Why farmer’s markets are a myth

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.

2 thoughts on “Why farmer’s markets are a myth

  1. Each farmer’s market has different rules about what can be sold. In Colorado, at the Boulder Farmers Market, only locally grown produce may be sold by the farmers who produced it. And it is apparent from its freshness and variety of cultivars. I personally know many of the farmers there, as I used to be a farmer selling there. I have seen many of their farms, and know that they are growing what they sell. And, many small farmers chose to sell directly to consumers, rather than sell wholesale to stores, restaurants, and distributors for which they must take a cut in price. Perhaps one just needs to be more particular and informed in regards to the market and the farmer. Indeed, who wants stale produce? I can be disappointed by farmer’s markets in California without strict standards.

  2. I believe the proper term is “farmers’ market.” The markets in the Monterey area have many booths of small organic farms. They are not selling leftovers or subpar produce. I talk to these people about their produce. I find that they have a lot of integrity. I don’t doubt there are people out there without it, though.

    Maybe you should look for some better markets, because you clearly found one that was a bad example. Maybe you were looking for hits on your site with a sensationalist title.

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