Did you know that eating conventional produce increases your risk of pesticide contamination by 30 percent?
And chowing down on non-organic chicken and pork increases your risk of exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria by 33 percent?
This is all according to a 2012 Annals of Internal Medicine report.
If you're not already sold on the benefits of eating organic, consider this: organic foods may have more nutrients than their conventionally produced counterparts.
Organic broccoli, for example, has higher levels of antioxidants and vitamin C than the traditionally produced variety, found a 2012 Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture study. There’s also evidence of more heart-healthy omega-3s in organic poultry and dairy.
So eating organic is good for you and your family, but here's more: organic grub is good for Mother Earth. Foods advertised as organic must be grown by farmers who aim to use renewable resources, and conserve the soil and water. These practices preserve the environment and help prevent the extinction of numerous animal species.
One place to start your hunt for eco-friendly food options in and around the East Bay is by checking out the Om Organics' resource directory. It provides a go-to list for all things organic in the Bay Area. In it you can find names of restaurants, caterers and personal chefs that use organic ingredients in the food they prepare as well as grocery stores, markets, delivery services and food co-ops selling organics.
Whether you like to shop at farmers' markets, specialty grocers, buy directly from farms and pick-up your purchase weekly or have your produce delivered to your door there options out there for most every budget and lifestyle.
Most major grocery chains also now have at least some selection of organic meat, dairy, produce and packaged foods. If you cannot readily find what you are looking for it is worth asking a store clerk because often organic options are sprinkled among other products throughout these stores.
There are also specialty retailers selling organics on this side of the Bay worth exploring. Among them are Harvest House in Concord, One Earth Health Foods in Danville, Rockridge Market Hall, Lakeshore Natural Foods, Food Mill and Farmer Joe's in Oakland.
You might be surprised to learn the bargain Grocery Outlet with stores all over the Bay Area (including Concord, Pleasant Hill, Oakland and Berkeley) is known for selling a large number of organic brand foods. The selection is continually changing so you will find different products on the shelves from week to week, but good options at discounted prices can be found here. Grocery Outlet stores are owned by local owner/operators.
A number of companies will deliver organic offerings to your home or office. Usually they will deliver your pre-selected order on a particular day of the week, when they are scheduled to be in your area. It is worth calling them, even if your own town is not among places they currently deliver. (Many have started out small and have expanded their delivery range over time. They may be planning to come to your area soon or would if there was enough demand.)
CSAs - Community Supported Agriculture
About.com has an entire directory of CSA offerings in the Bay Area. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) links consumers directly with farmers. In general, consumers purchase a stake in the farm's harvest in advance and in turn reap the benefits of that harvest in the form of food later in the year. Consumers pick-up their food at drop-off points or by other means arranged with the farms.
Click on the links below to read about some CSAs that serve the Bay Area:
Eatwell Farm (Among its delivery sites are Lafayette, El Cerrito and Oakland)
Full Belly Farm (Deliveries are made to Danville, Albany and Oakland) with pick-ups elsewhere in the East Bay).
River Dog Farm (They deliver vegetable boxes in Concord, Walnut Creek and Oakland in addition to some other Northern California communities.)
Terra Firma Farms has pick-up sites throughout much of the East Bay and beyond.
Soul Food Farm, with pick-up sites in the East Bay, offers pastured poultry and eggs.
Why not explore a Farmers' Market near you or take excursions to visit others further away? Click on the links provided below for information about each one.
Contra Costa Certified Farmer’s Markets holds markets in Martinez, Orinda, Walnut Creek and Concord.
Pacific Coast Farmers' Markets has 14 markets in Alameda County and 15 in Contra Costa County, including Pleasant Hill, Clayton, Concord and Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek. You can visit its website here to find current information on locations and hours.
The California Farmers Markets Association operates markets in Walnut Creek, Rossmoor, Moraga and San Leandro.
Urban Village operates Farmers Markets in Lafayette and the Montclair, Temescal and Old Oakland districts of Oakland.