Toss the Farmers’ Markets?


Take a minute to read a portion of this article I found from a grass-fed cattle producer who wants to move past the local, farmers’ market movement. A challenging view into the local food movement.

So, I can say that I want to see my pork in Price Chopper, because behind the veil of the many myths of the local farm and food systems movement is a reality that we need to deal with. The energy and counter-cultural impulse to buy local, to buy directly from the farmer, is more than the vast majority of our population can or ever will be able to muster — heck, it is more than I can muster half the time! Historically, it has never been done this way. We tell ourselves we are going back to the future, but there is no there back there. We are attempting something brand new wrapped in a false veil of familiarity. If we insist on such a marketing model, local food will never account for more than a pittance of total sales, 1 percent, maybe 2 percent, possibly 3 percent (which is about where organic is right now).

To get beyond niche level, we need to radically change our marketing model. We do not need to sacrifice the integrity of our cultural model. We can and will continue to farm ethically. We can and will continue to be remunerated well enough to make a decent living. We can and will be able to afford to pay our employees living wages. What we cannot do is insist that we farmers look into the eyes of every consumer of local produce.

Newsflash: Grandma bought faceless commodity meat from a nameless farmer. That is not a past I want to return to. I want us to build a new, different, and I do think better, future.

via Forget farmers markets—I want to sell my pastured meat at Price Chopper | Grist.

I have considered many times how consumers would respond to seeing the face of a farmer on the labeling of their food. Ever since the COOL Act (Country of Origin Labeling) was signed into law, food labeling has been a topic of hot debate. I hear so much argument within food production about “local this”, “organic that”, and “grain-fed this” that it makes me sick that food producers cannot even get along with each other despite all trying to do fundamentally the same thing – produce food.

Over the course of time I have asked waitresses, employees at the meat counter, and even consumers at the beef display how they would feel about meats being labeled with producers’ information. We have the capability with current age/source and EID technology. It’s a obtainable possibility. Every response had some things in common. YES – Consumers welcome more information about the origin of their food. NO – Consumers do not believe the integrity of food production to label food correctly or responsibly. Kind of brings a challenge to the point from the article above…

What are your opinions? Have you ever asked consumers, food retailer employees their opinions?

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4 Comments

  1. I love farmers’ markets. There is just a level of trust when you buy your produce and meat directly from the farmer that you know where your food has been and who has handled it. When you buy something packaged at the store, there is a greater disconnect of where the food has come from, and that disconnect allows for more distrust about how your food is labeled- whether it is “natural” or “organic”. I would never think to ask a farmer at a farmers’ market if his produce was “natural”! Of course it is! He grew it himself.

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  2. Part of the problem lies in the fact that we are disconnected from the fact that, in most cases, there is a difference between agriculture and food production. When it comes to vegetables, there is more frozen or canned vegetables in supermarkets than fresh.

    It goes without saying that all meat goes through a processor before reaching the consumer. Beef recalls somehow give the rancher or farmer a bad name. The only way echoli is present in hamburger is through poor processing, yet the consumer feels protected because we can trace to see which animal the echoli came from. In essence all this traceability to point of origin does is make ag producers liable for mistakes made in processing.
    What all of this means, is that we need to inform the consumer not only about agriculture, but also to the things which go on in the plants which produce the final product.

    Farmers markets are great, but the fact is it would be impracticable, at best. For instance there is no way that New York could produce all of the food for its population. There is not enough farmland to support the population, especially with their shorter growing season.

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  3. We’re all in this together. I get so frustrated with people who do things a bit differently, claiming theirs is the best way. We can’t produce enough food for this world if we all do it the same way i.e. organic, pasture raised, no GMOs, small farms, etc. We CAN promote our own way of doing things without disparaging others! Farmers Markets have a place as do Supermarkets, coops, direct buy, etc. Can’t we do our own thing in a ‘kinder, gentler’ way and still tell our own story? My granddaughter shops a local farmers market, not because things are grown ‘organically’, but because she likes the people selling there, they sell things she wants, and she gets to know them and talk to them. I grew up in a world where ads did not include putting down the other guy and people still sold their products well. I’m not advocating going back, just forging ahead, and being civil about it.

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  4. Our main business is raising beef cattle for market. Each year we put into our business all that we have in order to provide a good quality product that will eventually make it to a supper market some where in the country. We would love to provide meat locally to individuals wanting to buy from the grower, that however would cost more money to start up than we have access to… so we grow our calves and then sell them to the next step in the process.
    On the side I have a small egg production business that is quickly growing. I love being able to provide all natural, cage free eggs to those who want to know where the food in their fridge and on their table came from. Do I produce enough to supply the entire town, no not by a long shot but I can provide to those who do want local.
    We do not all have access to local grown, but if you do have access try it, get to know your local producers. Most of us love to sell to individuals knowing that we are providing the very best product at a good price.

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