Voice of the Restaurant Industry
Reported by foodem.com, the online wholesale food marketplace-
Going to a local farmer’s market can be an enriching experience. Being surrounded by mountains of red apples and green pears, piles of yellow zucchini and baby squash, snow peas to the left of you and sunflowers standing at attention to your right, is just a few of the distinctive offerings found at a farmer’s market.
There’s nothing like immersing yourself in the sights, sounds and smells at a local market, not to mention the social aspect of the visit; you get to meet other locals that care about sustainability, the foods they eat and where they come from, and engage with farmers, growers and other food producers.
Sounds awesome, right? Well beware, any good thing can be ruined by myths and scams. Due to the popularity of farmer’s markets, they are being co-opted by retailers, wholesalers and farmers who may be local but dollar signs outweigh their commitment to a sustainable food supply. Additionally, people tend to think farmer’s markets sell good, wholesome, clean food. Most of the time that statement holds true, but not always.
If you frequent farmer’s markets, avoid being bamboozled. Check out the list of misconceptions giving farmer’s markets a bad rep.
Don’t be fooled! There are two types of markets: farm markets and “real” farmer’s markets. Farm markets are where buyers resell produce purchased at wholesale markets. To find genuine farmer’s markets, look for “producer-only” markets. These are markets where farmers are the growers and are selling food items from their farms. If you’re unsure about your favorite market, ask the director or market coordinator.
Many equate local food with organic food. That’s a no, no! Farmers who advertise their food items as “organic” must do two things 1) become certified by a USDA-accredited third party and 2) keep very detailed records regarding their farming practices. There is one exception to this rule, growers who earn less than $5,000 a year can legally market their produce as organic, but they must keep records to prove they are organic. Just remember, local farmers who are not certified organic have the ability to use pesticides. Don’t be naïve. Just because a farmer shows up at a small market doesn’t mean that their produce is pesticide-free.
Terms such as no-spray, chemical-free, natural, or grown using organic methods, what do they actually mean? With no organic certification, they mean diddly-squat. Don Franczyk, executive director of Baystate Organic Certifiers says, “There are no regulatory requirements for ‘no-spray’ or ‘chemical-free’ programs. The terms are meaningless.” Any farmer marketing “no-spray” produce should be asked exactly what that term means.
Sure, the produce may be pesticide-free, but it’s still dirty and needs a good washing. Think about all the people who have handled the produce from the time it was picked on the farm to its arrival at the market. Here’s a tip, make your own produce spray by mixing 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, and 1 cup cold tap water. Shake the mixture well, spray your produce down and rinse with water before eating.
Bugs and insects are very beneficial to farming. Some farmers install pollinator plantings such as meadows and wildlife barriers in order to attract helpful insects into the crop to prey on pests that could cause damage.
Be sure to take note of these misconceptions and be prepared for your next visit to your local farmer’s market. Don’t be bashful, ask questions and voice your concerns. After all, you will be spending money and using the food to feed yourself and your family.
Where’s your favorite farmer’s market located? Why is it your favorite? Have you ever been mislead by a market vendor? Tell us about your farmer’s market experiences in the comments area below.