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Mar 14, 2010 08:00 PM

So we went to farmers market to buy some fish.....................

We traveled through the bay area this weekend and hit a few markets. We stopped at the Grand Lake market in Oakland and thought we'd buy some fish. We were amazed that what was offered there was simply sold in plastic zip lock bags. No labels, no weights, no identifying anything! For all I knew, we could have been buying bluegill the guy caught out of the local pond across the street! Is that legal? I asked the woman about the Alaska salmon, wondering if it had been previously frozen, she said no, it was just caught. But, being in a zip lock bag, we passed on buying.

We then went to the Ferry Plaza market where I stopped at the fish market inside the building. I asked about fresh Alaska salmon. The guy said that no one is fishing in AK right now except for halibut as salmon season hasn't started up there yet.

All this sounds, rather................well, fishy!

On another note, the burritos at Grand Lake were to die for. I had the spinich tortilla/pesto and my husband had the chicken. Both highly recommended!


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  1. Mountain View farmer's market has a similar stall. Can't remember the name. The fish is pretty good. I'm not sure what you're expecting in terms of labels. The fruit and veg don't have labels either, you have to trust that it comes from somewhere or other, and not be a random crate of strawberries from the safeway.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bbulkow

      At Mountain View it's Mission Fresh Fish and Patrick O'Shea. Everything we've gotten there over the years has been very tasty. I believe it's all local, except for the salmon the past couple of years of course.


      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I buy from them at the Walnut Creek farmer's market and have found it to be better than anything I can find in a store. They have little signs in front of each ice bin stating the fish and price. Best scallops I've ever had outside of a high end restaurant.

      2. Alaska salmon season is June-November.

        5 Replies
        1. re: pikawicca

          Does seem kind of strange that selling something with potential spoilage issues would be sold in a zip lock bag with no labeling. I'd think a commercial vacuum bag and some safe handling instructions would be mandatory. But then again, if you buy fresh fish at the store I guess it doesn't come that way......................

          1. re: 5akman

            At state certified farmers markets, farm products have an exemption from many labeling and packaging rules. Maybe the same for seafood.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              There is no special exemption for labeling. Just think of the situation a bit differently. At a farmers' market, sales are through a transaction with an attendant. This is much like the butcher at the supermarket, whose fish is not labeled or individually wrapped. These sorts of sales of fish at a farmers' market are not a self service setup that require individual labeling. We've also found that labels have not held up in the ice bath solution that the fish vendors keep their fish at prescribed temperature in. What kind of information would you like presented with the fish? I help run both the Mountain View and Diablo Valley Farmers' Markets and can put a word in to see what can be done cost effective for the vendor.

              David Gerhard
              Director of Communications
              California Farmers' Markets Association

              1. re: cafarmersmkts

                Hi David,
                I guess I was comparing the sale of fish in zip lock bags with other meat that I"ve bought at Farmers Markets that are vac sealed and labeled in terms of ingredients (usually just one item, the lamb/pork/beef whatever), safe handling/storage recommendations and weight. How does sales of those meat products differ from the fish that I saw at the Oakland market? Just curious.
                Thanks for any info you can offer!

                1. re: readtech

                  I think that the meat is different than fish in this respect because meat must be processed at a special facility (butchering, freezing, and packing), not by the farmers that raise the animals. Fish can be processed in a certified commercial kitchen, so probably don't need the same sort of tracking. It's a bit hard to say, as it's like comparing apples and oranges (for lack of a better farming metaphor). Also, each vendor has their own way of merchandising their products. So some may label after preparation in a commercial kitchen, where others don't as they aren't required to since their product is not customer self serve.
                  Hope this helps a bit!

        2. The idea of buying seafood from a farmer's market just seems odd to me. It's not a fish market (unless the fish are farmed). If I want fresh seafood I buy from a fish market or go out to the coast.

          7 Replies
          1. re: PeterL

            What if you're buying fish straight from the fisherman? Sometimes some shrimp boat people (out of santa cruz?) show up at that Alemany market. Or even more like farming - what about buying shellfish from the oyster farmers?

            I'd love it if more meat sellers (or even a real butcher!) sold at farmer's markets.

              1. re: PeterL

                What about baked goods, coffee, prepared food, jams, condiments, cheeses, and other things?

                1. re: PeterL

                  To quote SteveG, above: "...brick and mortar seafood stores tend to buy from seafood suppliers, so they're buying commodity fish. Small operators on the scale of the ones who sell at the Farmer's market can buy top quality stuff direct from fishermen and resell it to us without middlemen or expensive rent and overhead." In other words, why is it better to buy fish from a fish market than from a vendor at a farmers market? I wouldn't buy species that I know aren't local -- I rarely buy them anyway, especially since I don't like salmon -- but I'd just as soon buy local seafood from the vendor at the farmers' market as from my local fish counter.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Ok, all good info, thanks! Perhaps I was being a bit too concerned on the packaging.

                    1. re: readtech

                      Friday Old Oakland market has live fish in a tank. I have no idea what it is (catfish?) but I would buy it there, even with no labels.