Is Your Farmers’ Market Faking It?


You peruse the stands, ogle over fresh berries, contemplate which goat cheese to buy, and smile contentedly as you walk away from the flurry of farmers and produce, full basket in hand. But is that local, organic, shopping induced feeling of happiness all a sham?

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that two large grocery store chains in the Northwest were faking their own farmers’ markets to draw in customers. Back in June, Safeway started posting “Farmers’ Market” signs above produce displays in front of their stores, only to receive a backlash from the local farming community which ultimately resulted in the store changing the signs to say “Outdoor Market.”

Over Labor Day Weekend, Albertsons did a similar thing, featuring their own “Farmers’ Market” signs next to their produce sections at over 200 stores. Has the term “farmers’ market” become the new greenwashing?

Although local farmers groups support chain stores selling local goods, farmers’ market are about more than just regional produce. True farmers’ markets provide the opportunity to buy freshly harvested goods directly from the hands that grew it – a far cry from regional apples that spent days in a truck and are sampled by a grocery store employee who has a hard time telling the difference between a Braeburn and a Fuji.

And it’s not just the Northwest. People are faking their farmers’ markets all over the country. In Los Angeles, NBC did an undercover investigation on local vendors and found that some of them were selling produce that the farmers hadn’t even grown themselves, in one vendor’s case, from Mexico.

It’s all a reminder that we can never take anything in the food industry for granted; talk to your farmer and know exactly where your food comes from.

Image: Natalie Maynor

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.