If you haven’t scoured local farmers’ markets for locally produced fruits and vegetables, now is the time to try one in your community. But you should also be aware of what you’re buying and who you’re buying from.
In accordance with National Farmers’ Market Week, the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) has launched a new shoppers’ guide to provide consumers with tips on how to choose a vendor at their neighborhood farmers’ market.
“Many consumers who shop regularly at farmers’ markets often have developed a list of their favorite vendors,” said Marilyn Dolan, AFF executive director. “But if this is a new shopping experience or if a consumer is exploring a market they haven’t visited before, we’ve developed a brief list of food safety questions to consider asking vendors to ensure the food is grown safely and responsibly.”
The AFF recommends you get to know your farmer. Sometimes people buy produce from other farmers and then sell it as their own. Ask the vendor where their farm is located, how long they’ve been farming and when the produce was harvested.
Many vendors claim to be organic or pesticide free. To be certified organic, farmers must undergo a lengthy monitoring and certification process. Ask the farmer about the process if you’re unsure they’re truly certified. You can also ask questions about pesticides for any clarification you may need.
Fruits and vegetables sold at farmers’ markets don’t undergo the same rigorous inspection and regulation as produce sold to grocery stores. To ensure your food is safe, the AFF recommends asking vendors about their food safety procedures. Food borne illness outbreaks from farmers’ markets are rare, but have occurred. Ask the vendors if their irrigation water is tested for safety, if their livestock is kept away from produce and what types of fertilizers they use.
“Shopping at farmers’ markets is an enjoyable way to buy your fruits and veggies,” Dolan said. “And, asking just a few questions can provide shoppers with a wonderful opportunity to learn more about how that food is grown and connect with farmers.”
Shopping at farmers’ markets is a popular way to shop. By following some simple safety tips, you can ensure your family will get delicious, locally grown food from farmers you know and trust.