Everywhere you look these days farmers’ markets are popping up… and their popularity is going up as well. The number of farmers’ markets has increased by 60 percent over the past five years and for most people farmers’ markets are their sole source of obtaining fresh, local produce.
But not all farmers’ markets are the same… and not all farmers’ markets are offering the fresh, local produce that you are expecting.
Here are some facts about farmers’ markets that you need to know before you head out to your next market.
- There are typically two types of markets – a true farmers’ market and a “farm market” where people resell produce that they purchased at a wholesale market. At a “farm market” the produce is typically not producing locally but instead comes from faraway states or countries. Look for “producer-only” farmers’ markets to make sure that you are shopping at the real deal. Ask the market director if you are not sure if the place you go to is “producer-only” or not.
- Local doesn’t always mean organic. Local farmers that aren’t deemed certified organic can and will use some of the same harmful pesticides that other produce chains use. Farmers must be certified by the USDA and keep very accurate records in order to be considered organic. Some farmers choose not to go through the lengthy certification process so they are not legally allowed to say that they are organic. If a farmer is not certified but claims to be organic, ask them how they their weeds and insects are kept under control to determine if they conduct organic practices.
- Food straight from the farmers’ market may look so good and ripe for the eating on the spot, but you really shouldn’t eat something directly at the farmers’ market. Consider all of the “dirty hands” that may have come in contact with your produce before making its way to the farmers’ market shelves and bins. Fight the urge to pop those berries or cherry tomatoes right in your mouth and be sure to wash them thoroughly before you eat them. The best (and cheapest) way to clean any produce is by using this solution: In a spray bottle, mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, and 1 cup cold water. Shake it well and spray it all over your produce. Rinse your produce well after spraying and enjoy!
- Don’t be “bugged” out by the bugs on your produce at your local farmers’ market. Bugs in store-bought processed foods are definitely a bad thing, but bugs on produce at a farmers’ market are actually a good thing. Biodiversity is a practice often used on organic farms, so if you see a worm or two on your apple be grateful knowing that you are getting something that is straight off the farm and truly organic.