In LA, there are three Sunday pastimes: hiking Runyon (for the ambitious) drunch (drunk brunch, for the lazy) and going to the Farmer’s Market.
The last option on the list has replaced going to church for most people, because what would you rather do on a day of rest: be talked to by the man, or buy some vegetables you’ve never heard of to feel better about yourself?
So before you all go fork over your hard-earned cash (only) to some hucksters hawking haricot vert, you should know this:
Farmer’s markets are just places where farmers take the product that wasn’t good enough to sell to grocery stores and hasn’t reached the high level of inspection that retail produce receives. It isn’t stuff that was “just picked this morning!’ either, it’s more often the fruits and vegetables that they’re just about to throw out and want to get a few extra bucks for. If you’re a farmer, you don’t send or sell your best or freshest things to the farmer’s market–you take it to retail, then to wholesale, then a distributor, then farmer’s market is just above “disliked neighbors” and “compost”.
Most farmer’s markets aren’t “local” either, unless you consider 250 miles as local. The closest LA produce is grown in Oxnard, which is an hour drive away and mostly strawberries and lettuces. The rest is grown in the San Joaquin Valley and trucked down to LA (so you’re not saving the environment versus what you bought at your local Ralph’s.)
guy holding spinach: well goodness, i just got an exemplary deal on this organic, fresh, local spinach!
guy behind the stall: i bought some packages at Costco and charged you 3x the price. lol, suckerrr
Of course, at every farmer’s market, there’s the guy who grew some bellpeppers in his backyard all by his-self, but those kinds of farmers are quickly dying out. Even farmers who grow small volumes of produce can still sell to a local grocery store or distributor. If you’re a small farmer and you don’t have enough product for a farmer’s market, it’s common to, well, fill your inventory. Why not just buy a box of oranges at Costco and sell them a for a few times more on the weekend? Farmer’s markets are profitable for small and large farmers because they can dupe people into paying way more for produce than they ever should.
Don’t just believe me either. According to Organic Gardening:
Farmers’ markets have become so popular that they’re being co-opted by wholesalers, retailers, and farmers who may be local but not so committed to a sustainable food system.
The only thing unsustainable is to rely on a food delivery system where once per week, a bunch of people congregate on a narrow street and haggle over rutabagas. There’s a reason why that happens more frequently in countries where more people starve and not here.
So what does that leave? Well, the produce at a farmer’s market just tastes better, right?
Not really. Nothing tastes sweeter than the superiority of foraging for your own meal at a farmer’s market instead of those commoners who shop at the grocery.