Again, it is a tall order to ask a consumer to quiz a grower about their organic certification. “Yes, I’m certified organic, ma’am. “ Not good enough, sorry! Where are your documents?
More from the alliance:
If a vendor makes claims about being “pesticide free,” consumers should ask how they control pests and diseases. Since both organic and conventional farmers use pesticides when other pest and disease control strategies fail, a claim of “pesticide free” needs explanation. If a vendor can’t adequately explain how pests and diseases are controlled, it may be wise to move on. A consumer should also be aware that if a vendor states that he/she is “certified pesticide free” that no such certification exists.
At this point, our beleaguered farmers’ market vendor is wondering how much squash and tomatoes our inquisitive shopper will purchase. “Just how do you control the leaf hopper, sir?” the young mom probed. This sale better be worth more than a couple of bucks, he is thinking.
The alliance concludes:
3) Part of the fun of shopping at a farmers’ markets is meeting the people who are actually growing the food. Unfortunately, there have been incidents where vendors purchase produce from another source and then sell them as their own. (One such case was associated with a recent e.coli outbreak at a farmers’ market.) So, ask general questions about the farm: how long have they been farming; how many acres do they have; where is the farm located; when were the fruits and veggies harvested? By just asking a few polite questions, consumers will quickly see if the vendor legitimately grew the food that they are selling. And, consumers may learn some interesting farming facts as well, which will add to the shopping experience.
I might flip/flop the order of these questions. Start out with number three. “How long have you been farming?” is probably the question that these vendors get asked more than any other. It is a conversation lid-lifter. But tread lightly on “How many acres do you have?”; that’s a breach of etiquette for any size of grower.
In my view the point of the alliance’s “suggested questions” is to show the context of those small vendors compared with commercial shippers, who have to endure these questions and many more. If our farmer’s market inquiry resembles a Good Agricultural Practices audit that these local growers never had, all the better; it kills two birds with one stone.