[permaculture] [Fwd: [SANET-MG] Dark article on Farmer's Markets]
rrandall1 at houston.rr.com
Sun Jul 3 13:05:01 EDT 2005
No2. "Mite pricey" below
sheds no light on the reasons why farmers' market prices are often
higher, and therefore preferred by the more affluent. The real reasons
that supermarket stuff is so cheap is that labor and transportation
costs for supermarket and restaurant fare are far below sustainability
levels. At least one third of the food is imported from low price
labor markets like Mexico using oil that is priced far below its
renewal rate in energy terms and often water that is not being renewed.
Many foreign nations have had their dollar exchange rates driven down
over the decades. The Philippines for example had an exchange rate of
P2 to the $ in 1956 to over P50 to 1 $ these days. So these days if you
are Filipino you need to work 25 times harder to get the same $ in
exchange. From the American view, foreign food and much else gets ever
cheaper in real dollars.
The real question is how much are these farmers' market venders making?
Our calculations here in Houston are about $11 per hour. If this is
typical, it is no wonder why the prices are "high". Farmers are
actually approaching exchanging an hour's work for an hour's labor by
the buyer. As yet, most Americans are used to prices that don't reflect
On Tuesday, June 28, 2005, at 10:42 AM, Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:
> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject: [SANET-MG] Dark article on Farmer's Markets
> Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2005 09:30:43 -0400
> From: Valerie Frances <FranceVL at MDA.STATE.MD.US>
> Reply-To: Sustainable Agriculture Network Discussion Group
> <SANET-MG at LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU>
> To: SANET-MG at LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU
> 10 Things Your Farmer's Market Won't Tell You
> By Kelly Barron Published: June 15, 2005
> 1. "You may not shop here, but your tax dollars support our market."
> Farmer's markets aren't just quaint hallmarks of rural America;
> they've become de rigueur resources for many consumers of fresh
> produce. Over the past decade, the number of farmer's markets in the
> U.S. has more than doubled, to 3,700, as consumer demand for local and
> seasonally fresh food — as well as the push for new outlets for
> struggling farmers — has stoked growth. So have your tax dollars.
> Since the early 1990s, the Agricultural Marketing Services division of
> the USDA has been actively spawning new markets, providing feasibility
> studies, architectural designs and marketing gewgaws such as farmer's
> market coloring books. The support comes out of the government's
> desire to assist smaller farms.
> While it's tough to pin down exactly how much tax revenue goes to
> farmer's markets, many do receive some federal, state or municipal
> support in the form of grants, subsidized administrators or marketing,
> according to the USDA. One perk for consumers: As part of its
> promotion of farmer's markets nationwide, the USDA keeps a detailed,
> state-by-state listing of them here.
> 2. "Our produce is a mite pricey."
> Decades ago farmer's markets sprouted in cities to combat the suburban
> flight of grocery stores and to supply low-income residents with
> inexpensive, fresh produce. These days, though, many farmer's markets
> cater to the urban elite.
> "The idea that you can get food cheaper at a farmer's market is
> ancient history," says Al Courchesne, owner of Frog Hollow Farms in
> Brentwood, Calif. Courchesne's organic peaches fetch $3.50 to $4 a
> pound at markets in the Bay Area, anywhere from 15 to 33 percent more
> than conventional peaches cost at supermarkets on the West and East
> Why the premium? Small farmer's market growers often can't compete
> with the prices of major grocery chains, which have become ever more
> cost-competitive in the age of Wal-Mart and other big consolidators.
> Farmers also say the price is more than compensated for by quality.
> Supermarkets pick fruit and vegetable varieties for their ability to
> survive thousands of miles of transportation. Supermarket fruit is
> also picked well before it's ripe, Courchesne says, a process that
> allows it to last longer, but that has the side effect of lessening
> the sugar content that makes vine-ripened fruit sweeter.
> 3. "These 'local' tomatoes have more SkyMiles than Derek Jeter."
> Katie Decker, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of
> Agriculture, says farmers eager to make a bigger profit have been
> known to buy produce wholesale, say it was from their land and take
> the markup at market. And some farm stands have been known to bring in
> fruit and vegetables from other regions and sell it as "locally > grown."
> While few farmer's markets have the resources to police the pedigrees
> of peaches and plums, some states and larger markets employ tougher
> policies than others. Greenmarket, which operates farmer's markets at
> 40 locations in New York City, requires vendors to grow produce within
> a 170-mile radius of the city and demands that farmers file detailed
> crop plans. If a farmer shows up with two trucks of corn from a single
> planned acre, inspectors know those ears aren't homegrown.
> To get the real deal, frequent markets that bill themselves as
> "producer only." And get to know the farmers. Ellie Josephs, a
> die-hard market-goer in Venice, Calif., says she knew one vendor well
> enough to tell when he was pawning off second-rate fruit and saving
> his premium goods for another market.
> 4. "You don't know from ripe fruit."
> Fire-engine red apples and oranges round as softballs all stacked in
> pristine pyramids down at the local supermarket have trained consumers
> to expect perfect produce. But farm-fresh fruits and vegetables come
> in all colors, shapes and sizes. "People aren't used to vine-ripened
> produce," says Randii MacNear, head of the California Federation of
> Certified Farmers' Markets. Ultrafresh produce can be more perishable
> as well. It took Portland, Ore., resident Ev Hu several pints of moldy
> strawberries to realize she needed to eat her farmer's market berries
> within a day.
> Fortunately, there are some handy tips to guide you through the
> stands. No. 1: Look for fruit with bird pecks. Vance Corum, a farmer's
> market consultant based in Vancouver, Wash., says birds know which
> fruit has the highest sugar content. Other gems: A fresh artichoke
> will squeak when you rub it with a finger; a green bean should stick
> to your clothes when it's fresh.
> Some markets are helping to educate city dwellers online — the West
> L.A. Farmer's Market & Community Fair in Los Angeles posts fact sheets
> on its Web site, such as "Asian Vegetables 101." And many fruits,
> vegetables and herbs have national boards that host sites on how to
> pick and cook fresh produce.
> 5. "A little dirt on our carrots doesn't mean they're organic."
> Fresh doesn't mean organic. Ever since the USDA implemented the
> National Organic Program three years ago, farmers who claim they're
> organic are required by law to meet uniform standards for growing
> produce without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. But few farmers,
> even those at folksy farmer's markets, are certified organic.
> "As a general rule, most produce at farmer's markets is conventionally
> grown," says Anthony Piccola, an organic tomato farmer near Austin,
> Nationwide, only 12,000 farms out of 2.13 million have certification,
> according to the Organic Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz,
> Calif. But some farmers do claim they're organic when they're not,
> Piccola says. They might also use terms such as "natural" or
> "hormone-free" to imply organic status.
> How does a shopper know whether a farmer is truly organic? Ask.
> Chicago resident Barbara Aitcheson passed on apples at her local
> market after the vendor told her they were sprayed with pesticides.
> However, there may be a legitimate reason a farmer isn't certified:
> Those who take in less than $5,000 from organic sales annually aren't
> required to be certified to say they're organic.
> 6. "Our crowds are worse than Monday-morning rush hour."
> Open-air markets began as folksy alternatives to jam-packed
> supermarkets, a place where shoppers could stroll in the sunshine and
> leisurely chat with farmers. Many still are. But numerous others have
> become mosh pits for foodies, drawing crowds that rival those at rock
> concerts. During peak season on a Saturday, nearly 60,000 people shop
> at Greenmarket's Union Square location in New York City. "You have to
> push people aside and squeeze under their legs to get to vendors. It's
> stressful," says shopper Necmiye Onder.
> And the crowds aren't just relegated to big cities. In Madison, Wis.,
> the Dane County Farmer's Market surrounding the state capitol building
> draws nearly 20,000 people each week. Market manager Larry Johnson
> says the foot-traffic flow has had to adapt to the throngs. "People
> move in a counterclockwise direction around the capitol," he says. "If
> you don't, you get run over."
> So how do you beat the masses? Go early. Serious shoppers arrive at
> the Dane County market at 6 a.m. Or shop online. Many farms such as
> Frog Hollow in California have web sites and will ship fresh produce
> directly to the consumer.
> 7. "These days even supermarkets sell cactus leaves."
> Farmer's markets pride themselves on offering unique products. But
> grocery stores have become far more specialized and competitive. The
> lollo rosa lettuce at your local farmer's market can now be found in
> convenient salad bags at supermarket chains. Even Wegmans sells
> regional specialties such as cactus and jicama.
> Traditional supermarkets are even borrowing farmer's market
> techniques, slicing open apples for consumers to sample, stocking
> organic produce and buying locally. Daytona Beach, Fla., resident
> Geraldine Schwartz, for example, buys local tomatoes at her Winn-Dixie
> supermarket. "People are demanding it," she says.
> However, you'll still find more variety at most farmer's markets.
> There are 14 different types of meat, including emu and ostrich,
> offered at the Dane County market in Madison. If the produce at your
> local farmer's market starts to look too familiar, get to know the
> vendors and let them know you'll be first in line to buy their next
> batch of Suncrest peaches.
> 8. "Conversation? Don't much care for it."
> Though talking with vendors about the ins and outs of the produce is
> part of the appeal of an outdoor market, on the whole, farmers aren't
> generally a bunch of Chatty Kathys. For many, the only contact they
> have with groups of people is on market day — and most farmers like it
> that way. What's more, all the work it takes to get to market would
> make anyone a tad grumpy. Life for the small farmer entails long hours
> of back-bending work; it's not uncommon to rise at 2 a.m. and drive
> five hours to sell at urban markets. "I'm not about to entertain
> anyone," says vendor Piccola.
> Still, realizing that a smile goes a long way toward selling a zebra
> tomato, Piccola says he has become far more convivial and now tries to
> get to know his customers one on one. Other farmers are attending
> seminars to learn how to be more consumer-friendly. In Caruthersville,
> Mo., farmer John Hutchinson counsels a group of new vendors on the
> finer points of salesmanship. And consultant Vance Corum recently
> traveled to Moscow, Idaho, to lecture farmers on market-day etiquette
> — advising them to wear a clean shirt, for example, and avoid
> loitering on the back of their pickup trucks.
> 9. "Our samples are about as sanitary as a bowl of bar nuts."
> Everything from apple slices and goat cheese to caramel corn gets
> doled out at farmer's markets. But with so many shoppers fondling
> bowls of orange sections, these freebies can be a breeding ground for
> bacteria. "Who knows whose fingers have been in there?" says Ellie
> Josephs from Venice, Calif., noting that she steers clear of free
> To cut down on food-borne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli,
> farmer's markets have rules about dispensing samples. Some states
> regulate this area too. California, for example, requires farmers to
> wash knives with bleach and set out toothpicks to pluck peaches from
> trays. But it's difficult for market managers to maintain these
> policies, says MacNear, of the California Federation of Certified
> Farmers' Markets. For that reason, many markets are forgoing sample
> grazing altogether. If you're queasy about a farmer's freebie tray,
> ask the vendor for a whole piece of washed fruit to taste.
> 10. "Fresh? Absolutely. Clean? Not even close."
> Fruits and veggies at farmer's markets are fresh. But that doesn't
> mean they're ready to eat. "The produce and fruit [at farmer's
> markets] are not sold as ready-to-eat or cleaned beforehand," MacNear
> says. While farmers who sell produce to supermarkets typically
> flush-wash it for at least 15 minutes, reducing the potential for
> cross-contamination with bacteria found in fertilizers and on farmer's
> hands, vendors heading for open-air markets typically don't hose down
> their wares.
> Supermarkets also have other systems in place to protect produce. At
> chains such as Whole Foods, Wegmans and Wal-Mart, "third-party audits
> are done to ensure the supply chain is as safe as possible," according
> to Meg Major, fresh food editor for "Progressive Grocer," an industry
> publication. "This is a pretty common practice for retailers these
> days." New York-based grocery chain Pathmark employs its own
> sanitarians, who routinely inspect its fruit and vegetables in order
> to guard against food-borne illnesses, says company spokesperson
> Richard Savner.
> Farmer's market shoppers should never eat fruit or vegetables before
> washing them. Market-goers also should wash their hands after handling
> samples or attending other farmer's market events. Three years ago, 82
> people got sick after visiting a sheep and goat exhibit at an Oregon
> County fair, where they came into contact with bacteria surrounding
> the animals. The incident resulted in the state's largest E. coli
> Valerie Frances
> Specialty Marketing Coordinator
> Maryland Dept of Agriculture
> 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway
> Annapolis, MD 21401
> ph: (410) 841-5773
> fx: (410) 841-5987
> FranceVL at mda.state.md.us
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