Five assumptions about farmers markets:
- Just because everything looks fresh and green doesn’t mean it is. Be aware of the growing seasons in your area, and if you see some items that are not “in season”, you can ask questions about how fresh the produce is and whether or not it has been in food storage for awhile.
- The produce is not necessarily free of pesticides and herbicides. It may look great and healthy, but if you want to be careful about ingesting poisons, do not let your guard down just because you aren’t at your local supermarket. Ask questions!
- If buying organic is important to you, don’t assume that an open-air, seasonal farmers market is naturally organic. Be aware that genetically-modified foods and chemically-fertilized produce is abundant at farmers markets, just like they are at your local grocer. Again, ask questions!
- If buying “locally grown” is important to you, farmers markets do not necessarily promise this. Many market vendors, in order to make a living, supplement their produce offerings with items that are grown elsewhere in order to offer a variety. In the Dallas area, for example, many local farmers markets have products that come from 500 or 600 miles away in the Rio Grande Valley. This is not to say we shouldn’t buy the products; it simply means that the products are not necessarily grown locally. Nothing wrong with this, but it might be important to some shoppers to know.
- Many of the vendors at farmers markets are brokers, not the farmers themselves. One of the good things about buying from local farmers markets is that you are at least one purchasing level closer to the people who grow the food. However, many of the market vendors are broker-dealers and may not have much knowledge about how the food was grown and harvested.
When this season rolls around every year, I love my Saturday morning shopping trips to the local farmers markets. But, through the years I have discovered that I am not always getting what I think I’m getting. It’s not that I’ve been lied to or deceived. Rather, it’s that I have brought along a load of naivete about the way the food and distribution system works. Knowing this, I have become much more realistic about my expectations at these markets, and because I am better informed than before, I feel much better about the purchasing decisions I’ve made. To better health!