One of the best things about farmers markets is you get the opportunity to get to talk directly with the farmer who grew the food. This provides an opportunity to find out a little more about growing practices than a ‘local’ or ‘organic’ label can tell you. Many farmers at the farmers markets are not certified organic, but still use organic growing practices, sometimes labeled sustainably grown, spray free, or non-GMO. If these labels are not present, how do you know how the food was grown? You have to ask! Engaging in a conversation about growing practices can be intimidating but doesn’t need to be.
Below are some tips for how to engage growers at the farmers markets about growing practices to ensure that you are getting the product you are looking for. Starting a conversation is always better than asking yes/no questions. Farmers are often willing to give tips on how to prepare foods, give history on unique varieties and answer common gardening questions. Remember, farmers are often very passionate about what they do, so be prepared for an earful! They have lots of knowledge to share.
Some questions to ask at a Farmers Market:
- What are your growing practices?
- How do you raise and feed your animals?
- What do you do about pests and weeds?
- How do you care for your soil? From where do you source seeds?
- If your market allows carrying or reselling goods from another farm, ask the farmer if they grew everything in their booth and when it was harvested
- Who are your role models or is there a farm after which you fashion your practices?
Questions for retail stores with meat or produce with a “local” label:
- Who is the source?
- What were their farming practices?
- Is the farm producer-only, or do they outsource to other farmers? (1)
We aim to provide transparency at the Carbondale Community Farmers Market, and require that our farmers tell us about their growing practices prior to selling at the market. We also require that farmers put out a label stating whether they are certified organic, sustainable growers, or conventional growers. However, these labels are not comprehensive, and it's still important to talk with your farmer! Check in next week for more information about these terms and more information about our growers!