Friday, August 7, 2015

Farmers Markets are Passé

If there's anything that the foodie cognoscenti love to love, it's the farmers market. There's nothing that quite gets their juices flowing like a trip to buy some locally grown veggies at a stand filled with produce, manned by a local farmer or his/her representatives. It's the thing to do. There's no doubt, the social elite do-gooders are in love with farmers markets as well, and they insist you should be too. Farmers markets are one of the sacred cow's of the socially conscience crowd.

Farmers markets have become the equivalent of buying girl scout cookies. It's something you do because you're helping the community. It's an obligation. It's no longer optional. If you are to be a good citizen, you must go to the local farmers market and support the local farms! That irks me. If there's one thing that gets under my skin, it's do-gooders telling me how I should think.

Farmers markets have exploded from small, farmer focussed events where one can buy directly from the farmer, to something more akin to a flea market, where anything and anyone are welcome.

It's time somebody stood up and announced farmers markets are totally overhyped, and are no longer what they were intended to be.

The Capital Region alone has over 50. (Yes 50!) farmers markets. Just have a gander at this map from Tablehopping. Farmers markets have officially jumped the shark.

It's a stinking pain to park at many of them. After you find a parking spot, you then peruse the stands, and depending on how big the market is, you can blow through them all in a few minutes. And these stands are all the same. They all have the same produce for sale, so if you see one stand, there's little need to see the others. They are farms after all, and this is Upstate NY, and only so many things grow here, plus the produce is harvested at the same time of year, no matter which local farm grows it. Most don't take credit cards, so you have to remember to bring cash, or hope there's an ATM nearby, and that it doesn't charge exorbitant fees. Then there's the stands selling goods like jewelry, candles, and knick knacks. They're not farmers. After picking up a few items at the farmers market, you still have to stop at the grocery store because the selection of produce is limited, especially in spring and early summer.

So far this year I've been to a farmers market a total of 3 times. Once in May, once in June and once in July. And it's likely I'll be visiting farmers markets less and less going forward. I just can't be bothered anymore. I can get locally grown produce just a couple blocks away, at my local Hannaford.

Just yesterday, I went into Hannaford and I immediately run into a stand with about a dozen different produce items, nicely displayed. Stuck in each bin is a small chalkboard with the local farm it's from scribbled on it. I'm sure Price Chopper, and Shop-Rite are doing the same, and of course Whole Foods prides itself on selling locally sourced goods. And don't forget Honest Weight Food Co-op, and the small grocery stores scattered all over the area that sell local goods.

Isn't it better for the local farmer to get his/her stuff into the grocery stores where 95% of the population does their shopping, and they're open all day, everyday? As opposed to the farmers markets that far fewer patronize, and they're there for a few hours on a Saturday?

And not to get too far off the subject, but many local restaurants now are featuring locally sourced meats and produce, so there's that too.

So why go to the trouble of going to a farmers market? Well, I suppose if the weather's nice, and you've nothing better to do, it's fun to get out and walk around for a bit in the sunshine. Or if you want to connect with the farmer and get to know him/her (assuming the actual farmer is at the stand and not an employee—which is common). But I'm struggling to come up with any other reasons. 

There's no doubt that the farmers market is here to stay, but I've decided they're not special anymore, and I'm not going to go out of my way to patronize them. I have many other more convenient options to support local farms. 

Farmers markets are a landline phone, in a world of mobile phones. Farmers markets have become an anachronism in today's locally conscience world. Farmers markets are passé.


2 comments:

  1. This may not work for you, but I like to see farmers markets as dating. It's an early step to see if you can identify one local farm that you really truly love. And should cupid's arrow find its mark, it's time to sign on the that farm's CSA.

    That's how you really help local farmers. Give them a solid, reliable income stream. Ideally one that gives them access to capital in advance of the planting season, and helps to fund upfront costs.

    Just something to think about.

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    Replies
    1. Even if you aren't signing up for a CSA, maybe you'd like to give your money directly to the farmer instead giving a grocery store chain a cut as the middleman.

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