What is the difference between buying produce from a certified farmers market or from a farm, farm stand or your local supermarket?
The difference is that a certified farmers market must abide by the strict regulations required by the Los Angeles County Department of Agricultural Commissioner (LA AG Dept.). Unless you actually see the fruit being picked from the tree or a vegetable being pulled from the ground, a certified farmers market is the only place where you’re guaranteed that your produce is harvested from a local certified farm.
Why should the consumer be concerned with this certification?
Today’s savvy consumers are more concerned than ever about where their food comes from and how it’s grown. While the origin of our produce hasn’t always been apparent to the discerning shopper, produce purchased at a certified farmers market can assure them that they are avoiding harmful chemicals to ensure a healthy diet.
What is certification and how does the certification affect the consumer?
While you may pay a little more for certified produce, you are not jeopardizing your health by ingesting pesticides or other chemicals. In order for a farmers market to be certified, a fee is paid to the LA AG Dept. for inspections, which are made at random times and without notice in order to ensure that all of the farmers selling in the market are certified.
If a farmers market is certified, it means all of the farmers selling in the market are also certified and inspected to ensure that the buyer is getting an authentic, locally grown product that has been picked directly by the grower.
For a farmer to be allowed to sell at a certified farmers market, he or she must also be certified through LA AG Dept. which inspects the farmer’s property and issues the certification. Certification documents must be posted in public view in their booth/ tent to confirm the farm’s good standing with the LA AG Dept.
If the farmer is selling an item not listed on the documents or out of its growing season, the farmers market management is required to discontinue the sale of the product. In addition, if the fruit or vegetable being sold isn’t up to standard, the farmers market management will remove the produce from the farmer’s tent or booth and the farmer will be penalized and receive a violation. If this is done too many times, the farmer’s documents will be revoked indefinitely by the LA AG Dept. In fact, the LA AG Department now requires farmers to state on their tent banners, “We grow what we sell.”
Debra Bianco, manager of the Malibu Farmers Market, requires her market assistant to do the same inspection that the official Agricultural Department inspector performs weekly.
“This is not a requirement of every farmers market but it has made the Malibu Farmers Market unique in that we have never been in violation with the LA AG Dept.,” Bianco said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a spelling error.