From the New York Times: Farmer Banned From Greenmarkets

One of the big reasons people shop at farmer’s markets across the country is because they want to eat fresher foods that were grown locally. They want to support local farmers and food producers and support their local economy, all while eating delicious food.

What they don’t want to do is fall victim to the old bait and switch tactics that you expect out of corporations. They expect foods at farmer’s markets to be what they are advertised to be. In other words, if they are paying top dollar for pasture-raised, organic grain fed chickens, they want their chickens to be pastured and fed only organic grain. And if a farmer signs an agreement with an individual market to follow the rules which state that they personally raise or produce the food that they sell, then, that farmer should only be selling what he has personally raised or produced.

The managers of New York City’s Greenmarkets has taken the unusual step of suspending a local farmer from selling at their markets because he was found to be selling more meat than he could possibly be producing on his upstate farm, leading to questions over where he might be getting the balance of the meat, and how it was raised.

This is a serious issue, because one of the biggest boons that farmer’s markets have brought to consumers has been creating a sense of trust in the growers and producers who sell at the market to be selling what they say they are selling, and to be producing food exactly the way they say they do. When one farmer violates that trust, it can lead to credibility issues for other farmers who sell at the market.

I haven’t heard of a similar issue here in Athens, but I do remember that when the farmer’s market in Charleston, West Virginia, started when I was a kid, there was no rules about the seller having to have produced, grown or made the foods that they sold at the market, which resulted in legitimate farmers competing with vendors who bought fruits and vegetables from wholesalers and sold their wares alongside the farmers. (A big tip-off that this was going on was the fact that no matter how warm the summer was, pineapples, bananas and citrus fruits quite simply do not grow in West Virginia.)

The Charleston farmer’s market now has the same basic rules in place that the Greenmarkets in New York and our market here in Athens has–everything has to be grown, produced or made by the farmer/vendor in question. I think that such rules are necessary, and need to be upheld, and although I, like most everyone else, doesn’t much care for someone who breaks trust, I cannot but feel somewhat sorry for the farmer in the Times article–his pool of buyers has dried up and it sounds like he is suffering from physical injuries which make it hard for him to work.

On the other hand, his situation shows what happens when one lies to consumers and they find out about it. Loyalty only lasts so long as the trust that feeds it is not found to be misplaced.


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  1. I agree… though I do wish that the nut farmer in my farmer’s market would be allowed to also sell the excellent nut crackers that he uses.

    Comment by Sasha — July 30, 2008 #

  2. I don’t think a market has to be set up that each seller has to make/grow everything they sell, but I DO think they should be required to label what is local/seller produced and what is not. Such as the dairy at our market, they also sell local honey, jams and preserves that they don’t make. In the case of the beekeeper I know his operation is too small for him to have his own booth, and this way I can get my honey from him without having to have it shipped to me (waste of gas and packaging).

    There are strictly resellers are our market and I avoid them. I look for out of season items and I look at the boxes in their tent or truck. Producers usually have wooden crates or plastic boxes/tubs, while resellers have the cardboard boxes they bought the veggies in.

    Comment by Amy — July 30, 2008 #

  3. Our local markets require farmers grow what they sell, and are periodically reviewed/inspected to be sure that’s the case. No resellers. I don’t think that applies to people selling “crafty” goods and the like – but for farmers, definitely. And a good thing too. There are enough outlets for brokers of other people’s food items.

    Comment by Diane — July 30, 2008 #

  4. If it’s set up as a local farmer’s market, then yes, the products should come only from the local farmer’s land. Now if they had a clearly marked “imported” area, then I could deal with that. But this banned guy was pulling a fast one, like I’m sure has been done many times by many others.

    One of our local farms has their own market, and they had pineapples when I was there. I’m guessing they didn’t have hothouses to grow their own, so since they weren’t marked as imported — or grown locally in hothouses, I started wondering what other produce they might have shipped in, despite having a huge farm right there.

    Comment by Shreela — July 31, 2008 #

  5. Of the three farmers’ markets that I go to, two are producer-only and one is not. Even at the non-producer-only market, there is really only one stand (albeit by far the biggest one) that sells produce brought in from elsewhere.

    I used to think that if I’m going to buy fruits and vegetables brought in from elsewhere, I’d rather at least buy them from someone who specializes in fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than from a big-box supermarket that does most of its business in non-perishable food. (When I lived in England, this was my rationale for going to greengrocers for the things I couldn’t buy at the farmers’ market. Unfortunately, no greengrocers where I live now.)

    But so much of the stuff I’ve bought from the non-producer-only stand has turned out to be utter crap, I just don’t go to them anymore. I’m lucky to live in a place with a lot of good local and seasonal produce, and I don’t need anything else.

    I agree with everyone else that it’s especially horrible to be telling your customers that you produced what you’re selling when you didn’t. Especially in the case of animal products, when the interests of sentient beings who can’t speak up for themselves are at stake.

    Comment by Johanna — July 31, 2008 #

  6. There are more people who want to grow local produce and raise animals than there are who want to deal with farmer’s markets. For many farmers, going to the market involves getting up as early as 3 AM and buying an expensive tank of gas. Then you have to deal with large amounts of people. Not all good farmers can do this well.

    Makes me wonder if many people who run markets have actually been involved with agriculture.

    If I ran a market I would allow farmers to sell products produced by others as part of a cooperative agreement. The other producers would have to register and be inspected.

    I know plenty of farmers who help distribute other farmer’s products. I know an organic sheep farmer who sells Berkshire pork raised by a neighbor who is elderly and unable to market. I know other farmers that work with neighbors to slaughter and market because both slaughterhouses and markets are often so far away and carpooling can save costs.

    Farmers markets need to recognize this as a legitimate business model and take steps to differentiate this from seller who simply buy produce from a conventional source and unfairly compete with farmers.

    Comment by Melissa — July 31, 2008 #

  7. I agree with Melissa. I don’t think it’s so important that something is sold and produced by exactly the same person, but that all products are local and held to the farm-fresh standard, and ideally sold by people who produce one or more of the things they’re selling.

    At my local farmer’s market I don’t think there would be much point in allowing non-local produce — there are two supermarkets nearby where I can get as much of that as I want. But in general if it was allowed my main concern would be 1) honesty, and 2) making sure it didn’t crowd out local produce (having a limited maximum percentage of imports).

    Comment by Alexis — July 31, 2008 #

  8. Wow. This was happening at my local market! I never liked Dines product very much and didn’t buy from him. Glad I didn’t now!

    @Melissa: Did your read the NYT article? Dines wasn’t sourcing his additional meats locally – he was getting them in Georgia. GEORGIA! Not local to NY at all! He could have sourced them from Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut or New Hampshire and still been holding to the rules of the Greenmarket, but he was shipping stuff in from GEORGIA.

    That’s NOT OK.

    Living in NYC is expensive – I am not a stock broker or a lawyer – I don’t make a ton of money. I, like many NYers, spend a lot of money on my rent, etc. I’ve made a commitment to buy locally – sometimes that’s a bit of hardship for me – but I do it because I believe that it is best not only for my health and my family’s health, but the health of the economy and the earth.

    To lie to me, someone who makes sacrifices to make sure everything she buys is local, is NOT OK.

    I, for one, am glad our greenmarket system has prevented him from selling anymore. I didn’t know we had such a system in place, and I’m glad to see we do – and that it WORKS.

    Comment by baconbit — August 1, 2008 #

  9. I generally think that there should be some sort of allowances for local farmers to distribute food and products from other local farmers and producers, too. It would help the economy further and would be nice to give some of the older farmers who do not have the energy to get their stuff to market by giving them a way to sell to the public in the city.

    I’d like to see some farmer’s cooperatives start up, where they can take turns taking food to market and manning the booth every week, but they would be able to offer a lot of different products to the public, and not always have to be at the market every week.

    But I really do think that the Greenmarket did the right thing by disallowing this farmer from selling. Anyone who is in NY who labels his meat as local, should not be able to sell meat from Georgia.

    Comment by Barbara — August 2, 2008 #

  10. The majority of the markets here in Europe, (at least that I’ve been too) have only a small section, if at all, of local farmers and produce. The rest is simply commercial produce that, one hopes, is a bit fresher than the big supermarkets. And sometimes the supermarkets are simply too far away.
    I miss the true ‘farmer’s’ markets from the U.S. Maybe, after I move further south in two months the markets will be different – one can only hope!

    Comment by katie — August 2, 2008 #

  11. My husband and I are farmers who sell at the union Sq. greenmarket, every Jan. we prepare a detailed crop plan of exactly what and how much of each crop we will be growing,expected yields and dates of availability. We are a very small farm- no help- just the 2 of us working hard to deliver fresh food to you. We take pride in our goods, and we welcome farm inspections. Mr. Dines places all of us honest farmers under a cloud of doubt and hurts the reputation of our greenmarket. The rules are clear, he broke them and deserved to be thrown out. I have no sympathy for him.

    Comment by Linda — August 7, 2008 #

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