Musings about our farm, organic farming, regional foods and markets.

Plus, what's in the news about foods, systems and regulations around the world.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Farmers Markets in the Spotlight

What a perfect farmers market experience Warkworth Market at the Mews offers! it is authentically local, reflecting genuine community. With the CBC Marketplace "exposé", farmers markets in general have come under the spotlight and the fallout has not been pretty. Like any other business model, farmers markets face issues of credibility in the eyes of the consumer. They also present massive opportunities for good food, good health, the localist economy, and societal change. In many ways, they are victim of their own success as more and more consumers flock to them, away from name-brand food sources like supermarkets and grocery stores. They stand to be knocked down.

In the CBC Marketplace report, the Peterborough Farmers Market was highlighted. While most appreciated the revelation of some produce coming from the Ontario Food Terminal, the market management most certainly did not. Several small-farm vendors ironically seen as troublemakers were subsequently uninvited to participate. They have now set up their own Saturday farmers market through Peterborough Regional Farmers Network. While it is a shame for markets to fragment in this way, the intransigence of a Board of Directors in this case made a parting of the ways inevitable.

Yes, a few re-sellers maintain a presence as vendors at some farmers markets. Sometimes market management allows them under their regulations; this is especially true of long-established regional town and city markets across southern Ontario, like Peterborough. This is, after all, how these markets began, long before the local food movement took hold. Sometimes management just turns a blind eye or fails to take adequate time or effort to monitor what farmers bring. Sometimes re-sellers sneak in the back door, selling incognito through farmers or while representing produce as home-grown alongside harvests from their own farm.

By and large, farmers are honest and upfront, as indeed they should be. The few bad apples should be weeded out through strong rules and clear signage rigorously enforced. The buying public deserves nothing less than total transparency, especially at farmers markets, where the stakes for health are so high. We all have a right to know where our food comes from, and whether it is certified organic, grown using chemicals, or containing genetically modified ingredients. After all, these venues offer our best chance to feed body and soul with locally-sourced healthy food direct from a family farm in a convivial setting. Talking of which... in our neck of the woods, Codrington Farmers Market, now entering its fourth year, has become a popular destination for a local food and artisan craft experience on Sundays. 

And now, the vibrant village of Warkworth has its very own afore-mentioned Market at the Mews on Friday afternoons. These two markets fully embrace local growers and food artisans with - hopefully - no re-sellers to be seen or negotiated. They reflect how every farmers market community - city or country - should be. Let's celebrate them. As an organic farmer, I certainly do!