Can you spot the phony farmer?
Chances are, there’s at least one of them — maybe more — at your local farmers market, and unless you’re careful you could be paying him farm-fresh prices for low-quality wholesale imports.
Some of these huckster "farmers" might even know less about farming than you do!
Farmers market fakers on the rise
One TV news crew in Los Angeles went undercover to follow the trail of the veggies sold in the area’s markets — and found that some of them ended in warehouses and shipping containers, not idyllic green fields with scarecrows and windmills.
The crew bought some broccoli from one "farmer," then visited his "farm" with an agriculture official and asked to see where the vegetable came from. All they found was a patch of dry dirt that clearly wasn’t producing broccoli… or anything else, for that matter.
In another case, three out of five containers of "pesticide-free" strawberries bought at a farmers market tested positive for multiple pesticides… and in another instance, a man who claimed to grow his own avocados was busted at the wholesale produce warehouse where he was buying them.
I wish I could tell you that those were isolated incidents… but they weren’t. And those aren’t the only phonies you need to watch out for.
Supermarkets are trying to get in on the act, setting up "farmers markets" in their own parking lots.
Just one problem: There are no farmers, and this isn’t a real market — because all they’ve done is move some veggies from the store’s produce department to a tent outside.
The more creative ones might make the outside staff wear overalls, but that won’t change the fact that those tomatoes arrived from Mexico in a boxcar filled with fruit flies.
That said, farm-fresh food — the real McCoy — can’t be beat, so don’t be afraid of farmers markets… just be nosy about it. Ask very specific questions — ones where the answers are hard to fudge. If the farmer claims to be selling organic broccoli, ask him how he controls harlequin bugs.
If his "aw shucks" are mixed with hems and haws, smile nicely and move on to the next booth.
And if the booth is selling out-of-season produce or stuff you just know doesn’t grow locally — like mangoes in Maine — don’t even waste your time.