Deception at the Farmers’ Market

And we thought they were the best…

By TARA PARKER-POPE

Tomatoes at a farmers' market.
Alan Zale for The New York Times Choosing tomatoes at a farmers’ market

Is the produce you buy at your local farmers’ market really grown locally?

A surprising investigation by the local NBC affiliate in Los Angeles discovered several examples of false claims at various Southern California farmers’ markets, including a vendor who purchased boxes of produce from wholesale produce warehouses, including items grown on big commercial farms as far away as Mexico.

We investigated other vendors, like Juan Uriostegui, who sells produce at the West Hollywood farmers market on Mondays. He tells customers that everything he sells is grown on his farm in Redlands, in San Bernardino County.

We bought some of his broccoli, and the same day, we showed up at his farm with officer Allan Lampman of the San Bernardino Department of Agriculture. Lampman asked Uriostegui to show him where he was growing broccoli, but all the farmer could show him was a patch of dry dirt.

“I’m looking at the fields, saying, ‘I don’t think you grew that broccoli,’” Lampman said.

The report also tested five boxes of strawberries that claimed to be pesticide-free. Lab tests detected pesticides in three of the boxes.

The report noted that many of the foods sold at the market lived up to their claims. So how do you make sure you’re getting local, pesticide-free produce when you shop at the farmers’ market? The report offered this advice.

Operators of farmers markets we spoke to suggest shoppers get to know vendors they buy from, and ask them a lot of questions. Ask for the exact location of the farm where the produce is grown. If they claim their produce is “pesticide free,” ask them what methods they use to control pests on their crops. Ask exactly when the produce was picked. If the farmer can’t give you specific answers, or seems unwilling to answer your questions, market operators say you should walk away.

To see the full article, “False Claims, Lies Caught on Tape at Farmers’ Markets,” go to the NBC Web site, and then please join the discussion below. Have you ever suspected the produce you buy at the farmers’ market isn’t really from a local farm?

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About martisima

After over 50 years of teaching literature to undergraduate and graduate students, I feel I have earned my retirement (it happened when I was 72, five years ago). I do miss the classroom, however, but not the meetings and all other requirements of the profession. I love teaching, and wish I could still do it. But now I read for pleasure, and watch films, and listen to all kinds of music (no TV, though). I love to travel, and hope I can resume doing it soon. I need to get over my health issues caused by thyroid surgery three years ago!
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One Response to Deception at the Farmers’ Market

  1. Rafael says:

    I guess if it’s from Earth it’s still “local”.

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