I made a comment the other day about shopping at farmers markets and helping support the local economy. A person stopped me to complain about “Hucksters,” my word, not hers, and how you cannot be sure you are getting locally grown food. Making sure not to offend the person I carefully explained that yes, there are some unscrupulous characters at farmers markets, but by asking a few questions and arming yourself with basic information, you could ferret out the poser from the farmer.
I could tell they were upset by past purchases but to damn all farmers markets was wrong and I explained people like them could actually help those of us that feel the same way. Yes, I acknowledged there were some farmers markets that allowed anything but the markets we established and participated in were “Producer Only,” markets. I explained that a “producers only,” market is a market that has vendors that sell what they produce. They range from just fruits, vegetables and meats, to anything the person makes, breads, jams, paintings, photographs, jewelry whatever, as long as the person made the product being sold.
I turned the tables as subtly as possible, “you know,” I said, “it is Caveat Emptor when you go to an unfamiliar farmers market but you can quickly find out if it is a producers only market". I explained that first and for most know what is in season in your area, if a farmer is selling corn in Maryland before July, he or she is a huckster. If the fruit or vegetable is in season, ask the farmer what is the name of the product. If corn they should be able to tell if it is Sugar Pearl, Fisher’s, open pollinated or hybrid or some other characteristic, ask how many days to maturity (DTM). DTM on corn is typically between 75-95 days. Here is a great web site that tells you when fruit and vegetables are in season in your area.
The vendor should be able to give you the name of every vegetable they are selling, the days to maturity, when it was harvested, how long it will last in the refrigerator, is it a heritage or heirloom breed and when it was actually established. Fisher’s yellow corn was developed in Montana, in the 1960’s by a man name Ken Fisher. He kept selecting corn that had a short growing season and could withstand cold snaps in his state. That I know of every fruit and vegetable has a traceable lineage and the farmer who ordered and planted that seed will know these details. If they say they are organic, ask to see their certification. They have to have it with them at all times and they will be proud to show it to you. If you get an excuse consider them non-organic.
As consumers, we just need to ask questions and follow our gut. If you start to get a feeling, the person is being dishonest or they cannot answer a simple question like what is the name, then they are hucksters. All but one market we have participated in has been producers only. As growers, we know who is growing and who is not. Those that do not grow only bring down those who do and we are quick to question the origin of the products. We do this precisely because of the comment I heard and the reality that there are unscrupulous vendors.
Buy Local: And support non-gmo producers,