Farmers Markets have been gaining in popularity all across the country. Woo-hoo! It’s so encouraging to see new small farms pop up each year. In fact, I just met a new farmer last weekend at my local market and was able to ask him all about his growing practices. We had a long conversation about why he wasn’t certified organic, and what steps he took to grow without pesticides and chemicals.
Sadly, as markets become more common place expect to see more produce re-sellers. What is a re-seller? A re-seller is someone who buys produce that may or may not be local and then re-sells it at a farmers market.
Someone buys produce from a local produce house at wholesale prices and then sells it retail.
Giveaways: Produce that is NOT in season, or displayed in bulk. Produce that may look extra clean and shiny just like the grocery store (no dirt or bugs).
Issue: This produce is not local. Or it has been grown by a conventional mass farmer. There are no quality standards, and you can be sure it’s not grown organically or naturally.
Someone who buys produce from the Amish and then resells it. (Different than Mennonites selling their own)
Giveaways: Produce varieties that aren’t grown by other farmers. They may have something that no one else has. Table may have lots of jams and jellies on it from another city than where the produce may come from.
Issue: You aren’t able to speak directly to your farmer. Amish produce is assumed to be organic, but most use commercial pesticides. However, some have adopted organic practices. Produce may be from a multitude of different farms, all with different growing practices. Again, no quality standards and no guarantee what you are getting.
How to Make Sure You Are Getting Your Produce from the Actual Farmer:
1. Ask lots of questions. Ask the person at the booth if they are the farmer. Ask them if they grow the food. Ask them what their growing practices are. Really get to know your farmer. Don’t just ask where is their farm located.
2. Check to see if your Farmers Market is a Producer-Only Market. You can email the market manager to ask if they have any produce re-sellers at the market.
3. If you still aren’t sure, ask the Farmer if they do farm visits. If they shutter or hesitate, take your business elsewhere. Farmers should be transparent and expect and want to have tours.
Why It’s Important to Buy from the Actual Farmer:
1. You are financially supporting a small family farm. Family farms don’t make a huge living. Most will tell you they do this because of the love for farming, the love of good nutritious food, and the opportunity to share that with YOU.
2. Keep the local food movement pure. It’s really easy for impostures to ride the success of the local food movement, and we want to make sure that it stays about the small family farmers who have dedicated their lives to this, not those seeing an opportunity.
3. You get to shake the hand of the person who grew your food. The farmer/customer relationship is so valuable and truly a unique and beautiful thing. That is what sets a farmers market apart from a grocery store. You get to connect with your farmer, and ask about your food.
At the end of the day, support the person who you can look in the eyes and thank for their hard work to feed your family. It’s as simple as that.