As partial participants in the farm-to-table movement, we recognize many of the potential benefits that come with locally-sourced and generally wholesome foods. We’re also skeptical about the feasibility of the average person to consistently partake of nothing but farm-to-table foodstuffs. One place where we repeatedly see this dynamic play out is at the farmers market.
Wait, what? Many people believe that all the food at the farmers market has been brought to the local market by local farmers. For some locations, this may be true. Often, there is a mix of local farmers and traveling vendors. With the total number of farmers markets in the U.S. approaching 10,000 and with comparatively few standards and regulations, there isn’t much that’s universally true about these local food markets.
In a best case, the location and ultimate source of every food vendor at a farmers market will be clear. Often, it’s necessary to do a little detective work. There are also clear giveaways if you know how to spot the signs. If see pineapple in Minneapolis in May, you know, not everything is local. In a worst-case, some food wholesalers are setting up shop with literally the same stuff you can get at the grocery store, except it’s more expensive.
Should Farmers Markets Stay Strictly Local?
Look, even if you’re a big fan of farm-to-table, there’s an argument to made for more inclusive rules that allow certain non-local food vendors. It goes like this: By restricting farmers markets food vendors to only local sources, you not only limit what foodstuffs can be sold at the market, you limit the market’s appeal to a broader audience. In the big-picture, and as we’ve made the point in other places, one person going completely farm to table makes less of a difference than 100 people making their food choices 10% more locally sourced.
Again, this is with the huge caveat that every vendor and food source is clearly labeled for the consumer. There is no informed consumer without reliable information.