As CBC’s Marketplace revealed on Friday, some farmers’ market vendors are only pretending to be local farmers when in fact, they’re resellers of foods that have travelled thousands of miles. It’s a fraud that hurts consumers as well as genuine local farmers because people go to farmers’ markets to support local growers and buy just-picked produce that has travelled a short distance to market.
“The kinds of fraudsters that Marketplace unmasked are deceiving the public while cutting into real farmers’ sales,” says Catherine Clark, Executive Director of Farmers’ Markets Ontario®, an association of more than 180 farmers’ markets across the province. “Consumers don’t know that these resellers aren’t real farmers. They don’t know they’re buying food that isn’t farm-fresh or locally grown.” Catherine adds that there’s nothing wrong with being a reseller as long as you’re upfront about what you sell. “Most resellers don’t pretend to be local growers or compete with local farmers. Instead, they add variety by selling products that can’t be produced locally—like coffee beans, nuts or tropical fruits. It’s only when resellers practice deception that there’s a problem, because it undermines the entire concept of a farmers’ market.”
So how can consumers be sure they’re buying from an authentic local farmer?
Look for vendors displaying the MyPick® Verified Local Farmer® logo at your farmers’ market.
Launched in 2008 by Farmers’ Markets Ontario®, the program aims to help consumers distinguish between genuine local farmers and resellers. Here’s how it works:
FMO sends inspectors to the grower’s farm to tour the premises, check the grower’s books and verify which foods are produced on site at what times and in what quantities, while confirming precisely what production methods are used. The criteria are strict and not all applicants are accepted.
When a local farmer is authenticated, FMO adds them to their directory of MyPick® Verified Local Farmers® on their website (farmersmarketsontario.com) and provides them with posters and cards displaying the MyPick® logo to identify them as a genuine local farmer selling only what they grow.
Today, there are more than 300 MyPick® Verified Local Farmers® listed on the FMO website and more are being authenticated all the time. They are in high demand at farmers’ markets province-wide.
For more information about the MyPick® program and individual Verified Local Farmers®, visit farmersmarketsontario.com and click on MyPick®. Or get in touch with Catherine Clark at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 1-800-387-FARM (3276).