Thursday, April 2, 2009

The difficulties of farmers' markets

Daniel Duane in Mother Jones on farmers' markets:
If you just like buying vegetables off folding tables on the weekends, and don't care where or how they were grown, you shouldn't trouble your head with any of this. Same if the lure of your local market is mostly the coffee cart and the street performers. But if you shop at the farmers market in part to vote with your food dollars—for a stronger local economy, say, and for better stewardship of the land, and for a food network that lets you know exactly what you're putting in your mouth—and if you'd prefer not to feel like a dupe, it turns out that going to the farmers market isn't enough anymore.
It's a short, but pretty interesting article about some of the problems local farmers face making profits at the market, and how, if you're not careful, you'll end up buying the same asparagus you see at Safeway... just with a big markup.

A little depressing, but probably not surprising. If some of the reason you go to a farmer's market is food politics you probably do need to do some due diligence about the people you're buying from. However, I think that's probably always been true... not some new revelation about commercial outfits stealthily infiltrating our farmers' markets... because one of the arguments in favor of local farmers vs. say giant organic industrial farming is that the local farmer may very well be, in essence, organic and/or sustainable, but not interested in going through the arduous and expensive process of being certified organic. But if you never research them or ask about their farming practices, how would you know that?

Regardless, I pledge to do some research about any of the farms before we head out to our next farmers' market... not until the end of May probably... but then again, maybe we'll do a CSA this year.