organic strawberries for saleImage courtesy of Maggie Yount

A multistate outbreak of hepatitis A in the US and Canada, potentially linked to fresh organic strawberries purchased in grocery stores, is yet another case for buying local: It’s easier to trust your food when you know your farmer.

A new tool from The Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit watchdog for the organic label, is helping eaters find these local gems. The Local Organic Berry Map identifies farms growing soil-grown, pesticide-free berries — some of the most delicious, nutrient-packed berries available.

Unlike the giant, blemish-free blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries that travel thousands of miles on tractor-trailers, these local alternatives are grown by farmers with direct relationships with the eaters who enjoy the sometimes-misshapen fruits of their meticulous labor.

Many of these organic farms, often small-scale operations, offer sales from their farms, with lush strawberries sold side-by-side with bright asparagus. But in states where berry season is a treasured time, many of these farms find a retail home on the grocery shelves.

Seeking them out is a meaningful act. “Choosing certified organic, soil-grown berries is an investment in farmers who are supporting human health and your local ecosystem,” says Cornucopia Policy Director Kestrel Burcham. “Authentic organic berry growers use a range of holistic practices that feed the soil microbiome, and vibrant soil is the source of the nutrients you need.”

So act fast and stock up on organic berries from your local grower. This winter, you will revel in the joy of a solstice pie made with blueberries sourced from your freezer.

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