Social Media Foodie: Would the Real Farmers Please Stand Up?

Farmers markets, a welcoming oasis especially for city dwellers, gives us that sense of connectedness to other people and more importantly to our food. When I worked in Washington, D.C. I lived near Eastern Market, which every weekend would showcase an amazingly diverse and abundant array of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, seafood, and more.

I don't ever remember questioning the authenticity of who produced the food - or even if they produced it at all.

I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal that talks about the rampant re-sellers that are infiltrating Farmers Markets across the country. Now, it's not unfair to ask for purity at a Farmers Market. We all expect fresh products and produce, grown by the vendors who show up. But one particular paragraph caught my attention.

"For the past few years, Luis Vazquez has been waging war against a popular baked-goods vendor from the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Michigan. Mr. Vazquez suspects the bakery, Kapnick Orchards, is selling
pre-made baked goods."

I'll admit the fact someone could be "waging a war" against a "baked-goods vendor" for being a "suspected" fake baker is somewhat hilarious. But as the USDA has shown, the number of farmers markets have grown significantly in the past 10 years - now up to 5,300 - double the number a decade ago.

There's little doubt the organic and even green movement have attributed to this increase. The Slow Food movement, although small, also probably seeps into the larger culture and documentaries bring to our attention the need for being closer to our food.

Perhaps I've been a little naive when it comes to the innocence of "farmers" at farmers markets...but not quite ready to "wage war" or succumb to farmers market paranoia. When it comes down to it, we're all in the food industry in one way or another. And the reality is that it's often up to us to weed out the posers, resellers, and yes, even the fake bakers.

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Tags: Coalition, Farmers, Market, USDA, farmers, fohboh, food, market, organic, produce, More…restaurant social media, safety

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Comment by Michael Biesemeyer on May 15, 2010 at 9:44am
Here's a Farmer's Market search tool: http://states.farmersmarket.com/
Comment by Annette Aaron on May 14, 2010 at 2:58am
The farmers market anywhere in the country always makes me feel good. I believe maybe foolishly that my radar can weed out the posers.
Comment by Marcus Guiliano on May 7, 2010 at 6:18am
I have always told people to ask the vendors at farm markets if they are the farmer or vendor. Some farm markets only want farmers, some don't care and some will try to get anchor vendors. So farm markets can be misleading. But I see the benefits to have vendors, but they need to identify themselves. Of course bananas in Michigan are a dead giveaway. The benefits of having an out of area/season items helps the consumer save time and hopefully skip a trip to the grocery store. Some markets are so limited that bananas, avocados, citrus and food and craft vendors will increase traffic. And increased traffic is better for the farmer. But the vendors should never compete with the same type of products. I have seen one market that put all the vendors together in one area and the farmers got the prime front spaces.
Comment by Josh Hersh on April 29, 2010 at 7:52pm
@Kaffeenjunkie

Well said! That's hilarious...beware of the posers!

Non-Operator
Comment by Kaffeenjunkie on April 29, 2010 at 7:05pm
If you are selling bananas in a Farmers Market in Michigan, you just might be a poser. (true story)
If you are selling tomatoes in May at a Farmers Market in Michigan, you just might be a poser. *(another true story and they came out of a box marked FLA)
If you are selling baked goods that look like they would be at home on the continental breakfast bar at a major hotel chain, you just might be a poser,
Comment by Josh Hersh on April 29, 2010 at 11:02am
Totally agree Michael!

I almost wrote this post about social media types bringing transparency to farmers markets...the same that's happening in government and other sectors that had too much secrecy. Looks like we have a lot of work on our hands to create such a Yelp-type site! haha I like your thinking!

It would be a great resource to have all of the Farmers Markets mapped out on a Google Map and a website that allows people to connect through Twitter, FB, etc. I'm thinking it could almost be done through something like Ning as well.
Comment by Michael Biesemeyer on April 29, 2010 at 10:50am
I agree, Josh. This is one instance where self-regulation makes the most sense. The fact that the consumer-producer relationship is so intimate at farmer's markets should help identify the vendors that are there under 'false pretenses.'

The fact that wannabes are flocking to these venues is a testament to the local food movement's value to the community, like you've stated in your post. Perhaps the market's organizers should be a bit more aware of whom they let obtain booth space. Maybe there's an opportunity for a social media site (a la Yelp) that rates farmers/vendors at all the farmer's markets across the country...consumer driven, reviewed, etc?

Again, this is one for the community to manage, in my opinion...not some regulatory body.

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