[Market-farming] The Sunday Times: Farmers' markets sell 'supermarket' foods

Road's End Farm organic87 at frontiernet.net
Wed Mar 2 12:53:04 EST 2011

On Mar 2, 2011, at 11:44 AM, waldenfarm wrote:

> OK, Allison. You're right about policing ourselves. But there is  
> going to be some "public" entity that will want to get in on the  
> act. Maybe the move to define & REASONABLY regulate real farmers  
> markets should be initiated by farmers and we should have a strong  
> voice in how it's done.

I'd be careful about definitions handed down from the government level  
-- remember that when the USDA took it on themselves to define  
"organic", they forbade anyone in the USA from setting higher  
standards for "organic" than the USDA set. We wanted them to set a  
floor under the word; they set both floor and ceiling at the same level.

Every local-only market I know of in this area defines "local" much  
more strictly than the language in the USA Federal food safety bill  
does, though not all are as strict as the 30 miles in the article from  
England. The USA is a big country, with a lot of difference in  
population density between states; definitions of "local" that are  
suitable for the Northeast may not be suitable for, say, Nevada -- so  
a national definition here isn't going to suit all parts of the country.

I'd rather tackle this on the education level, myself -- though I  
think there's a good deal to be said for requiring grocery stores to  
post their definition of local, and for requiring them to live up to  
it -- I'd like to see that for "home grown" also; I've seen groceries  
in this area selling big bins of "home grown" melons in May. While  
they may well have been grown on a piece of land that was also  
someone's home, I'm sure they weren't from a local small scale farmer,  
which I think is how they meant the customers to take it.

As far as individual markets -- the market has to have clear rules; a  
clear enforcement (and appeal) process; and the willingness to enforce  
these. If there's no market in the area that does, it may be possible  
to start one; though there may still be some areas where not enough  
customers or not enough potential vendors care about this to pull it  
off. Local-only markets should, in my opinion, advertise that fact up,  
down, and sideways.

It seems to me it should be possible to prosecute under existing false  
advertising laws any market, or vendor, who's selling wholesale  
produce as their own, or selling produce as "their neighbors' " when  
it actually came from a wholesale auction or the supermarket. The  
trick is teaching customers to ask where the stuff was grown.  
Publicity to that effect is a very good idea -- though I'd advise  
against naming a specific market or vendor who's reselling, at least  
unless you've got the proof to defend a potential libel suit.

-- Rivka; Finger Lakes NY, Zone 5 mostly
Fresh-market organic produce, small scale

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