Keeping Markets Honest

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If you'd like to share your thoughts on our "Keeping Markets Honest" newsletter, please do so here. We'd love to hear what you think!

By: Amy Friedrich | May 9, 2016 04:17 PM | Permalink
Knowing someone who decided to break into the farmers market scams happening in south Florida about 6 years ago and having helped run a stand at one of those "fake" farmers markets I can say that this is definitely a problem. It's infuriating to have spent the entire day before a market traveling around to collect goods from very small farmers who individually do not produce enough to travel and vend at a market only to see the person across the row selling a huge variety of foods including things like avocados out of season, bananas with a Chiquita sticker on them, etc. The problem is that these markets were started a long time ago with no real farmers actually vending. The organization that oversees these markets are the ones allowing this practice. They are not likely going to regulate a practice they instated. The government is also not the answer as that just produces more bureaucracy. I think the only way is vigilant consumer education....starting with kids before they leave the school system preferably.

By: | May 2, 2016 10:05 PM | Permalink
You advocate that Oversight is not necessary. What turnip truck did you fall off! You must be a Republican.
Amy Friedrich says:    (May 9, 2016 12:00 AM)

this comment is not useful in a meaningful conversation about an issue deeply affecting small farmers nationwide. Please don't troll and ruin very productive conversations, it's degrading to yourself. Plus, it's classist, look up the history of why turnips are looked at as low class, it's a great history lesson about economic class, agriculture and food trends.

John S. Lynch ( Farmer John ) says:    (May 9, 2016 12:00 AM)

And I agree with Amy. This is supposed to be a positive, and productive discussion forum, and personal attacks serve no purpose and are totally out of line. Keeping Markets Honest, was a well written article, that consumers must focus on, and by asking questions of the participating vendors at the various farmers markets. The very thought of a vendor, who never planted a seed, posing as an organic farmer, is sickening at best. I am 73 years old and put in 12 hour days working hard everyday to provide for our organic customers. The very thought of vendors posing as organic farmers compromises any farmers market. Farmer John, Silver Maples Farm, Hillsville, VA

By: Doug Henderson | May 1, 2016 08:50 PM | Permalink
My wife and I have been involved with markets for about 10 years in Arizona. FACT: It is easier and cheaper to purchase produce from either a Costco or a distributor than it is to farm and when asked, most will tell the customer they grew it and it was grown organically. The rules, of course, prohibit this, but many of the vendors do it anyway. Additionally, these same vendors do 7 or 8 markets a week and 2-3 simultaneously on Saturday. When do they find time to farm? We barely have enough time to do one or two.

Many of these markets are managed by the same people and common sense tells you they know what's going on because it all come down to one simple word ... MONEY. The more vendors they have, the bigger they are, the more money the manager / owner makes.

To be honest and fair, a lot of the responsibility for this falls on the customer. They come to the market expecting the growers to provide and honestly, the growers are just giving the customer what they want. Many of the customers have no idea what seasonal means nor do they care. It's a vicious cycle and at the end of the day - the small, honest grower is the victim. As a small grower, the truth is you either play the same game or realize and understand that you will only be successful up to a certain point. The large vendors, offering everything, seasonal or not, will eventually take many of your so called loyal customers away and the more vendors doing this, the faster it will happen.

John S. Lynch ( Farmer John ) says:    (May 2, 2016 12:00 AM)

Dear Doug Your comments hit the nail right on the head. We have avoided being involved with farmers markets, for many of the same reasons. We have discovered that our home based farm stand, adjacent to where we grow everything on 3/4 acre on 38 growing beds, works very well for us. We also resell certain items grown by other nearby farms, such as sweet corn, peaches and apples. All items are clearly indicated with with green handled display baskets for all our home grown organic produce. Complete honesty with our devoted customers has helped to build our business, each and every year. Our one and only attempt to participate in a high end farmers market in Blacksburg, VA, ended with us being rejected. That has forced me to explore other marketing options, and our new pay by the week CSA half & full shares are now a hit, with several signups. Keep in touch. Farmer John ( Lynch ) Silver Maples Farm, Hillsville, VA Tel. 276-728-7854

By: Conni Schaftenaar | May 1, 2016 02:06 PM | Permalink
Excellent article, Rebecca, and one that I will share on my FB farm Page with our followers and customers. I totally agree that consumers must ask questions and honest farmers must be prepared to provide the answers, even if it is not always what that consumer is wanting to hear.

By: John S. Lynch ( Farmer John ) | Apr 30, 2016 12:04 PM | Permalink
Being rejected regarding our one and only attempt at participating in a Farmers Market, in Blacksburg, VA, has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us. We run a home based farm stand, that is only open on Saturdays, rain or shine. Our new pay by the week CSA, has turned out to be a big hit for area folks. No up front payment is required, and folks get to customize their individual shares, choosing from our farm stand display, or picking fresh from our many organic growing beds. We pride ourselves with our farm tours, where folks can see for themselves how our organic crops are grown. Too often consumers are misled at some farmers markets, not knowing where the produce was grown or how it was grown. Our home based farm stand eliminates all doubt, as folks are free to browse our many organic growing beds. And for those with their own home gardens, we offer a wealth of free info related to the growing of organic crops. The farmers market is a good concept, but unfortunately, some markets are indeed compromised with vendors that misrepresent the products that are being sold. That practice is dishonest and gives the farmers market a bad name. It is also a primary reason why our government gets involved with unreasonable and costly regulations. We look forward to this 2016 growing season, and the many new customers that have signed up for our new pay by the week CSA. Check us out, as you will be impressed. Farmer John ( Lynch ) Silver Maples Farm, Hillsville, VA

By: Nicholas Denney | Apr 30, 2016 03:23 AM | Permalink
As someone who started out buying/selling produce & now predominately grows & also sells to the people who re-sell. I have sold roadside, farm stand, and Farmer's Markets in my area that are "grower only" and markets that are "sell whatever you have no matter where it came from." My experience has been that the "sell whatever" markets bring in well over triple the income of the "grower only" markets. The people who buy and sell, typically don't stick around long. It is annoying when you are trying to get $1/lb for butternut squash and the guy next to you who never planted a seed is selling them for a quarter each. But you have to remember that when you have a crop failure and people want a certain item, if your market doesn't have it, the people will stop coming to the market, period. If the guy buying has it, at least they still get what they want and will be there to buy when you have it, instead of giving up on you and finding a new market or worse yet, start buying from Walmart instead.

By: Sharon Carson | Apr 29, 2016 11:11 PM | Permalink
...........I am a small grower . I no longer even attempt to do farmers markets for many of the reasons stated I do offer a program here where people can come and garden with me rather like CSA but where work is required and education happens. It is NOT a popular idea but is the only way I can do it I need help and the consumer needs to be truely educated in what it takes to grow their food .I use no commercial manures in my gardens and have not in over 30 years . I have no tractors and use mostly hand tools, make my own compost and save my own seed . No takers .....
Raymond Johnson says:    (Apr 30, 2016 12:00 AM)

We at Custom Gardens Organic Farm in Silver Springs NV also have a volunteer - working CSA membership program (we have long ago suspended going to "farmers markets" preferring to mentor serious locals on the various steps that go into producing clean, organic certified produce for their families.) Sad to see some farmers and non-farmers buying produce from out of state or other sketchy sources and selling as their own, at a FM or to their CSA members. It truly is buyer beware when it comes to your family foods.

By: Sharon Linsenbardt | Apr 29, 2016 10:24 PM | Permalink
I am EXTREMELY grateful that this has been brought up for discussion.
says:    (Apr 30, 2016 12:00 AM)

Ditto. I have heard, from a few small growers I know, that this is an issue that has been brought up at a couple of the markets here in north Oakland County, Michigan. I'm sorry I don't know how it has been resolved (or if it has been), as I have found a CSA group I know and trust. That said, I also think there has to be some level of common sense on the part of the consumer that goes beyond labeling...produce 'out-of-season'? Unless they can show me a photo of their hi-tunnel, I'm not buying :-) Everything is always a process and evolves....hopefully this discussion will help rather than hinder.

By: | Apr 29, 2016 08:33 PM | Permalink
Thank you for posting this. I have long suspected that many "farmers" at local farmers markets are not selling produce they grow themselves locally. Mostly it is the produce itself that causes me to question it - non-seasonal products that don't look very ripe make me think someone stocked up at the local Costco and are selling it as farm-fresh. I've asked the sellers where the tomatoes they are selling in April were raised - I get a vague answer.

I don't agree that the "best" policy is self-policing (that it is the responsibility of the customer to question and report). There should be a stringent application policy and verification by the market administrator. It is THEIR business - they are responsible to take reasonable actions to protect their customers if they are advertising a "certified farmer's market".

By: John S. Lynch ( Farmer John ) | Apr 29, 2016 08:29 PM | Permalink
I would like to comment on the vendor selection process at some high end Farmers Markets. We are a small organic farm ( not certified ) and applied to the Blacksburg Farmers Market, in Blacksburg , VA. We met all 10 pages of their rules and regulations, and filled out another 10 pages of the applicable forms that they required. Their primary requirement was that all produce must be grown by the vendor, except for spicific items that can be resold. Unfortunately and much to our surprise, our application was rejected. They claimed their market would be "over saturated" with too many produce vendors. We had applied for Wednesday evenings only, which the market director had clearly stated to me that there was a real need for additional mid-week produce vendors. They completely shut out new vendors that could be competition to their existing vendors, which is quite unfortunate. Our American free market system is supposed to welcome competition, not reject it. The best vendors will thrive and the rest can decide for themselves if they can compete. It was a totally negative experience for us and will be my first, last and only attempt to attend any Farmers Market. Fairness regarding the vendor selection process is just as important as any other Farmers Market stipulations. John Lynch, Silver Maples Farm, Hillsville, VA

By: | Apr 29, 2016 08:01 PM | Permalink
As the market manager for two non profit markets, I can say that self policing works the best. Both markets I serve do this, which means I do farm visits, google map searches, etc. We also require that farm labeled processed items must verify that not less than 25% of the ingredients in said items come from the farm whose label is on the containers.

Honesty, authenticity, and integrity are key to building what we most lovingly call our "loyal locals" as customers.

Bottom line - Know your farmer, know your food - applies to markets as well as customers.

Thank you for this article!!! Peg Tennant, Market Manager Coupeville Farmers Market Oak Harbor Farmers Market both on Whidbey Island in Washington State

By: Eric Belsey | Apr 29, 2016 07:59 PM | Permalink
Great article about a very serious problem for small scale, local growers. It is a big problem here in CO farmers markets. Having helped run markets in Buena Vista and Salida, I know how almost impossible it is to write rules that protect real growers while keeping out resellers, especially when what a real local grower is reselling are the products of another real local grower, who just prefers not to go to market. I agree that the only answer is a producers-only market, but I disagree with the idea of getting Extension mixed up in the issue. I touch on this topic in my recent article on land tenure for Local Food Shift Magazine. In my opinion, the growers themselves need to do the inspections, using a lottery to figure out who shall be inspectors, and who shall be the inspected, a couple of days per season. You don't participate in the lottery? You don't participate in the market. (http://www.localfoodshift.pub/land-tenure-for-small-farming-in-colorado/)


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