Avoiding The Farmers Market Scam

The Scam At Your Local Farmers Market

[Updated 1 June 2020]We’ve been going to our local farmers market for years and until I saw it on the news last night it never crossed my mind there even was a farmers market scam – well, you live and learn.

The farmers market scam isn’t that you are robbed, not exxxaaactly. But you are being offered products that have been commercially produced using chemicals and growth hormones to mention just two of my primary objections. Fine unless it says organically produced – plus it has probably been brought in from another state, not so local after all – and that’s the scam.

Long before they became fashionable, local farmers have been regularly offloading their surplus vegetables and home cooked preserves at local prices. Once a month on the first Saturday, we can fill the refrigerator and freezer to bursting for excellent prices. Basically, what we don’t or can’t grow, we buy at the market.

The local producers who keep the market thriving have been doing so for decades – we mostly know each other at least on nodding terms, I’ve bought rare breed hens from one who has a passion for them. What I’m trying to say is there is no scam here, the market is part of the fabric of the community – interlopers and potential fraudsters would be spotted before they got through the gate. Off the highway probably.

But what if you’re new to the area or have never been to an open farmers market before? How can you tell whether you’re buying rejects from commercial producers and being ripped off, or getting locally produced organic vegetables?

Actually, there are a few things you can do to unmask any veggie pretenders and here are my top tips!

usda-organicFarmers Market Scam Busting Tips

  • If a stall has a handwritten sign saying the produce is organic, ask to see their certificate. To be honest most organic produces are so proud of their status, you’ll see it displayed somewhere prominent anyway. You can find out more from the USDA Organic by clicking the link –  or click the logo.
  • The produce won’t look as clean or regular in size and shape, largely because it hasn’t been rejected by a big food store – why do we all like our veggies a uniform shape?
  • Mud glorious mud – you rarely find any on pre-washed store-bought produce, but farmers who have gotten up early to harvest their crop and bring it to the market probably will have given the carrots a cursory brush off, a wash and set are unlikely!
  • Still on the subject of soil – what color is the soil in your area? Locally grown produce is likely to have a soil of the same color clinging to the roots, so have a look. You can also ask about the variety of tomato or zucchinis – if they don’t know they didn’t grow it.
  • Likewise, the product may have been chilled if gathered the night before, but it won’t have been refrigerated nor brought in a refrigerated lorry. If it feels very cold and has condensation on it – walk away. Genuine local farmers are more likely to bring products in the back of a cattle wagon and horse boxes are often seen used for potatoes and corn!
  • Local vegetables and fruit are going to be in season in your area right now. Anything exotic or in season in a more southern or northern state has traveled a long way to get to you – leave it alone.

Farmers markets are a great source of healthy organic vegetables and fruit, preserves and pickles, plus a good gossip with stallholders as you move around and we love going, especially around Christmas time…

Yes, it seems farmers market scams are certainly out there, but so are the genuine thing – following even one or two of the above tips will help you get what you’ve paid for and it’ll also help genuine organic and local producers to keep their reputation and popularity intact.

So don’t be put off, just be inquisitive and chatty with stallholders – you’ll soon know those who are genuine and invite you to taste the products before buying, will happily show off their organic certificates and who above all want you to enjoy the food you buy from them.

We won’t talk about the others anymore –and if we don’t buy from them soon they won’t be there anymore.

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