But in the last five years, the Port City's conscience eating landscape has changed with new farmers markets, farm co-ops and the addition of two more organic grocers - Carolina Farmin' and Whole Foods. And Trader Joe's is close behind, building its future Wilmington store this summer on the corner of Oleander Drive and South College Road.
Managers at Wilmington's greybeard organic grocer, Tidal Creek, said many of their loyal customers come for health reasons while other are fulfilling religious or moral food regimens. For evangelicals, ethical eating is about caring for God's creation. For some Asian faiths, it's about causing the least harm in this world in our consumption.
"The teachings of many religions value food at its basic source, at its most natural and unprocessed," said Craig Harris, Tidal Creek's general manager. "I think this town can support us and Whole Foods and Trader Joes and others, and the big picture is, it'll help us all."
Other shoppers want to keep their money in Southeastern North Carolina, buying pickles made on Carolina Beach Road or sunflowers grown in Castle Hayne. Farmers co-ops such as The Produce Box and Black River Organic Farm bring a collection of local farm vegetable, meats and breads to people's homes in Southeastern North Carolina each week. The Feast Down East program began as a response to the economic and job loss issues in Southeastern North Carolina and connects farmers with food businesses and individual customers.
"We want to give our customers the best value with local products that we possibly can because they're all our neighbors," said Lovey's co-owner Karen Stewart.
The newbie, Whole Foods, is running a promotion through June 26 to help educate farmers on bee preservation called Share the Buzz. When shoppers buy organic cantaloupes, 50 cents goes back to the Xerces Society to help the farmers and the bees.
If you're overwhelmed by all the choices at each of these organic, check out a few ethical eating products we gleaned at each of these grocers and farmers markets and services.
Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958 or