Some people apparently have a pretty loose definition of a farmers’ market. In my head, the name implies that, you know, actual farmers might be there selling things that came from the ground or off of trees– something that requires the seller of such goods to have some sort of contact with the earth. I think the photo below is a pretty good representation of what one might expect to see at a place called a farmers’ market.
So, you can imagine my disappointment when I went to a “farmers’ market” in a posh Arizona neighborhood (Scottsdale) recently to find that there were no farmers there. I wish I had taken photos to show the paucity of agricultural products at this so-called “farmers’ market”, but the whole scene was so uninspiring it never occured to me to pull it out.
I saw lots of jewelry, clothing and knick-knacks but NOT ONE thing even remotely resembling fresh fruit or vegetables unless you count the knit scarves the color of tomatoes and eggplant. I even jovially asked the scarf stallholder if there was any actual food at the market and she did tell me that “the farmer” wasn’t there today. I thought, “THE farmer? Meaning just one guy?” Then definitely don’t call it a Farmers’ Market (note emphasis on the plural).
She also helpfully pointed out the stalls selling chocolate, salsa, pasta sauce and olive oil. At least it was food. But even the olive oil was a bit disappointing. All of it was imported- not from California-but Australia and Spain. More disappointing still was finding out later in the week that there actually is some locally grown and produced olive oil in the Phoenix area, so why wasn’t it at this market instead?
My point isn’t to harp on this particular market. I’ve found this lazy defintion of a farmers’ market in other places (like Wichita, KS in the prime growing season last year). The point is, it shouldn’t be called a farmers’ market if you can’t buy fresh produce there. Further to the point, the people who run these markets and those of us who shop at them should demand it. Otherwise, many reasons for a having a farmers’ market (i.e. supporting local farmers, providing healthier food, providing a sense of place and seasonality) are rendered null and void and we might as well head back inside to the supermarket.