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May 3, 2007 09:29 PM

Farmers' Market Frauds

Is it just me or do any of you get annoyed walking around our “Farmers’ Markets” and seeing sellers who obviously are sourcing their produce from wholesalers? For example, stands selling produce as diverse as lettuce and tomatoes. These two vegetable need ENTIRELY different climates: lettuce is a cool weather vegetable but tomatoes need it HOT! Citrus and strawberries from the same farm? I doubt it.

I’m not really looking to pay more just for the experience of buying produce outside while watching people in sunhats using burlap sacks get their “organic” on – another aspect of farmers’ markets that I’m skeptical over. When I go, I do try to buy from the vendors that I really think are farmers. I may just be a curmudgeon, but I just want to keep it real.

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  1. that is why I patronize the same vendors, ask them where their fields are, when the produce was picked, how the weather is affecting their crop..etc...

    1 Reply
    1. re: torty

      Exactly! I remember once trying to engage a woman in that conversation and her reply was "I'm not a grower, I'm a seller." Guess that solved that!

    2. I've noticed many times the boxes containing their produce are the same ones you'll find in back of any grocery store. I think a lot of the vendors at farmers markets go to the central market downtown and buy their produce from the same suppliers as the chain supermarkets

      2 Replies
      1. re: SteveInSoCal

        It might be that they bought their produce, or it might be that they re-used boxes.

        1. re: Louise

          In some cases, especially in California, the vendors may in fact be the people selling the product to the grocery stores in the first place.

      2. actually, lettuce is grown in hot climates, like the imperial valley and in Arizona. According to wikipedia, "in the United States, 95% of all head lettuce is grown in California and Arizona." Those are 2 warm-hot climates.

        4 Replies
        1. re: jlq3d3

          My, we're cynical today! According to the website for California Certified Farmer's Markets, "certified farmers' markets (CFM's) are where genuine farmers sell their crops directly to the public. More specifically, a CFM is a location approved by the county agricultural commissioner where certified farmers offer for sale only those agricultural products they grow themselves."
          So either they're breaking the law, or they're not selling at certified markets, although looking at the website, it looks like they pretty much are all certified.

          1. re: Chowpatty

            You're lucky because you can do that in California but most of the country doesn't have that luxury. If I only ate local produce, I'd be hurting in the winter.

            1. re: chowser

              This is why people "put up" fruits and vegetables during the summer, so they can have them in the winter.

              1. re: Non Cognomina

                For those who have the luxury of space.

        2. Re: jlq3d3. I guess you don't have a vegetable garden. California and Arizon are made up of microclimates. For example, it can be a cool 65 degrees in Oxnard, good for strawberries, and 85 degrees in San Bernadino, good for tomatoes. Additionally, at different times of year, the weather is different. I can grow lettuce in the winter, but not in the summer. I can grow tomatoes in the summer, but not the winter. The point being you'd need a mighty big farm to have microclimates capable of both lettuce and tomatoes in the same season.

          RE: Chowpatty. I understand what the rules and regulations of CFMs are. Unfortunately, no one enforces them. The markets are full of vendors selling produce they do not grow. A mild example are the wild mushroom vendors. Those mushrooms come from mushroom hunters up north. There is no microclimate in Southern Ca that produces wild mushrooms.

          4 Replies
          1. re: markethej

            Not true. The Santa Monica farmers markets inspect the farms of the farmers who sell at their markets. That is one of the reasons these markets are so respected.

            Second, there are wild mushrooms in the mountains around LA, especially where there have been wildfires. That's one source of wild mushrooms, though not as fruitful as the areas in Northern California that you reference.

            1. re: glutton

              That isn't what the mushroom guy at the SM fm told me. He told me he sources from norcal.

              And, I'd be curious to know who does the inspections. I've never seen that the SM fm inspects the actual farms.

              1. re: markethej

                The market manager, Laura Avery, is famous for driving to the farms to do the inspections. She's an especially dedicated and savvy market manager, so I am not so naive as to think that other market managers are doing this. However, it's typically quite obvious which vendors are selling produce that they bought downtown, so I'm not terribly troubled by their presence -- I just don't buy from them.

                As for the mushrooms, I can only tell you where I went foraging with a mushroom hunter a few years ago. Perhaps the mushrooms are better up north or maybe they're more plentiful up north, but mushrooms do exist in southern California.

            2. re: markethej

              Well, I have grown lettuce and tomatoes in the same small gardens in both Central VA and now San Francisco. There may certainly be reasons to question the sourcing of some vendors at some farmer's markets....but the presence of those two items together wouldn't be one of them in my mind. There is also, of course, the option of not purchasing from vendors you question.

              The certified farmer's market vendors in CA are strictly controlled and closely inspected/monitored. If you go to their website, you can get a list of locations they certify.

            3. I do better at roadside farm stands with the growing fields behind the shacks.

              I went to one "farm market" and saw grapes and bananas (this in NJ) and asked why do you sell these. His response was he buys them from a wholesaler so that he can provide a one-stop shopping for produce. Oh.

              3 Replies
              1. re: tom porc

                Here in Ontario, we have the same problem. Generally, if there is still dirt on the produce, it's real. Also, the "grocers" generally rent vans while the farmers have trucks with their farms' names emblazoned. On the matter of roadside stands, I trust only a few. The produce at many stands in Essex county is stuff that coudn't ship to market or was retuned.

                Amish or Mennonite vendors are a treat, either in markets or at the roadside.

                1. re: DockPotato

                  I don`t know where your from, but you can find lettuce and strawberries growing
                  on each side of the road in the salinas valley in california same way with tomato`s
                  around Fresno.

                  1. re: DockPotato

                    Indeed. Although shisterism is an old trade, none can so popular as this type of activity especially with the advent/trend of the "green revolution".

                    And if you are trying to abide by the 100 mile rule, that makes it tough.

                    Good thing I've given grandma a bunch of my tomatoe seedlings. That should keep me in stock-lol.