It was mid to late summer and the weather was at its hottest. I can remember at my age, any work seemed like hard work. I was only ten and I was beginning to learn what my father liked to call “a survival strategy.” You see every year he would plant a garden. We did not own a farm, but the garden was much larger than most. We, as a family, would pick beans because that was the least likely plant that I would rip apart while harvesting. Although mostly unsuccessful, I still would give it my…. well let’s just say I tried.
With five rows of bean plants being picked three to four times, we had plenty of beans for our family, and others as well. My father would always give away a few bags to people we knew, but this time we were taking them somewhere else. I was told to get ready because we would be taking our beans to a farmer’s market.
What could this be? What would we be doing at a market full of farmers? We only have a few bags of beans and real farmers had real farms, with real amounts of beans. When we finally arrived, to my surprise, there were no farmers. It was a moderately sized building with two or three people just standing around.
The man sitting on the stool asked, “What have you got for me today?”
My father just replied, “Beans.”
As I watched this transaction take place, I was still wondering about the farmers. I was being shown that all I had to do is bring my garden goods to the man on the stool and, in return, I will come away with money. Well that has been quite some time ago but from this, and many other experiences, I have drawn a few conclusions to let you know about.
The first thing that strikes me is that the farmers market did not want to know anything about where the beans came from, or what pesticides had been used. The next thing is that all the like products (beans, tomatoes, etc.) were all being lumped into one bin to be sold. There were no rotation or sorting to it. Thus we come to the hypocrisy of a road side stand.
These observations do not pertain just to the farmers markets, in which we all attend. They also can be attributed to many road side stands as well. Any place that is not regulated is susceptible to just about anything. The same people who are buying that organic fruit in the grocery store are probably also buying from road side stands and farmers markets.
We would all like to think we are getting homegrown goodness from our local farmers markets. The truth is we do not really know what chemicals are being used at those farms, do we? And yet some of us do not trust the regulated product at the grocery store, thus paying more for organic. I have even stopped at a few road side stands where I thought I was getting fresh product. I could tell from the taste that the product was probably imported from at least another state. Possibly further. Again with no regulation.
We all fall victim to this trap though right? If you see fresh peaches on the side of the road in Georgia, aren’t you tempted to stop? Or perhaps the worst I have seen are the orange stands in Florida. They claim to have fresh oranges. Even advertising to show alligators. I stopped at three of these. I saw imported oranges and no alligators. However doesn’t it get us every time? One great experience and we are on the hunt for the perfect fruit. We have trained ourselves that nothing tastes better than food from the side of the road.
What is worse is that we do not care what has happened to road side or market food. We purchase these items without question, assuming it will not harm us. And should we not talk about road side eggs? Eggs you buy from a neighbor, not knowing he pumps those chickens full of steroids. Perhaps he doesn’t wash or handle the eggs correctly. After all, he has ten chickens. That hardly makes him an expert. Yet we feel more comfortable giving neighbor Bob our three dollars than trusting our regulated grocery stores for reasons only you can answer.
You see it is quite simple. We are approaching spring and the road side stands will be there to tempt you. The farmers markets are coming into full force with your favorite local farmers. Because after all, isn’t buying local the best? I am not here to judge, and yes, I will continue to purchase from my local farmers market and any road side stand I may see. Just know that when we shop at the grocer and look down upon those picking from the non-organic bins because they do not have enough sense to buy strictly organic, that we all have fallen into the hypocrisy of the road side stand.