Growers vs Resellers at Farmers Market

There has been an ongoing debate on the Michigan Farmers Market Association Listserv about what type of vendor should be allowed at a Farmers Market.

Among the issues discussed are whether to allow vendors from out of state and whether to allow resellers, people who do not grow their own produce/meat/cheese/artisan products etc. to sell at the market.

I have provided a small sample of the responses to this passionate debate below.

How do I weigh in on the subject?

I have no problem with vendors coming in from bordering states. The Ohio border is closer for example than many towns in Michigan with farmers who might come to sell at an Ann Arbor Farmers Market.

As some will know, I sell microgreens at the Westside Farmers Market. I grow them in a small backyard garden and I am pretty sure that the Westside only allows grower/producers to sell there. I like the policy.

By contrast, I have been to markets with vendors who sold out of the region fruits like grapefruit at their booth. The fruit was no even organic, and I felt that it did not fit in at the market. What made the grapefruit at a farmers market any different from buy it at the grocery store?

I felt if too many of the vendors were resellers it would make customers question the difference between a farmers market and the produce section of a chain grocery store.

So where do I stand on the reseller question?

Ideally, I think that a farmers market should strive to try to have only growers/producers.

Customers who come to a farmers market assume that they are buying from the farmer and come to the market in part to by local.

Buy locally and Meet Your Farmer/Artisan is a huge marketing slogan for Farmers Market and having too many resellers may weaken a Farmers Market Brand.

It may be hard to find the variety of farmers and artisans to make a well rounded market with a grower/producer only policy, but I feel that sticking by that policy will support new upstart local growers (like myself) who will be vendors at your Farmers Market.

Customers will appreciate it and the Market would have created a great Brand.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Fay,

Yes there is reason!!  I live 2 miles from the INDIANA state line and in our market we have some growers that live on the other side of the line.   Yes we do know they grow the produce but they are from out of the state making there produce from another state.  My sister brings here sweet corn and that is 7 miles from our market in Indiana, what you are saying is we should cut our market in half because we should not have out of state produce.  In the reverse I should not be able to sell in the markets in Indiana we sell in because we are out of the state?  We feel that the local is within 50 miles but our venders are with in 30 miles.

We understand local very well but every market is to understand the location of what you are talking before blanket NO reason to have produce coming from out of state.

Dana

Three Oaks Farmers Market


Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2011 11:42:53 -0500
From: bigskyfarm@GMAIL.COM
Subject: Re: growers vs resellers at a market
To: FARMMKTMI@LIST.MSU.EDU

There is absolutely NO reason for markets to have any produce coming from out of state, much less out of the country!!!!  I do feel that some reciprocity is helpful, however, among farmers with different types of produce, limited growing seasons, limited time to attend markets. Farmers markets are hard work, as we all know!  As more communities have started small neighborhood markets it becomes impossible to attend so many of them, and this invites fraud/reselling/misrepresentation.  Co-op selling is a good idea and helpful to all.  I agree that the early and late season present “volume” issues for farmers, but there are a lot of ways to plan for that and they should plan accordingly with other offerings of their own or from local collaborators. Storage crops??????

BUT the key, as Chris says, is transparency.  In my view the basics indicated by Chris are the sign of a healthy market of the type that the people really want, and anything else undermines the credibility of the entire system.  I recently found garlic from China at one of the roadside produce stands–which the average person assumes means local produce, but of course we know differently…. The recent televised scandal in Oakland county, in which a grower represented his produce as “pesticide free”, sustainably grown, etc. but was filmed purchasing it at the Eastern Mkt. has sent shock waves through our farmers market and, more importantly, organic growers communities.  ALL farmers are hurt by those who cut corners or misrepresent their produce !!!!!!!!

Unless our markets represent local, fresh produce there is no reason for people to shop there when the grocery store may be cheaper or more convenient.  HIGH STANDARDS, TRANSPARENCY are what I look for when I think about where I want to sell my produce and where I want to buy it!

Fay Hansen

On Sat, Jan 22, 2011 at 1:17 PM, Christopher Bedford <chrisbedford@charter.net> wrote: 

Stacie, 

You have raised a CORE issue that troubles many farmers’ markets and their managers.
At many West Michigan farmers markets, resellers go to a wholesale fruit/vegetable market and buy their produce to resell at the
farmers’ market. Many of this resellers simply double the wholesale price and sit there as if the produce was their own.
Some farmers buy in the wholesale market for early and late in the season, selling their own produce during peak production periods.
And there are many variations in between. So what should you do?
I believe the key concept here is TRANSPARENCY.
Consumers have a right to know what they are buying.
In my opinion, every vendor at a farmers’ market should be required to publicly display the following information.
1. Where the various fruits and vegetables were grown? Local? From some other place?
2. How were they grown? Were pesticides and herbicides used? If so, which ones?
3. When were they picked? (Michael Hamm likes to point out, the time of harvest is one of the critical elements in nutritional content.)
These three pieces of information make the reseller vs. grower controversy mute.
Resellers simply label their produce as such. If their lettuce was harvested three weeks ago in Mexico, they should reveal this information.
Transparency means everyone competes on a level playing field, building trust with customers and supporting ethical behavior in food production.
Unfortunately, there is strong resistance to all three transparency requirements.
I resigned from the Board of the Michigan Farmers Market Association over this issue.
Right now, we, as a state, permit some vendors, often big anchor vendors at farmers’ markets, to blatantly misrepresent or hide this information.
This is neither sustainable, ethical, nor economically smart.
The local food revolution must be based on integrity and transparency.
Let McDonalds call their McNuggets chicken even though half the ingredients are not chicken.
We have to be better than that.
With TRANSPARENCY and honest labeling, farmers are free to do anything they chose.
And the consumers’ rights are protected in the process.
Chris Bedford
On Jan 22, 2011, at 12:40 PM, Douglas Dubin wrote:
We are facing a conflict at our farmers market between growers and resellers.  Would like to know how people are dealing with this.  More importantly, looking for research to either show that both can be or not be supported at one market.  Thanks! 

Stacie Dubin
Co- market manager/farmer

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Christopher Bedford
Filmmaker-Writer-Organizer
Center for Economic Security
#6543 Hancock Road
Montague, MI 49437
231-893-3937
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