The Dirty Dozen isn’t just a movie from the late 1960s. Today, the “dirty dozen” has a far heavier meaning attached to it and refers instead to a list of 12 fruits and vegetables laden with pesticides: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes.
According to Environmental Working Group’s 2017 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, a single sample of strawberries turned up about eight different pesticides. How can you avoid this? Grow your own or buy local. And while the desert seems like an unlikely place to grow anything other than cacti, life blooms here. Just pop your head into a farmers market on any given day and find a plethora of greens that didn’t travel from other states or even other countries to get here.
According to Kerry Clasby, founder of Intuitive Forager and curator of Downtown3rd farmers market, there are a few things that are important to know before buying produce to determine if it’s toxic.
“When talking to a farmer, ask what they use for weed control and pest control, and what they are using to feed plants and fertilize the soil,” she advises.
Downtown3rd is a good place to start for sustainable food. The vendors and products are handpicked by Clasby, a farmer–turned–produce curator who travels to 150 farms each week and supplies many of the celebrity chefs (and others) in town with chemical-free, local or regionally grown organic produce.
Open Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., it isn’t just a hub for produce; it also features artisanal food items. The goal of the market is to help smaller farmers get their products out to the public. Clasby and her team work to make sure permits are secured and people are buying.
One of the vendors at Downtown3rd is urban farmer Roman Garay of Sin City Farms (Instagram:
@sincityfarming), who showcases his homegrown, fast-growing greens (60 days from seed to harvest) every week. Currently supplying locals and restaurants Downtown, his goal is to introduce people to a healthier lifestyle via chemical-free fruits and vegetables.
“I want people to get the nutrition they need from locally grown produce,” he says. “It’s a big thing for me to have people get more of the vitamins from cancer-fighting greens.”
There’s also the Tomato Lady, Leslie Doyle of Sweet Tomato Test Garden, who sells at the market, as well as at her farm (5910 Sheila Ave.). A veteran gardener, she is quick to remind people you most definitely can grow tomatoes in the desert, and she runs classes to teach locals how to grow their own produce.
“When I first moved here 30 years ago, people said you can’t grow anything in the desert,” she says. “It’s gone from that to my telling everybody you can grow everything here. In the last 10 to 15 years since I’ve been teaching, [sustainable food] has really come alive.”
Some of the best options for local produce
Gilcrease Orchard spans 60 acres and offers everything from garden greens to butters to fruits. 7800 N. Tenaya Way, thegilcreaseorchard.org
Vegas Roots Community Garden lets you grow your own produce in 5-by-10 plots. 715 N. Tonopah Drive, vegasroots.org
Downtown3rd Farmers Market offers organic produce, artisanal foods and more. Fridays,
9 a.m.–2 p.m., 201 N. Third St.
fresh52 Farmers’ & Artisan Markets can be found in numerous locations weekly, selling local and regional produce, artisanal goods and crafts, as well as featuring food vendors. Tivoli Village, 440 S. Rampart Blvd., Saturdays, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.; Sansone Park Place, 9500
S. Eastern Ave., Sundays, 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m.; Inspirada, 2000 Via Firenze, May 13 and 27,
9 a.m.–1 p.m.; fresh52.com
Henderson Farmers Markets feature dozens of vendors from California and local farms, as well as fresh-baked breads and pastries, coffee and more. 240 S. Water St., Thursdays, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; 200 S. Green Valley Pkwy., Fridays, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; hendersonfarmersmarketnv.com