What’s been going on!
A fair sized ripple rolled through the food and farmers market pool last week, on the internet, over a set of articles by the Tampa Bay Times food writer Laura Reiley. Titled Farm to Fable she did excellent in depth investigative research on restaurants who say they use local products and a second article on the Tampa Bay area farmers markets. Her conclusion was everyone was lying and there was almost no local food in either the restaurants or the farmers markets.
Were we shocked? Not really. Is it the same way here in the Triangle? No. First there has always been green washing in the restaurant and grocery businesses to get customers into their stores, do we really think that the produce department at Harris Teeter is a “Farmers Market”? I can say that the restaurants we sell to do an excellent job in sourcing local product and try as best as they can to represent that accurately on their menus. We do have friends around the country who occasionally have to go in and bust a chef for using their names on the menu when they haven’t bought something from them in a long time, it happens.
The second part on farmers markets also represents the fact that Florida agriculture mostly revolves around shipping large amounts of produce around the country and the world in the off season, so a culture of buying from big produce markets and reselling has been that way for a long time. We know plenty of small farmers growing in Florida but apparently not in the markets around Tampa Bay.
The description of the farmers markets there were filled with crafts, prepared food vendors, food trucks and few produce sellers at all. Some she described as Flea Markets. Those are not the kind of markets we have here in North Carolina. When independent farmers markets started up here decades ago they mostly took a growers only position, where the farmers actually sold their own products. Sure there are Flea Markets here to but no one I know actually thinks of them as the place to buy fresh produce.
All that being said, not all markets here are created equal either. The hardest thing for a market to do is to make sure that everything being sold does comply with its rules such as- every product is grown or made by the vendor, that the owner is actually there selling or that they are within a certain distance of the market. Many markets just don’t have the man power or the will to do the inspections and leg work it takes and slowly “exceptions” can be made.
This is what makes the Carrboro Farmers’ Market so outstanding, for all of its nearly four decades it has been committed to upholding its rules (the most stringent all local markets) and by doing that supporting its producers in the best way possible. We just hope that people don’t paint all markets or restaurants the same way but the wise consumer should look behind the curtain to verify for themselves the claims made are true, get to know who grows and cooks your food.
Picture of the Week
A field full of lettuce, perfect growing conditions, eat it while it’s here
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