By Beth Sanders
In this nation of growing consumer interest and demand for local, organic foods, it’s good to remember that not all farmers’ markets are created equal. Because many people may not have the time or the wherewithal to coordinate buying produce at obscure locations or during inconvenient hours, the food retail industry is beginning to expand its model of “one stop shopping”. In Washington DC, a Safeway store in the Pam Am Shopping Center now invites local farmers to sell their vegetables to incoming customers during weekends. Last month, the Sunflower Market grocery chain that operates its own farm in Colorado recently launched its Veggie Box Subscriptions program, offering Boulder residents the option of purchasing a 23-week produce share for $700. Even Wal-Mart has jumped on the bandwagon, announcing a “Fresh Farmer’s Market” event hosted in front of its Chatham neighborhood store on Chicago’s southside.
Although this is one of the healthier approaches the food retail industry has taken to keep up with consumer trends, it is important to recognize that stores may be cutting corners when creating these venues. For example, while Westcott Orchards (or Westcott Agri Products), a participating grower for the Wal-Mart program, is based in nearby Minnesota, it represents anything but a small, sustainable operation. Part of the company’s business model involves sourcing from growers in New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, and Australia to meet year-round demand for its products. Bushman’s Potatoes also sells food products at the ongoing Chatham Market despite the fact that it not only ships from its Michigan and Wisconsin farms, but also from sites in California and Florida. At the end of the day, both of these growers are part of the large-scale agriculture industry where companies share a similar distribution model as well as other practices, including evading the USDA’s organic certification guidelines.
In fact, these “super-farmers’ markets” bear little resemblance to the more traditional markets when taking into account the usual guidelines for farm participation. For example, the City of Chicago farmer’s market rules specify that growers must grow 100% of the products they sell, and reselling or redistribution is not allowed. With regards to size, small, individual farms are prioritized over moderately sized operations—even cooperative projects. So while Walmart’s venue is arguably positive in that it fills gaps in an underserved fresh foods market, it does not necessarily provide organic, sustainable or local produce. However, we can be sure that they are going to call it a farmers’market as long as the supermarket industry sees them as being profitable.
For more information about farmers’ markets and where to find one in your community, see the USDA’s Farmers Markets and Local Food Marketing page from its website:
Etiquetas: Food First