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False claims, lies caught on tape at farmer's markets

Thought this report was well done: http://bit.ly/adiZk5

But how do you guard against it? Asking questions of the farmers themselves may not lead to truthful answers. If you shop at a metro farmers market and don't know all your vendors on a first name basis, how are you protecting yourself from this kind of fraud? Advice?

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  1. There are no laws in California regarding the sales of fruits and vegetables other than to be labeled "Organic" you have to pay fees, be inspected and continue to get certified.

    http://www.localharvest.org/ has some good information.

    Just ask yourself if someone is selling six days a week at various markets, when exactly is s/he doing the 'farming'? Also ask yourself if such a variety of fruits and vegetables can all be grown on one farm in that climate. If you see a roadside stand and the land with crops right next to it and also see that the variety changes because products deplete, then you are likely buying from where those crops grow.

    You have to protect yourself.

    (I know you are in San Diego now (which has over 50 Farmers Markets weekly) and really encourage you to go to Specialty Produce. They sell to the public. You can just walk through and look. I believe you may see quite a few familiar items.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cathy

      Cathy, I disagree that farmers can't sell several days a week. There is a local farmer here whose family is involved in his work. He goes to several markets a week within a certain radius, as well as selling to groceries and restaurants, while his brother and sister in law tend the acreage in the mornings, and sometimes again in the evenings. Most markets here are held weekday afternoons/early evening (4-6 or 5-7 is typical) and on Saturday mornings. That leaves plenty of time to work, especially since the initial tilling and planting is done well before there is any product to sell.

    2. There's a farmers' market each Thursday in downtown MInneapolis that I used to frequent when I worked downtown. Sometimes I would see vendors selling bananas. That was a tipoff that not all the produce was actually local.

      1. I don't live in LA, but sellers who lie about their product get kicked out of markets here pretty quickly. Some of the markets here are "all local," some only require signage if there is a mix, some only allow organic farmers who allow themselves to be spot inspected. Personally, I prefer to know who I'm buying from, and have visited some of their farms. If someone isn't willing to tell you where they grow, and have you visit, well, I wouldn't buy from that person regularly.

        4 Replies
        1. re: amyzan

          The couple of markets I frequent are very strict that only products the farmer produces himself can be sold at market. There was a farmer selling peaches too early this year (how dumb is that, you have 5 guys growing peaches, and someone shows up over a month early with beautiful peaches, thinking no one would know) and he was out on his ear within 15 minutes. So I think the market needs to know who their farmers are, and what's reasonable.

          1. re: amyzan

            Same here in New Haven - City Seed is very strict and does periodic farm inspections.

            1. re: harrie

              Harrie, is Cerisi Produce Market still there?

              1. re: harrie

                Right, but not everyone has a market manager who keeps a tight rein.

            2. Wow, did someone send out a memo on this? A practicallly identical story was aired on the Fox affiliate in Detroit:
              http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpp/news/...

              Not sure how you can guard against it...if you look at the Detroit story, they asked the "farmer" directly about whether he grew his own produce, used chemicals, and the man baldly lied.

              This guy apparently sticks to the smaller farmers markets. We have some larger ones in this area that supposedly enforce the locally grown rules, and if they buy from another source it has to be labelled as such. I thnk the smaller markets are the most vulnerable to fraud.

              1. People lie, get used to it.

                And people will definitely lie to make a buck. It's just life.

                1. There really are only two types of farmers' markets where the farmers are required to have grown their produce locally. Certified Farmers' Markets are regulated by the government. At these, the government certifies that these farmers grow locally. They are supposed to post this certificate at their booth. The other type of market is where the management of the market imposes that rule because they want to. All open air markets do not necessarily require local produce. But every tons of people shop at open air markets and assume that the produce is local. Just like so many assume that the produce is organic. Certified Farmers' Market doesn't necessarily have anything to do with organic. About two-thirds of the produce at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market is not organic. If local and organic is important to you, you gotta ask and investigate thoroughly. And the absolutely last thing folks should do, imo, is become complacent and get used to the kind of deception that is linked to in this thread.