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Farmer's Market Trend Spurs Tricksters

by Tiffany in Eating Local

I ran across two separate articles today that essentially shared the same alarming trend. Unethical farmer’s, agricorp, and chain grocery stores all want to cash in on this Farmer’s Market – Local Food craze. Those of us who love greener living and natural foods LOVE our farmer’s markets and when I read this stuff I  get REALLY pissed.

Farmer’s markets are one of the number one ways we have to tap into local food. I myself also use a local food delivery service but other than that.. the farmer’s market is the way to go. Our local Whole Foods is great but when I want food that is grown within 50 miles of my house then I go to the Farmer’s Market. I know from speaking to the vendors there that my apples were grown nearby and that the booth next door is selling apple butter that incorporates their apples. I know that the lady who sells the honey has bee boxes on her property and you can go and see them yourself. All that is sold there can be verified as local by simply getting in the car and taking a drive. We HAVE to be connected to our food chain. We just HAVE to be. When we allow a disconnect then we eat processed mystery foods that have questionable ingredients and nutrition. You know the whole phrase about when you stand for nothing you will fall for anything. As a society we have made some hugely BAD decisions in regards to food and for many us, local food has been just what we needed to get back on track. But now even that is under attack.

In Seattle, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon lately… some chain grocery stores posted signs with the term “Farmers Market” above produce displays in front of their stores. Even if the food is local this is just plain wrong. The beauty of the market is that you buy direct from the farmer without the middle man. You get to talk to the person who grew your food AND they get decent pay for their food. With chain grocery stores you have to take their word on how the food was grown and the farmer may have gotten paid a few pennies out of the deal. These companies are recognizing certain power words like Farmer’s Market and are trying to get in on the action when the very essence of what they represent goes against these terms.

In bigger cities you may also have something else to worry about… that your favorite market may have been corrupted. In Southern California some Farmer’s Markets have been caught in false claims and outright lies. A group of NBC investigators recently discovered that some of the “local farmers” are in fact getting their produce from major agricorp and even from out of the country while their own farms were nothing but dirt lots. The group also tested some of the produce they got for pesticides after the farmers promised that no pesticides were used. 3 out 5 had pesticides and too much for it to be cross contamination, which was the lame excuse given by the farmers when they were confronted. I guess it shows that if some farmer’s cannot hack it, they will get creative with their truth telling.

All of us need to be vigilant when we attend our local markets. We need to talk to the vendors, question them, and even do our investigative homework by taking farm tours and driving by their operations. Ethical farmer’s will welcome our inquiries because we have to protect the one system that exists to keep us connected to our food. We can also help them by spreading the word about wonderful farmers.

So what do you think? Are these isolated incidents or is this just the beginning of big agri-business trying to co-op our local food chain?

  • I noticed that same sign “Farmers Market” on the apples at a Giant Eagle in Columbus.

  • Shane P.

    That is so sad. We have to become more informed consumers. Thanks for passing on the message.

  • Thank you for this article. Love Love Love Farm markets, and I’m happy to be able to attend 2 a week here in Vancouver. I think the most important part of your article, and what we need to take away is TALK to the farmers. Know where it comes from, what’s done to it (sprayed/non sprayed) I think Farm markets are becoming Quaint places, iIN places, Cool places to go.. and while it’s great that new people are coming out and eating fresh food, discovering new foods and new recipes.. they are blindly stumbling in. “Farm market = healthy so ALL of this is great! ” However, there is sprayed food at my markets, and It feels to me like they are trying to sneak it in. Being amongst the healthy food, shinying their cheap apples to make them as good as the rest. But they’re not. And some people, don’t know to ask. I tell as many as I can each time, ” do you know that is sprayed?” and often they put it down and walk away. We can’t assume cause it’s in a farm market they have the same standards as we, just like we can’t assume Natural is Natural or healthy is healthy when we read it on a label. We must protect our bodies, and the only way is to ask and ask and ask. Thanks!

  • This is sad that people will try to take advantage like that. I live in SoCal and love the Farmers Markets here. Have built a relationship with some of the growers. It’s great to see how passionate they are about their crops and how happy they are to show them off.

    So when big business or people who want to turn a quick buck take advantage of that, it’s frustrating. Thanks for bring it to our attention.

  • Jessica

    I agree the term is becoming overused. We have small Asian run markets now named “Farmers Market” or ” Natural Market” when in fact they rarely have any organic produce, and what they have is certainly not local ( ie.strawberries in Jan. in NY). It is deceitful but you only have yourself to blame if you don’t investigate as you said. Farmers @ local markets are more than happy to tell you all the details of how they grow, harvest & even prepare their goods. Ours even gives a weekly newsletter with recipes & updates about the crops & workers which gives a brief glimpse of how much care & effort these people take to bring us great food we can feel good about serving. Thanks for sparking the conversation!

  • It’s not just the big city markets. We go to a very small FM in Worthington, MN and I frequently see things that are simply not in season in our area. They also undersell the local, legitimate farmers and make it much harder on them in multiple ways.

  • As much as I hate to think about it, I think “big local” will be the next “big organic”, converting local farms into local factory farms and driving the farmers out. The only way to preserve our food system is to make sure we know what we’re eating, where it came from, how it was produced and to vote with out dollars. Big business can’t take over without a support base, so it’s our duty as conscious consumes to deny them our support. Also, starting our own gardens, raising our own chickens and things like that are responsible actions so we don’t have to rely on big food production.
    Whew, sorry for the rant! But I think this is the only way to stay in control of our food.

  • andiscandis

    I’m of two minds about the chain stores’ ‘Farmer’s Market’ sections.

    On one hand, that’s not a Farmer’s Mkt. I strongly doubt that the farmers are profiting as much as they would at a real Farmer’s Mkt. It’s kinda greenwashing.

    On the other hand, it does show a positive consumer trend of fresh/local/organic food preference. The big chains wouldn’t be doing it if there wasn’t a buck to be made. Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I’m hopeful that this is the start of the chains sourcing more locally and making better food easily available to everyone. Chains are big and their small steps could have a big impact. Maybe that’s a pipe dream, though.

  • Brittany

    I figured out that the farmers market up here in the Rocky mountains where I live buys stuff from the stores and trys to sell it off. It makes me sooo sad, and it totally defetes the point.

  • julie

    I agree! I was very disappointed when I went to a favorite store of mine when they had a “farmers market”. This store is a chain and is supposed to be known for their great selection of organic foods and actually cheap prices, which is why I shop there. For this farmer’s market, they had the same produce from their conventional section, that of course was not pesticide free nor local. They had oranges from Nicaragua! I asked one of the employees, why none of the produce was local, because that’s what a farmer’s market is all about. Talk about losing trust. Not good at all. The things companies will do for a few extra bucks.

  • Cry

    it makes me mad too