Shopping at a local farmers market is a good way to limit your exposure to pesticides while still staying on a budget because organics are generally cheaper at farmers markets compared to the grocery store.

According to Consumer Reports, 85 percent of Americans are concerned about their exposure to pesticides from produce. Is this worry justified? The answer depends on the amount of an individual’s exposure and the types of produce eaten. Although we know that the average human body contains trace amounts of 29 different pesticides, based on a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, we do not know how that affects the health of average consumers compared to people who are exposed to large amounts of pesticides, like farm workers and those living in farming communities. Eating produce that requires heavier pesticide usage, like strawberries, spinach, apples, grapes, potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes, increases your contact with pesticides. And, eating produce that has not been washed also ups your exposure.

Organic produce has been found to contain fewer pesticides than conventional produce and experts at Consumer Reports recommend buying organic produce to limit your exposure to pesticides. But, with organics costing an average 49 percent more than conventional produce, that may not be possible for many. Shopping at a local farmers market is a good way to limit your exposure to pesticides while still staying on a budget because organics are generally cheaper at farmers markets compared to the grocery store.

Although the majority of produce vendors at the Ottawa County Farmers Market are not USDA-certified organic growers (like Eden Valley Farm from Eucha), most use natural, chemical-free methods to repel pests whenever possible. Here are some of the methods used: Sprays made from vegetable/mineral/neem oil, soap, garlic, or chili peppers work to suffocate bugs or disrupts their life cycle. Using dichotomous earth (crushed sedimentary rock) alters a bug’s exoskeleton resulting in dehydration and death. Complimentary planting is the practice of surrounding crops with plants that naturally repel certain pests, like marigolds, chamomile, allium, and petunias. And, removing bugs by hand is a time-consuming, but effective method to reduce pests.

In general, purchasing organic produce or shopping farmers markets as much as possible and being sure to wash all produce under running water will help reduce your body’s exposure to pesticides.

This week at the Ottawa County Farmers Market we expect our first cantaloupe of the season and will continue to have tables loaded with tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, okra, green beans, eggplant, assorted greens and herbs, some blackberries and corn. We will also have local products like mushrooms, eggs, baked goods, and raw honey.

Bring the kids to the market to sign them up for the Veggie Victors Kid’s Club where they will learn about carrots this week to earn a fun prize and Market Cash. We will also be making egg carton bird feeders for our kid’s craft. Miami’s Josh Anderson will be strumming country hits on his guitar. Frozen Cabana returns with shaved ice treats. Try a sample of carrot apple salad with our food guru, Alexis.

The Farmers Market takes place every Thursday from 4-7 p.m. at 225 B St NW in downtown Miami.