A Distrubing Trend

Being that it is Tuesday and on Tuesday I talk about gardening I have a rather disturbing story to tell.  Last weekend I went to the farmers market to get veggies etcetera for this weeks meals.  I stopped off at my favorite hole-in-the-wall breakfast place and off I went.

I make my way down to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market, located off Yorkmount road in Charlotte NC.  I love this one, it one of the bigger farmers markets in the city and it is certainly the most popular.  As I walk around I see all shades of green.  Bok choy, asparagus, collard greens, beans and so on.

As I make my way down the rows, navigating the crowd I see out of the corner of my eye.  There it was, a vendor taking strawberries out of mass packed plastic containers and dumping them into these green cardboard buckets.  They then took these and placed them in their stall labeled “LOCAL NORTH CAROLINA PRODUCE”.

The way it is setup you can walk behind the stalls so I walked over and took a peek at these plastic containers.  “product of Mexico, packaged in the USA”.  Local washing is where you brand items as local produced when it is not.

As I walked around I found this to be the case for so many and not just strawberries, it was practically everything.  I found one guy who grew asparagus in his garden in Charlotte and I gladly handed him my four dollars.

I began to think about how this came to be or why this came to be.  I realized that smaller farmers simply cannot produce enough to meet the demands and the variety that people want.  This is why I think they have to buy mass produced items and sell them.  But I find that they lie and brand them as local is objectionable

What do you all think about this practice?   Do you see this at your local farmers market?

  1. It’s terrible. It’s like the local health food store here, and how all their produce is “organic” so people pay twice as much for it because “organic = better for you” when it’s mostly the same thing. Also it’s all trucked up here from the US and South America, talk about pollution.

  2. I belong to a CSA. And after two years I just trust my farmer. Having a relationship with the farmer that grows your food is a good thing. I wish it was available year round.

  3. Wow, never saw that before. In VT, the vendors at farmers markets are all legit.

    What’s so bad about selling out of a product? Can’t they make money by selling just what they produce? They are cutting their nose to spite their face by lying about their product. It should ruin their reputation.

    I’d hope someone calls them out on it, people pay good money to support local farming as a concept, not just to pay the wages of the farmer.

  4. I cannot believe that! That is just awful and despicable!

    I wouldn’t have hesitated to call him/her out on that one (in a very, very loud voice, no less, as to draw as much attention as possible.) And THEN I would have gone to as many newspaper/web journalists as possible with pictures of the matter to make as many people as possible aware of it.

    But that is just me. 😉

    It does sadden me, though, to see what new lengths people come up with to deceive others…

  5. An absolutely awful and shameful practice. Unfortunately it’s a hard think to prove, unless (like in your case) there is some evidence near by.

    I would really hate this type of thing to hurt the reputation of farmer’s markets, which it’s sure to if this practice continues.

    This could lead to people thinking “What’s the point, it’s all repackaged anyway.”

    • Not only “what is the point if it is just repacked” but also now you have double the waste! the old packaging is throw to put it in “from the farm” looking packaging which also will be thrown away.

  6. I guess there is an advantage in living in a small town that has a small outdoor market. You have to get there early or things will be gone. The market lasts only a few hours on Saturday and Sunday. You know the vendors and where they grow their produce. I am glad they don’t feel forced to pass others products off as their own. When they sell out they just close up for the day. – Margy

    • I used to live in a small town like that too. Now I live in Charlotte, city of 1.3 million, its a big change, both good and bad.

  7. There was a good article in Mother Earth News or Grit a couple months ago on how to start a farmers market and one of the things they focused on was this issue of keeping the produce local. It’s a wide spread problem and really up to the individual market to police.

    Years ago when I was making pottery I made a weekly 200 mile round trip to sell my pots every weekend at a Farmers’ Market in Marin County (California). Even at that market the farmers were unofficially given some slack and were not policed well. Not sure how well it is enforced today.

    This is a very tricky problem because the economics drive people to survive by cheating. Some local growers are totally on the up and up and have plenty of their own food to sell. Others are simply trying to make a living.

    So the lesson, like most things connected to money, is caveat emptor. Never take anything at face value and try to develop real relationships with real people. It takes more time but in the end pays us all back.

    Oh… also… more specifically. If this is happening at your local market report it to the market management and try to guage how they react… in other words… try to sense if they care or not.

    • I totally can see both sides, these are local small time farmers and they have literally 1000’s of people wanting to buy. They can’t grow that much. But it is too bad they misrepresent.

  8. So sad for many reasons: undermines local farmers, undermines trust in good food, allows unscrupulous vendors to make more money.

    Some farmers market ask you to vouch for your produce and will only take “real” local.
    This is a good reason to buy from people you trust and/or certified organic. A paper trail may not equal trust but at least it is verifiable.
    Bottom line is that its up to consumer to be informed and ask before they buy.

    • I couldn’t agree more! it ruins it for the farmer who works hard to bring seasonal produce to you legitimately. It’s such a shame!

  9. Contact NC DOA, some states have laws against this… for a farm product to be marked local it must be grown and packaged in the state of origin.

    • Infuriating! As someone else mentioned, please contact the market manager — I am sure that misrepresentation is against market policy. I’d also use one of those handy-dandy new-flangled cell phone cameras if I had one to gather some evidence.

      I know that markets are hard for farmers, but come on! Ethics are important!

      • I will try to bring my flip camera and catch it!

  10. Thank you. Will be watching closely at my markets because things are changing. Local “farmers” markets are now being produced as outdoor events with what they call valued added vendors, like cell phone companies.

    Also noticed the store that used to be a local indie health food store had sacks of items destined for the bulk bins with multi-national brand name written large and proud on the product.


    • It is too bad and it really spoils it for the farmers who are doing it honestly.

  11. yeah- that’s pretty dispicable….good lookin’ out Ryan.

    Its like McDonald’s claiming they offer healthy choices, or that their McNuggets are made of “select white meat”….

    Sadly the only true way to know 100% where your food came from is to grow it yourself- whether it be on a plot of land, on a roof, or in containers….

    Author of “Humble Homes, Simple Shacks…”

    • Amen Deek. I am still in the learning phase of gardening and I can’t wait to get to the point to start everything from heirloom seeds, to produce enough for all summer and canning in the winter, then harvesting the seeds to reuse next year. I am pretty far off from this goal, but someday!

  12. I’m in metro-Atlanta and the largest market here is probably the State Farms Market in Morrow. I’ve seen vegetables there labeled as “Georgia grown” at a time when no righteous tomato would dare grow in Georgia, so I’ve wondered if that practice is going on there. The market I frequent most is called DeKalb Farmers Market in Decatur (on the web) and they have been very good at labeling the country of origin. Actually, at one time, they touted that everything in their market was picked, in its respective country of origin, no more than 24 hours before it arrived at their market. And, I do have to say, the produce is phenomenally fresh – even when its from Chile. I live in the eastern burb of Covington and we have a co-op here that thrives during the summertime and most all of their foods are locally grown or locally prepared. I would be willing to bet, there are a LOT of places that rebrand their produce as locally grown when it is not. It’s sad. The biggest question is how do you know? When you buy produce, all you can do is take them at their word what they claim is true. The only way to truly know is my favorite slogan from the 60’s-70’s. GROW YOUR OWN, MAN! 🙂

    • haha! I got plants in the ground right now. I get suspicious when I see things that are out of season. I always want local and if I can’t get that, I at least want to know where it is from. Just honesty.

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