I shop at farmers markets several times each year, but I am not a regular shopper by any means. I feel that they are always out of the way. Maybe it is because most of them are only open one day a week. Maybe it is because I cannot get all of my groceries in one stop. Excuses! Excuses! Or, maybe it is the fact that I do not know the right questions to ask. Today, I am bringing you some of my "bloopers" from the farmers market.
Schedule Changes Not Communicated: I arrive at the farmers market right on time. There are other customers there waiting to buy produce. I go up to one of the tables and ask them about pickling cucumbers. I pick out two pints and begin to purchase. The lady tells me I cannot buy them. They are not opened yet. The schedule indicated 3:00pm as the start time. It's 3:20pm. What do you mean you're not open?!? You should have already been open for 20 minutes! She informed me that during the school year, they start at 3:30pm. A sign explaining this would have been very informative! I stood there for 10 minutes as the other customers looked at me like an amateur.
Difficult to Identify Organic Produce: Most farmers markets do not display big signs with USDA organic because most are not certified. The challenge is figuring out which farmers use organic growing methods and which ones use conventional methods with toxic pesticides. Organic farming practices allow certain organic pesticides. Obviously, I do not know what those are (action item for me to research). So what do you do when you are at the farmers market? You ask stupid questions. Between two shopping trips, I've graduated from "How do you control pests?" to "Have you sprayed the cucumbers?" Obviously, these are very "intelligent" questions. NOT! Here are some of the responses I have gotten:
- Of course we spray! Do you know what these peaches would look like if we did not spray?!? (My thoughts: Yes, I know what they look like, I just bought some organic peaches at Whole Foods. They were pretty and delicious!)
- Yes, we use the least amount of spray needed. There is no way around it! (My thoughts: That is what you believe, but what about the guy right over there that has not sprayed half of his crop?)
- I spray the tomatoes with copper. (My thoughts: I do not know if copper on tomatoes is good or bad, but my intuition tells me that this does not sound right. "Honey, would you like some tomatoes with copper? They're amazing!")
I am not trying to downplay the hard work the farmers put into growing their crops. For most of them, if not all of them, farming is their only source of income. Pesticides are used to produce more results and make more money. However, there are farmers out there that are using organic methods successfully. I will continue on my journey to find those organic farmers.
If you have the same experiences at farmers markets as me, then my advice is to visit them more frequently, get to know the farmers, and you will feel less stupid asking questions. Local buying is all about knowing where your food comes from. Local buying is a great way to avoid Genetically Modified (GMO) crops. Building a relationship with the farmers will help you understand their growing practices and feel more confident about the food you are eating.
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!