Local farmers markets…challenging our assumptions

highlight03It’s that time of year when local farmers markets are abundant in good home-grown produce, but it is important that veggie and fruit buyers beware of our own assumptions about what we are buying.

Five assumptions about farmers markets:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

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4 thoughts on “Local farmers markets…challenging our assumptions

  1. Our Farmer’s Market only runs from July-September and only from 7-11 am on Saturdays. I have only been once, and frankly wasn’t impressed. I’m pretty certain it was all locally grown stuff though (this is a large agricultural area after all, and all the produce is brought in that morning so it’s not financially feasible to bring in something you have to mark-up when there’s not enough people to turn a profit in that manner).

    I noticed that most vendors offered the same produce. There wasn’t much difference from booth to booth, and I left without buying anything. I didn’t have anything specific in mind when I went, it was just a “Hey, while we’re out, let’s stop by here” kind of thing.

    I had much better luck when I lived in the Phoenix area, and Farmer’s Markets would be set up just throughout the area every weekend, and there was always a variety of local produce. It was more expensive than buying from the grocery store though, so my budget just didn’t allow for going often.

    Reply
  2. Stephanie, your experience sounds very typical with my own. The Dallas Farmers Market is huge and very, very good. The local ones around my community are very good, more locally grown, and less variety. However, I prefer buying there because of convenience. When I really want to get eyes full of beautiful fresh produce, though, I go to the Dallas Farmers Market.

    Reply
    • Sounds like the kind of place I could get lost in – in the good way!

      My favorite place so far is Pike’s Place in Seattle. So much local food and crafts. I could (have!) spent hours there on more than one occasion. Can’t wait until I’m in that area for good. I need somewhere I can dig in the dirt and grow my own food without having to bring in bags up on bags of “good” soil because all I have in my yard is clay, and the only thing that grows well in THAT so far is weeds!

      Reply
  3. The Dallas Farmers Market is a real treat. They have four or five very large open-air “sheds” that are city blocks in length, and they also have a lot of vendors set up outside the sheds. I don’t go there more than once a year because I’m about 25 miles away. Our local market on our town’s Main St is small, but dependable and good.

    Reply

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