Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another Farmer's Market Rant

I've gone an entire month since ranting about a local Famer's Market and here I am on my soapbox again. I've been a bit AWOL from the blog this past week because my mom has been in town and we've spent our evenings playing iPhone Scrabble with each other and the blog got shoved to the backburner. Of course, I'm still trying to sort out my bandwidth issues, but that's another story.

So yesterday morning I thought it would be nice to take my mom and the boys to our local - and most popular - Farmer's Market. I wrote a blog entry about this market in July of last year, but since then I've learned a lot more about buying local so my expectations have changed dramatically.

I now expect the produce I buy at the Farmer's Market to be local and thanks to some wonderful comments to my blog entry about this last month, I see most of you do too! This Farmer's Market is in a very ritzy little town and it's such a popular market - you never hear a bad thing about it. It is definitely the biggest and best market around.

Am I missing something here? On first glance it appears great. My mom and I and the boys had a fab time wandering through the stalls, but I grabbed some photos on my phone to show you what I found a bit bizarre.

Look at these prepackaged baby carrots. Aren't these the same ones I can get at the grocery store? I'd rather buy them in the refrigerated section of the grocery store than here sitting out in 95+ degree heat.

I went looking for legitimate carrots and found these.

California carrots. That's a helluva trip from California to Florida. So much for buying local.

Then I found some Pink Lady apples and some Georgia peaches. Clearly they aren't from Florida.

I bought a small box of new potatoes from the busiest vendor in the market (the same place the bagged baby carrots were located). I asked her where the potatoes were grown? I used to be na├»ve enough to think that a produce vendor was associated with the farm that grew the produce. Now I know better. She said "Um…I think Florida. Maybe not? Their growing season is pretty much over for potatoes, so probably another Southern state."


Well I do like blueberries in my morning oatmeal. I saw these and thought they might taste good.

But they're from New Jersey. Clearly they haven't met the carrots who'll win the "traveled the farthest" award at the vegetable reunion. So I didn't buy them - or even consider them. And the prepackaged plastic box didn't help either. The blueberries I buy at my local grocery store say "Grown in Florida, USA" on the box, so I'll stick with those.

It was hot and we'd just downed some kettle corn and croissants so I treated us all to freshly-squeezed lemonade from another hugely popular vendor who always has a very long line of thirsty patrons. It was delicious, although it was mostly ice. But styrofoam cups? Really? Here we are being green and bringing our own reusable bags and trying to buy local and organic from a Farmer's Market. But we end up with prepackaged food from other states and a styrofoam cup.

Regardless, it was a great morning out with my mom and it is a beautiful Farmer's Market, but when you delve a little deeper, things aren't quite as they seem.


Robin said...

We have a local market that actually only sells locally grown vegetables. They are very strict and the owner must be there as well. I guess that we are lucky. It's only open on Sundays....that reminds me it's Sunday. I'm all out of, I better go over there and see if I can find some.

Ribbit said...

I just posted yesterday about a farmer's market in our area that was anything but. No matter how grass-rootsy people try to be by shopping and selling at farmer's markets, we still just don't seem to get it, do we?

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi Kate,
Our farmer's market requires the people who grow the produce to be there, but there have been people who had relatives in other states, and they've sold their produce for them.

One of the families I buy lots from has been selling nice looking cucumbers for a dollar each the last several weeks. I quit buying them when it seemed like there was wax on them. I should ask if they grew them, but I know they grow the other food they sell, and don't want to offend them.

I'm glad you had fun with your mom. I need to take a break from blogging to clean my house. We'll see if that happens.

Erin said...

OMG Kate, this post actually made me laugh! Not the "how cute" laugh, but the laugh of a person that is so jaded now nothing surprises me at Farmer's Markets kind of laugh - WTH?! LOVE the styrofoam cup, what WERE they thinking???

Kate and Crew said...

I just emailed the commissioner of the FL Dep't of Agriculture and asked him to let me know what the rules and reg's are regarding FL famer's markets.

I'm not sure if I'll get a real response or a canned response, but the email is out there!

Will update if I get anything back.

Unknown said...

You need to submit your post as a letter to the Editor in your town. It's amazing - how many people are totally ignorant to the intended concept of the Local Farmer's Market. And it seems the producers of the situation you're speaking of here are - very - well aware of that fact. And they're taking pure advantage of it - all for only the sake of making a buck off of 'suckers' they can reel in with a 'buzz word'. Educate your community. Tell them the truth. Local Farmer's Markets are supposed to have STRICT GUIDELINES pertaining to the food items sold there. Local and Organic are the two main requirements. The local Ag Extension Agent is supposed to certify the food - as well.

You start plastering the facts in your local newspaper. Somebody out there with the right clout - the money - and the push - will grab hold and help square that joke up.

And don't hold anything back when it comes to your opinion. Remember - you're spending YOUR money there.

Aagaard Farms said...

You are so right! We organize Farmers' Markets and have had people sign up who come with the packaged veg from the restaurant wholesaler. We told them it wasn't appropriate! I get that those people are entrepreneurs trying to make some money - but we firmly believe that that is not what Farmers' Markets are for! But the glorious thing about Farmers Markets is that you can talk to the vendor and get the info you want! As with everything (sigh) it's Buyer Beware. And, people 'speak' with their dollars - don't buy if it's not local!

Kelly said...

Our farmer's markets do not need to be filled with organic produce, and in fact most aren't. But the products are grown locally I assume, only based on the limited season and change of offerings from week to week. Things only show up when they are 'in season'.

Farm stands on the other hand import all sorts of stuff- and people may not assume that when they pull over in front of a farm to buy some veggies, that they may have come from somewhere entirely different....but I don't mind that because buying from the stand supports the local farmer who may only grow peaches and apples.

meemsnyc said...

Wow, this is so disturbing on so many levels. I would be upset too if I saw so many Non-local produce being sold at farmer's markets. We have a farmers market in NYC that is really strict about the food being grown locally in the tri-state area. Sorry to hear that they were shipping stuff in to sell it.

J.Q. Rose said...

To be truly locally grown, only produce "in season" would be for sale. However during off season, vendors, to make a dime, have to sell produce that was purchased from other locales for re-sale. So be suspicious of strawberries in Michigan in early spring! Definitely not local.

Grower Jim said...

It seems your "Farmer's Market" has morphed into a "Produce Market". They're not the same thing!
I often lament the decline in the number of local roadside produce stands. I used to be able to drive along Orange Blossom Trail between Orlando and Eustis and buy produce that was picked fresh that morning! Sadly, most of the small farms have sold out to developers.

Danielles Garden said...

I have the same problems with my farmers market. I think you should write a short simple letter to the editor.

Amy said...

We had a farm stand open on a vacant corner lot last year. Their produce is from Colorado (where I also live). I think their success along with the growing popularity of produce stands and farmers markets must have inspired a competing produce stand on another corner about a block away. They proudly advertise Arkansas tomatoes on a banner and I've seen a sign that says BANANAS. Ya know... those don't grow in Colorado...

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