View Full Version : Farmer's Market
2010-07-05, 11:59 AM
Come spring/summer and we have farmers markets open in at least most GTA towns. i generally find that they sell their stuff at a very high premium. for example, last weekend, my local market had a pint of blueberries for $5 while no-frills had it for $1.50. i was wondering what is so special about the berries from the farmer's market? she said they were handpicked that morning from bowmanville. so what? how fresh would the berries at no-frills be? i find that i can store them in the fridge for at least a week or 2. its not like the stuff they were selling was organic.
so i was just curious who buys stuff from these farmer's markets and why. also, why do they have them in the first place???
2010-07-05, 12:34 PM
I am personally divided on this issue as well.
Fruits and vegetables grown by small, local farmers are usually done so in a more sustainable and environment friendly manner than big business farming.
Often they do not use harmul chemicals, pesticides, GM seeds, etc. and therefore may be healthier than commercial produce.
It's not organic, true, but then the organic label these days doesn't mean squat, IMHO.
Their prices are higher because of the lack of economies of scale that big business and grocery chain stores have.
Item for item you will be paying more shopping at farmers markets.
Plus, you will have to deal entirely in cash (except some of the larger local farmers that may carry a card machine around for larger purchases).
However, what you get for that premium price is:
- Supporting the local economy
- Farming by sustainable means
- Arguably, healthier food than commercial non-organic produce (more arguably, healthier than commercial organic produce even)
- Food that has traveled only a few miles vs. thousands
- Fresh(er) than grocery store products
- An enjoyable shopping experience compared to shopping at Wal*Mart, Food Basics, etc.
These may or may not mean much to you so the choice to shop at local Farmers market is an individual one.
I agree completely with HaroldCrump. I am also torn when it comes to supporting our local farmers. I go to our local farmers market every week and try to pick and choose what I purchase there. Last week, raspberries were $6/pint! Ouch! The raspberries at my local Loblaws are significantly cheaper and also locally sourced - if you ask the people in the produce department they are suppose to be able to tell you when and where the produce came from (if the location isn't already on the packaging).
I did however purchase steak (grass fed, no antibiotics) way cheaper than I would have purchased it at the grocery store or butcher. I also picked up honey, cheese and leafy greens that I thought were equal/cheaper in price to the price I would pay elsewhere.
The atmosphere of the farmers market is great, it is educational for the kids and cuts out the middleman, allowing me to pay the farmers directly for their goods. I think it is important to show our local producers that we support and value the job they do.
2010-07-05, 01:12 PM
my guess was more or less the same. i do enjoy shopping at the farmers market as well. i used to do it occasionally and managed to pull off some good deals if i went at their closing time. this was my first time this year and was shocked to see the price difference!!
2010-07-05, 01:15 PM
Yes, I think I agree with Dana.
The trouble with grocery stores is you're getting stuff from huge California "farms" picked by 3rd world illegal labour. As far as the meat, you've all see "Food, Inc", right? Ugh. I think that's why many people are concerned with where their food is coming from. Fruit purchased at the store typically ripens in a truck, it's not fresh at all.
My solution for things like fresh eggs, milk and honey is to get to know rural farmers who sell these items. I grew up in the country and we routinely purchased things in this manner. To this very day I still buy my honey and rhubarb that way and find it tastes 100x better than any store product.
I also buy a lot of stuff locally but BE AWARE just because you are told they were picked fresh this morning from (wherever) does not mean that is the truth! I know one student who worked at a farmers market for a summer where they simply bought california or mexican blueberries and repackaged them for five times the price! And he was told to say they were picked from the farm fresh that morning! Before anyone knocks him, he was 15 and did as he was told as most kids that age probably would.
For me, I try and buy directly from the farmer vs going to a farmers market... by far most stuff at a farmers market is legit, just something to be aware of. Some people have no scruples what so ever! :(
2010-07-05, 02:23 PM
i hope you weren't citing the ultra-long storage capability of supermarket chain produce as an indicator of quality. Actually, it's the reverse. The big chains are selling blueberries right now that are largely from new jersey, although you can find some from british columbia. Like all chain produce, these berries are heavily sprayed with fungicide & pesticide so that they can survive the week-long truck transport plus several days of cold storage in warehouses.
fresh unsprayed fragile produce like berries & green leafy veggies can only survive a few days. That's what our farmers' markets are supposed to be selling. Most of the produce handled by the big chains is treated with fungicides when it's packed - often in the US - so that it can resist spoiling for 2 weeks or more.
it's sometimes difficult to know exactly what a stand at a farmers' market is really selling. I believe that produce has to be marked with its country of origin. What i find at big farmers' markets, where there are numerous competing vendors, is that quality varies wildly from one stand to the next. What i do is get to know certain stands, certain vendors, certain farms whose stories are authentic. That way i can return to the same stands to see what's new as the harvest season unfolds.
for what it's worth, i don't believe the personnel at stands in farmers' markets are ever the farmers themselves. Real farmers are too busy to spend an entire day at a market. Sometimes it's their relatives or friends or even their children who are doing the selling. At big markets there are vendors - one could call them micro-middlemen - who buy produce directly from farmers and then sell it to retail shoppers at the stand.
2010-07-05, 02:30 PM
Depends on the market, and depends on the farm. When I purchased a CSA share from one of my local farms for a couple of years, it was the farmers or their WWOOFers driving the produce from the farm to the market every week. How did I know? You can tell a farmer's hands (and body) in the same way you can tell a chef's hands.
(Humble, I know you don't like embedded links; so I will leave you to puzzle out those acroyms by yourself if you don't already know them!)
We buy CSA share every year and at least one of these same CSA's have a few acres set aside for markets.. and they (ie married couple) and their kids sell every Thursday at a small market at my workplace as well as a large (St Norberts Market for those familiar) south of the city every Saturday.
They are the farmers... they plant, hoe, weed, and harvest.... etc.
I think CSAs are a special case, as are once-a-week farmer's markets in smaller towns or city neighbourhoods. A friend of mine in Vermont spent 7 years as an organic farmer and he sold all his own produce at a farmer's market on Saturdays. But that was in small-town Vermont. Big city markets are different.
Here in Montreal we have one of the biggest open-air markets in North America (the Jean-Talon market; I just got back from there a few minutes ago, in fact), and it is open every day. You occasionally see farmers there at some of the smaller stands, but the bigger stands often sell the same produce that you find at the grocery store, none of it local. For that kind of stuff, I'd rather buy it at the supermarket where the plants continue to develop nutrients under the fluorescent lighting (according to a scientific study I read somewhere earlier this year). Like humble pie, I have my favorite places to shop at the market, where I trust the people and have had excellent produce in the past.
2010-07-05, 05:11 PM
The amount of sugar lose for a tomato in the first few minutes after picking is very large.
Anything that's picked here in Bowmanville today and gets sent to the food terminal will be picked 2 days ago.
If you stop at a vendor at your local farm market and they are only selling local produce you can be pretty sure they grew it and picked it this morning. That gives you 1.5-2 days before it's the same produce at AP.
Produce is a commodity and the Toronto Star use to quote prices on everything. Sure it's available some were.
These prices are set at the Food Terminal in Toronto and it's very hard to get a deal.
Here just east of Bowmanville is a green house grower that you can buy tomato in the dead of winter that are to die for. They are not cheap.
Interestingly enough, I spent the day last Friday at the CSA I've bought a share in this year. It was a lot of damn hard work, made me realize how hard farmers work!, but it was fun as well. We got there, worked a few hours, had lunch then worked a few more hours. I earned a small credit on my account, but that wasn't my point of going out.... the fresh air, exercise and seeing exactly where my veggies were coming from was priceless. I wouldn't do it again in a heartbeat... maybe once a year due to the amount of energy exerted weeding and hoeing.... but still fun nonetheless.
Addy, I've always been attracted to the idea of a CSA, but worry that I'll end up with more food than I have time to cook or put by, and much of it would go to waste. Has that been an issue at all for you? And what happens when you go on vacation?
We have winter CSAs here as well and I'm tempted to start with that as a way of putting my foot in the water --- the produce we get here in winter looks like it was dragged on the road behind a truck for 3,000 miles, kicked around the warehouse in impromptu soccer games, sat on, and then put out on the shelves for public consumption. And that's probably not far from the truth. The winter CSA provides locally grown veggies harvested in late autumn and stored; in some cases cold-hardy greens grown under cold frames as well, and it's got to be better than the sorry stuff I get from the supermarket.
2010-07-05, 05:40 PM
Brad - I was a CSA'er for years. I stopped in part because of the time required to process that amount of veggies. :o I would come home with my share each week and spend the next hour or two washing, spinning, packing, packaging, planning...
We're a small family of three... our daughter just turned three so for the most part she hasn't eaten an adult share of veggies, and my husband is fairly picky and won't eat a lot of fresh veggies... so some has gone to waste, simply due to us not being a big family, but not a lot. I tend to give some away but most I either freeze (it's amazing what you can freeze!) or have fun making dishes that are new to me.
I also have a Good Food box delivered once a month in the winter months... it's not all local, not all organic, but it's very fresh stuff and decent price for a whole box of stuff. That may be a route you want to check out as well.
It sounds like you enjoy cooking, at least from what posts I've read of yours Brad, so if I were you I would give a CSA a try. When we go on vacation we get our box delivered to a neighbour, and they pick out what they can use, freeze some stuff for us if they can... or you can simply ask for no delivery that week.
It sounds like you enjoy cooking, at least from what posts I've read of yours Brad, so if I were you I would give a CSA a try.
Thanks for your perspectives on this -- we could always try it for a year and see. Every year I promise myself I'm going to buy loads of strawberries in season and freeze them for use in winter; same for corn, beans, peas, etc., and every year I end up being too busy with work and with other priorities around the house (although I do usually freeze blueberries because it entails no work at all, and I always make a batch of pesto for the freezer). I could try it for one year and see how it goes. There's a CSA pickup location within an easy bike ride from my house, much closer than the market, so that's appealing.
I spent 5 years working in a farmer's garden growing up (back-breaking labour). In the wee hours of Saturday morning the farmer would drive 3 hours into Montreal (and 3 hours back) to buy the produce there - I assume that Montreal is a hotbed of produce production/import.
Then he would set up at local farmer's markets and sell a mix of homegrown and Montreal produce. I'm willing to bet he didn't differentiate which witch was which to his customers.
I enjoy the local farmer's market downtown, but try to establish a reasonable level of confidence that the stuff is actually local before purchase.
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