedin Downtown Market
Douglas and Main Street, Dunedin, FL
Friday and Saturday, 9 am. – 2 p.m.
Gateway Organic Farm
6000 150th Ave. N, Clearwater
727-492-0010; 727-244-0724 Provides locally grown, organic food delivering 6-8 vegetables and herbs a week to members during the growing season.
Saturday Summer Market
400 First St. S., St. Petersburg
June- Sept., Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Fruits, veggies, specialty items, kids activities
Berry Kingdom Inc.
26596 Ernest Lee Rd. Brooksville, FL. 34602
U-Pick Season starts late May thru Mid-July
Crops available now: Red Russian Kale, ready by appointment
June 1-July: Berry tomatoes and black berries
16362 Wilson Blvd. Masaryktown, FL 34604-7335
Monday-Saturday: 10 am.-5 pm
Tours: Saturday 3 pm
Chemical free carrots, and strawberries.
Tampa Bay Organics team prepares to ship veggies from local organic farms.
Cater Me Fit
205 Marlborough St, Oldsmar
Delivers between 5 and 9 p.m. Office open 9-5
Healthy meals delivered right to your door including the Paleo diet and specialized options. All food is freshly cooked and prepared and grown locally. Delivers on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Lower prices for monthly plans!
Tampa Bay Organics
21137 Leonard Rd, Lutz FL 33558
Monday- Thursday 9 am to 5 pm
Friday 9 am to 4 pm
Has different fruit available every week
Delivers to Gulfport, New Port Richey, Plant City and Dade City.
Delivers 3 days a week but delivery depends on what area you live in.
Lancaster’s Hydro Farm Organic Home Delivery Club
5329 Lithia Pinecrest Road, Lithia
813-482-2008 Local hydroponic farm offering the Tampa Bay area and surrounding communities the opportunity to experience the freshest vegetables and fruits available, delivered right to your door!
Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm
5416 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa
813-239-3276 Organic seasonal favorites and staples for delivery as well as grower’s supplies.
Photo courtesy of Big Bear Farms Inc.
Big Bear Farms Inc. has been organic since 2004 and meets all the USDA National Organic Programs regulations by using no synthetic herbicides, fungicides, miticides, insecticides or any other synthetic pesticides on crops. Blueberries are now available for u-pick.
Growing Organic at Home
One way to make sure that you are getting organic fruits and vegetables is to grow them yourself. Not only does growing fruits and veggies give you peace of mind that you are truly keeping the chemicals away, but it also gives you a fun family activity to do with the kids. Growing organic fruits and vegetables is simple: start by choosing the seeds that are in season and that will work for the type of light on your garden. If you live in an apartment, green boxes work perfectly for small vegetables.
To stay organic, make sure to buy soil that doesn’t come infused with chemicals. Shops like Grace’s Hydro Hydroponic Organic Garden Center are great places to get your organic garden started.
Remember, your garden may take a little longer to grow good fruits and veggies since you aren’t using chemicals, but it is well worth the wait.
Photo courtesy of flurbanorganics.com
Florida Urban Organics uses bio-organics to ensure no chemicals and pesticides get onto the crops