Is Organic Produce Worth the Price?

When my friend Meg stopped by yesterday, she commented on the bowl of organic cherries adorning my kitchen counter. “Cherries,” she said, “Where can you get affordable cherries?”

“You can’t,” I told her, “I paid dearly for those.”

Yes, a bowl of precious jewels.

I was thinking about that conversation later in the afternoon and it occurred to me that I rarely bat an eye over the cost of a fancy coffee or the mediocre pastry to go along with it. Yet on Sunday at the farmer’s market, found myself pausing over the price of a pound of peaches.

Why is that?

Those peaches came from a small, family-run farm that grows everything organically on a spread not far from where I live. And they’re really nice to me – samples galore — which is more than I can say for the guy who sells me that coffee drink.

The peaches were fragrant, just firm enough, and after sitting in the sunlight of my kitchen, warm and juicy to the bite.

Organic Produce is a Privilege

There’s no doubt that it is a privilege to eat such food, particularly when you consider that there are parents in this country who have to decide between dinner and diapers. And I don’t want the conversation about organic to scare folks away from eating fruits and vegetables, however they’re grown. We are already falling woefully short of eating enough produce in this country. Research shows that it is far healthier to eat conventional fruits and vegetables than to skip out because of pesticide fears.

Impact on Farm Workers

That being said, if you have the room in your budget to choose organic over conventional, I think the produce is worth the price. This is in part because of what is often left out of this conversation: the health of the hard working men and women who plant and harvest these foods. Many farm workers (and often their children) are exposed to chemicals that can have long-term health consequences. And there is also the impact on the environment to consider.

Voting with your Fork

As for where I stand, I recognize that these are complicated issues. I continue to pause at the price of organic produce, especially as my kids power through a bag of peaches before I’ve even got it unloaded from my shopping tote. I have to remind myself that when it’s available and doable, buying organic is voting with my fork. It’s choosing something that likely tastes better, and is grown with minimal impact on the earth and the people who do the hard labor of getting the food from farm to table. My hope is that the greater the demand for pesticide-free produce, the more affordable and available it will become.

Stretching your Organic Food Dollars

The Environmental Working Group puts out an annual shoppers guide of produce they deem the “Dirty Dozen” and Clean 15″.  It highlights the fruits and vegetables with the most and least pesticide residues. I’d love to see them lose the “dirty” and “clean” references, but I think it’s worth knowing which foods to prioritize when it comes to buying organic.

Recipe Ideas

If you do happen to have cherries sitting on your kitchen counter, or peaches in your fruit bowl, or other favorite fruits:

Check out these 8 scrumptious fruit desserts

Try this tasty Peach & Ricotta Toast

Use sliced peaches in place of apples in this Rustic Italian Cake.

Try this recipe for Pork Chops with Peach Salsa 

Indulge in one of my favorites: Cherry Clafouti from Smitten Kitchen


06.19.2012 at8:03 AM #

Anne Mullen

Put that way, who can resist that good fruit? Have coffee at home.

06.19.2012 at8:03 AM #

Katie Morford

Especially when you have such wonderful goodies where you are every summer!

06.19.2012 at8:56 AM #


Now that, Ms. Morford, is what I call putting things in perspective! Love it. Shifting my thinking a bit…and taking the cost of those delicious gems out of the weekly grocery bill and thinking of them as delectable and mother-earth loving treats I’d gladly buy instead of a coffee. Yes!

06.19.2012 at4:03 PM #


Especially amazing seasonal produce like cherries and peaches! You can get that overpriced coffee drink year round, but good organic, tree-ripened peaches only come a few months a year!

06.19.2012 at4:03 PM #

Katie Morford

Very well put, Monica. Thanks.

06.20.2012 at12:10 PM #

Bliss Tobin

This is a tough one for me. First, Katie, I am grateful that you have put it into perspective – we do all make choices on how we spend our money. Thank you – local, organic produce over so many other less healthy options. It could be a $4 latte, or the latest plastic toy. Still, I struggle with knowing that organic, local farmers need to make the living they deserve, and yet, how can I participate in making the same gorgeous, healthy food more accessible to all? I believe there are some programs to bring leftover produce from Farmer’s Markets to organizations that can distribute them more widely and affordably. (More information on this would be welcome). I have just been through 3 months of a restrictive diet, in which our groceries have been the very most selective, and the bills have shot through the roof. This has been balanced by the fact that we are not eating out, but I’m aware that this is not possible for all. I know, this is a much larger socio-economic issue…….. I will close feeling fortunate for my circumstances and will be trying Katie’s grilled pork with peaches.

06.20.2012 at12:10 PM #

Katie Morford

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Bliss. This is such a giant topic, far beyond the scope of my little take on it. Yes, all of these gorgeous foods should be affordable and accessible to all. I do know that programs are in the works, among them the option to use food stamps at farmer’s markets. When a large order of fries comes so very cheap and so easy, it’s hard to opt for the pricey pound of organic potatoes.

06.21.2012 at2:51 PM #

Bliss Tobin

I also want to say that your “dirty dozen” and “clean 15” is a great start to managing good food and the pocketbook. I refer to it every time I shop. Thank you!

06.21.2012 at2:51 PM #

Katie Morford

That’s a good point, Bliss. I do think that is a really useful tool.

02.22.2013 at10:48 AM #


AMEN! It drives me insane when people talk about how expensive produce is, but routinely buy boneless skinless chicken breast or ribeye steaks. Or the coffees or they pay $20 a week to get their nails done and don’t blink an eye…but they freak if they have to pay over $1.50 for a loaf of bread. I’m in the PNW and we have Taco Time here. It’s fresh, delicious, local and only slightly more expensive than Taco BELL, but people always complain about how “expensive” it is. REAL FOOD is worth paying for!

02.22.2013 at10:48 AM #

Katie Morford

Preaching to the choir over here. Thanks for the comment.

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