My wife and I sell only what we raise at our farmers market booth and the faux farmer problem worries me for three reasons.
First, the "peddlers" do not have the blood, sweat, tears, years, and significant sums of money invested in their farms and products that those of us who actually run a farm do. They gain an economic advantage by buying from some giant producer who can't be bothered with coming to the market. Then they gain a time advantage by not having to do the low wage work of running a farm. All of this allows them to undercut our prices pressuring us to follow to compete. Ironically, this happens at the farmers market, an institution founded on the idea that small farmers need a place to sell their products at a fair price.
Second, many if not most farmers market shoppers expect to buy product from farmers because they want to support "their" farmer, promote the local economy, protect local farmland, etc. When they deal with the "peddlers" they are being cheated of the public good they think they are purchasing.
Third, faux farmers corrode the integrity of the farmers market, an institution I dearly love. That integrity is the foundation on which the whole direct marketing model is built and we must protect it for the long term economic health of both the markets and the farmers.
The media attention and blog activity on this issue indicates that people are becoming aware of it and that they care. The sustainable agriculture movement, of which farmers markets are an indispensible part, is still an island of civility and progress in a sea of profit-uber-alles retailers and me-first consumerism. Those of us involved need to act to preserve the progress that we and those who came before us have made. Market managers and boards can re-evaluate policies and enforcement mechanisms. Farmers can stand up and demand change. Shoppers have the biggest lever and can make change happen the fastest - they can find the real farmers and do business with them.
posted 2 years, 11 months ago
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