Saturday, June 14, 2008

My FM Experience in CT

I am in CT and went to the nearest farmers market (FM) today. The FM had only about a dozen vendors: a rose/flower vendor, goat cheese and bottled raw goat milk; dairy sheep cheese; goat cheese and assorted goat value added products from the milk; lamp value added products but no meat cuts; veggies and bakery items; 1 egg vendor; and the rest were veggies. The market was busy and people were coming and going the entire time I was there. Only one vender was certified organic. All other vendors had no description such as naturally grown or raised or any other descriptor.

I was a little surprised at just how unfriendly the vendors were. Service was not the best and it seemed to take forever to stand in line and to check out. No one really seemed interested in assisting you until you specifically asked for it. One customer was frustrated because the producer promised her last weekend that he would bring her a black-eyed Susan plant this week and he hadn't. When another customer asked about the purpling on the cauliflower he was told why in what I thought was a kind of an abrupt way and the producer moved on. The only vendor who was friendly and interacted with his customers and took time to answer questions was the goat milk vendor who was handing out raw milk samples.

I overheard many customers asking about the tomatoes for sale and if they were safe to eat. The responses were that their tomatoes were grown in hothouses.

How produce was displayed was also interesting. Spinach was sold with their roots. Beets were sold in bundles rubberbanded together with the bulbs in water. Bakery items were in individual flat trays with covers and cut into slices. There were no descriptions on any of the flat trays to say what each tray held. There also were no ingredients lists on them either. There were samples galore to try. But there were no sneeze guards, toothpicks or any other what we in MO would expect from the county health department. You just used your fingers to pick up crackers or chunks of bread from a bowl to dip whatever was being sampled. And it was the same for meat (lamb sausages), just use your fingers to pick up a piece from a plate. I was very surprised with what little regulations there must be for bakery items and for sampling.

Here are the prices I paid for what I purchased. None of the items were certified organic.
Spinach - $1.99/pound
Lettuces, leaf - $1.50/bunch
broccoli - $1.49/pound
sugar snap peas - $3.50/pound
shell peas - $4.00 (I cleaned out the rest of the bin and know it was over a pound.)
strawberries - $6.50/quart
summer squash - $1.49/pound (When I asked about the squash and if it was grown in a greenhouse, I was told no it was from the field. I commented that it seemed awfully early for summer squash and he said no and moved on as if he didn't want to answer any other questions.)

I would have bought a dozen eggs but they were $6/dozen. I didn't need any and was glad. They were a tad bit more than I would have been willing to pay.

I hope writing about my experience of a FM from across the US helps you in your markets back home.

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