A recent article published by MSNBC describes an alarming investigation of farmers markets in the Los Angeles area. The popularity of farmers markets has undoubtedly been on the rise in recent years. Consumers shopping at these markets believe that they are supporting their local economy and that the produce they purchase is therefore locally grown. It is often the case that produce featured at local farmers markets is labeled as pesticide-free so as to encourage health and eco-conscious consumers that the product they will eat is free of foreign contaminants.
This investigative report tells a very different story of the seemingly benign farmers markets. For example, Frutos Farms sells many different types of produce (such as garlic, celery, and avocado) at various farmers markets throughout the LA and Orange counties. When probed by investigators at their practically barren farmland in Cypress, where they claim to grow all of their produce sold at the markets, Jesse Frutos admitted that all of the products were not locally grown. In fact, the investigators followed Jesse to a wholesale produce warehouse and caught the farmer loading up his truck with produce shipped from Mexico to be re-sold at local farmers markets.
Perhaps more disturbing is the blatant lie told by some local farmers that fruits and vegetables are grown in a pesticide-free environment. MSNBC investigators obtained five samples of berries from a vendor sold at the local farmers market and submitted them to laboratory testing to determine whether or not they were contaminated with pesticides. The berries were contaminated with high levels of four different kinds of pesticides; the owner of the farm claimed that the pesticides must have drifted onto her farm from nearby farms, though the measured level of pesticides on the berries did not support such a claim.
If you are concerned about the quality of produce made available at your local farmers market, remember that you do have the opportunity to discuss their product with them face to face. If a vendor is unwilling to answer questions (or claims to be unable to answer questions) ask to speak with someone who will. You should ask the vendors the following questions in a conversational manner:
Where is your farm located?
Was all of your available produce grown this season?
If you do not use pesticides, can you describe any other methods to keep produce safe from pests?
What does organic mean to you?
If no one is willing to have open and honest discussions with you about the farming of their fruits and vegetables, then farming organic produce is likely not their passion. You should also purchase Fit Fruit, a 100% natural produce wash, to guarantee that your produce is clean and safe to be eaten.