Recently the Nashville Farmer’s Market was in the news when the announcement was made that this spring they will revert to being a “producer” only market. In other words, only the people who actually make, raise or grow the products they are selling will be allowed to have booths.
The decision has been both applauded and derided, depending on perspective. Local farmers who sell at the market are 100% in support, as are customers who want to buy directly from the farmer growing the food. On the other side are the “resalers” (wholesale produce suppliers) who have been selling at the market for years and the customers who prefer convenience and year-round produce availability.
I posted the article from The Tennessean on my personal Facebook page, as well as our farm page, and received numerous well-stated comments from both sides. As I thought about replying to each one, I realized it made more sense to write this post and explain in more detail where I land in this debate. Obviously, as a local farmer, I have a dog in this hunt, so it’s only fair our customers (and potential customers) know exactly where we stand on this issue.
Let me start by giving a couple of definitions of what is a farmer’s market:
In both cases the emphasis is on farmers selling directly to customers. This is why farmer’s markets were started. To give local farmers a cost effective way to connect and sell directly to local customers. As a new farm starting out last year, selling at a local “farmer’s market” was critical for us. It gave us exposure to new customers that we otherwise would not easily have gotten and a number of those customers have continued to support us through the winter.
While definitely a win for us, participating in this market also taught us some valuable lessons. Unlike the direction the Nashville market is taking, our market is not a “producer-only” market. In other words there are produce vendors there who are “resalers” and do not grow what they sell. Some are very open about this and others…not so much. As the season went on, these are the lessons we learned…
That being said, I would definitely like to see full disclosure from all the vendors at our market. Did you make, raise or grow the products you’re selling? If not, be up front and tell people where they came from. It’s pretty obvious when the bottom of the mug says “made in China”, but not so much when it comes to produce. I believe full disclosure helps even the playing field and gives the local farmer (like us) a fighting chance to be successful at market.
The next time you’re shopping at a farmer’s market, and in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask where that produce came from and how it was grown. It’s your right as a consumer to get an honest answer before spending your hard-earned money. For those of you who really care about where the food you’re eating comes from, we have very simple advice for you… “Know your farmer, know your food.”
We would love to hear more from you and what your thoughts are on this topic. Please feel free to share in our comments section.