Farmers Are Cool….and so are Farmers’ Markets!

Last week, the executive chairman of Canada’s largest food retailer, Galen Weston, made this comment at the Canadian Food Summit, “Farmers’ markets are great….One day they’re going to kill some people though”. Through modern technology and social networking tools, the backlash was immediate.   He later explained that he meant that food safety inspections need to happen through the entire food system, including farmers’ markets.  Unfortunately for him and Loblaws, it was a gaffe that caused quite an uproar and angered many people.

According to the Food Editor of the Toronto Star, Ontario alone has over 175 farmers’ markets and they have combined sales of over $700 million.  Public health units routinely inspect the various markets.  Last summer, I sold produce at two farmers’ markets, in Grand Valley, and in Inglewood.  At each market, samples of my spinach were taken, to be tested.  Of course, there was no contamination.  My biggest complaint about the process was that two beautiful bags of freshly picked, organically grown spinach were going to be tested in a lab….and discarded, never to make it to someone’s dinner plate. The only consolation was that I knew that I was complying with regulations that ensured food safety for our customers.

Instead of ranting and carrying on a vendetta against Mr. Weston, I choose to work even harder to promote our local farmers’ markets.  By spreading the news about how awesome it is to buy locally, buy fresh and perhaps even organically, I know that this kind of positive education will achieve far more than criticism.

As a fellow writer commented on her blog “The Farmer’s market has been a conduit for so many of us to connect back to the food chain and it has made us feel good about not only what we put on our table but also in knowing that we are directly supporting the economy of the very people who work so hard to make that happen.”  My participation in farmers’ markets is two-fold:  I am there as a vendor, offering freshly picked mushrooms, garden produce and home made value-added products.  I am also there as a customer, buying pretty much everything my family needs (that we don’t provide for ourselves) from my fellow vendors.  We are a community of like-minded people, working hard to bring the best we have to offer every week.  I am proud to know that anything I offer my customers, I would confidently serve my own family.

So if you are one of the few people who still has not discovered the joys of shopping at your local farmers’ market, I encourage you to find the one (or two) that are closest to you and start shopping.  Talk to the vendors (most of whom are the producers).  Ask them where their farms or businesses are.  Find out their growing practices, whether they grow organically, or following sustainable agricultural practices.  And most of all, eat and enjoy the delicious bounty that is available, year round in many areas!
Farmers ARE Cool!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Julie, good on you for speaking up. Galen Weston’s comments were highly irresponsible and while like you, I believe that food handling safety must always remain paramount. However with that being said the way in which he chose to convey that was insulting to the community and completely irresponsible.

    I have shopped at your Inglewood booth on many occasions and without question your mushrooms, your specialty prepared products along with your welcoming demeanour have always been something to look forward to.

    Thank you for linking my blog from your post. I look forward to seeing you in Inglewood.

    Christine Cooper aka CoopSpeakEats.blogspot.com

    Reply

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