Saturday, November 06, 2010

Regulating a Farmers Market

The L.A. Times is reporting on the fraught issue of regulation of farmers markets:
"Shannon Reid, a market manager for Raw Inspiration, a nonprofit organization that runs 18 markets in Southern California ... told the regulators [from the California Department of Food and Agriculture] that she had caught a vendor repackaging produce from Mexico for sale at one of her markets but had been discouraged by her organization from reporting such violations to authorities. She said that her employer later retaliated against her after she did so anyway."
I am aware of less-serious accusations and ideological quarrels about what is local and self-produced food at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. This makes me think about how difficult it must be to police farmers who claim to be the producers of what they sell. Produce from Mexico is obviously beyond any gray area of local produce.

Issues of what can be claimed to be organic also plague produce sellers. If cheaper produce is mislabeled, its sellers can offer it more cheaply than the real thing, as organic produce is so much more expensive to produce and bring to market.

As a consumer, I can only hope that the regulators are vigilant and honest, and will be receptive to evidence of fraud -- in the L.A. case, the accuser had photos of the vendor repackaging tomatoes, and further, the same vendor had been caught out at similar misdeeds in the past.

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