The Alliance for Food and Farming recently published a slightly over-the-top list of possible questions that could be asked at farmers’ markets.
Here are some questions that are suggested by the alliance:
1) Unlike fruits and vegetables grown and sold to your local grocery stores, fruits and veggies sold at farmers’ markets are often unregulated when it comes to food safety standards. Therefore consumers should ask the farmers’ market vendor about the water used on the farm and if it is tested for safety. It is also a good idea to ask about the types of fertilizers that are used. (Manure should be properly composted since raw manure can pose a food safety risk.) It may also be wise to ask about any livestock being raised on the farm. If the answer is “yes,” ask if any measures are taken to keep livestock away from fruit and vegetable crops.
The consumer who asks these questions may be looked at by the overall-adorned vendor as an alien creature. “Nobody’s ever asked me what kind of fertilizers I use,” he might reply in a country drawl. “Or what livestock is raised on my farm.” “Or if I test my water.” True, these questions are pertinent enough for even a minimalist picture of the food safety practices of a small local farm. The guy shouldn’t be shocked, but he will be.
The alliance is asking a young mom/ NPR listener to be skeptical about one of the few people in this world she thought she could trust completely. It is hard enough for patrons of farmers to shop their vendors for price; how much more difficult is grading these folksy growers on their food safety practices?
Rather than doubting the good-earth farming practices of this humble, halo-wearing local grower, our young heroine may just decide to stay home and eat ice cream.
But wait, the alliance has other suggested questions:
2) Many claims are often made at farmers’ markets, like “certified organic” or “pesticide free.” Organic certification is a rigorous process and the farmer must undergo regular audits to ensure that he/she is, in fact, farming to the organic standard. If a farmer is certified as organic then they will have documentation verifying this and will happily show it (after all they worked hard for it!).