The Farmer’s Market

It’s Friday and it’s the time of year when a lot of the Farmer’s Markets open up around here so I thought I’d use our Foodie Friday theme to talk about them a bit.

Farmers Market

(Photo credit: tamaradulva)

As a recent article explained, “farmers’ markets are hot business nowadays. The number of markets shot up 17 percent last year, and in a recent survey from Mintel market researchers, 52 percent of people said it’s more important to buy local produce than organic, which will likely drive the growth even more.”  There are a number of them in my town and the surrounding area, almost one each day of the week.   Most of the vendors are local farmers and the produce is generally pretty good.

There is, however, a dark side to many of these markets.  Some of the produce sold isn’t local even if it appears to be that way (there are no local tomatoes here in Connecticut in May, for example, unless they’re from a hot-house which means they’re less tasty).  There is loose labeling too – local, organic, pesticide-free, no-spray – many vague promises thrown around.  Which is the broader business point today.

We’re in the season of vague promises better known as an election year but we encounter lots of misleading or purposefully vague language from brands every day.  “Natural” or “Earth Friendly” or “Vegan” are meaningless because they’re not regulated, and companies are able to use these terms at will. It’s up to the consumer to differentiate marketing from reality and then to act by refusing to buy products that use misleading claims.

At the risk of stating the obvious, once a brand is outed as using misleading language, all sorts of bad things can and do happen, especially since the newer tools such a social media and the older tool known as a class-action lawsuit empower pissed off customers.  Frito-Lay was sued over the all-natural claims it has made for its Tostito and Sun Chips products.  Colgate had TV commercials for a Sanex bath gel banned for suggesting that it contains no man-made chemical ingredients.  The list gets longer every day.  Guess there’s no quota on stupidity.

We all know I’m big on reading the freaking label even though there aren’t any at the farmer’s market.  I ask a lot of questions instead.  But isn’t it a sad thing that we can’t really believe what we read even when labels are readily available?   What do you think?

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