Interested in a little deep thinking with that carrot?

There is a broad and deep debate going on around the carrot (and all vegetables) on your table. This debate has spilled on to the front pages of newspapers around the country.

In the good old days, just a year or two ago, you could go to the farm market and pretty much expect that you were going to find carrots that were not like the carrots for sale in the produce section at the supermarket. That is to say farm market carrots were fresh, organically grown and came from gardens or farms nearby. And by comparison, the carrots at the supermarket you pretty much hoped were fresh and as for how or where they were grown…well, you were never quite clear on that.

Since the supermarket carrots were almost always less expensive than the carrots at the farm market, you assumed that the supermarket carrots probably came from really big farms—field factories–that used big tractors and applied the latest and best fertilizers and herbicides to get the crop in exactly on time and into the market at a low price.

But putting aside price and savoring taste, you would no doubt swear that the organically grown carrot from the farm market was sweet and tasty and the carrot from the supermarket was orange and big.

Well, zooming your thinking forward, you concluded something like this: farm market carrot = organically grown by a local farmer = tasty; and supermarket carrot = big farm grown = good price.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting:

Since farm markets are not always convenient like supermarkets (think rain and snow and winter), there began a movement back in the ‘70s of organic food cooperatives, year-round organic food markets. Zoom forward to the ‘90s and forward again to today and you find organic carrot purveyors like Whole Foods Market. (Whole Foods was born from the merger upon merger upon merger of local organic food cooperatives.) Today, Whole Foods carrots are organic and tasty, and the Whole Foods Market company has stores across the country and books several billion dollars in sales each year.

Billions of dollars in organic carrot and other food sales in one year can attract attention.

So that explains the story on the front page of the New York Times not long ago reporting that Wal-Mart (the biggest grocery retailer in the world and universe) has decided to begin selling organic carrots and lots of other organic foods. So where will all those organic carrots come from? Not close to home; some from as far away as China.

Has your carrot (and vegetable) buying world just turned upside down?

Organic carrots from China = fresh = tasty? Well, yes if you live in China.

When you pick up your carrots at the farm market this week, think it over. If you stop by and chat with the market coordinator, you will probably learn that the carrots at your farm market came from within 50 miles or less of the market site. That’s pretty local.

If you stop by the supermarket this week, ask the carrot buyer there where her carrots came from.

Carrots are good food for thought.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

How To Grow Tips

How To Grow Tomatoes

How To Grow Peppers

How To Grow Broccoli

How To Grow Carrots

How To Grow Beans

How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Peas

How To Grow Lettuce

How To Grow Cucumbers

How To Grow Zucchini and Summer Squash

How To Grow Onions

How To Grow Potatoes

It’s Summer