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Should Farmers’ Market vendors be required by law to label where their products come from?

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This is Gremolata's Discussion post of the Day for July 16, 2009.

Every day, many of Toronto’s farmers’ markets showcase genuine local farmers and support the local micro-food community. Others offer a blend of local and “wholesale” goods. And then there are a select few vendors who simply sell wholesale imported goods disguised as local. Should Farmers’ Market vendors be required by law to label where their products come from? Would it stop some vendors from disguising imported food as local? Perhaps stronger regulations? Would it have an impact on your purchases? Share your thoughts.
Post Reply By James in ETOBICOKE on 7/15/2009 11:13:53 PM

That's an easy one: Yes. They have to make signs that say how much stuff is, it's not that hard to mark "I grew this!" or "Grown in Ontario" or "Grown in god-knows-where".
Post Reply By Matthew in TORONTO on 7/16/2009 9:18:20 AM

Here's the problem, the weasels who are already trying to pass off stuff they bought at the food terminal as local aren't going to have any compunction about putting a fake "Product of Ontario" sign up too. On the other hand just about anything structural done to try to weed the practice out just winds up being a punishing imposition on those who are already honest.

It's not like this is something you can audit, one doesn't get a receipt every time a carrot is pulled from the ground. Consumer engagement is the best weapon against this, talk to the vendors, find out where the farm is, when you can, take advantage of opportunities to tour farms and deal with the people you meet when you do. Pay attention to what should be in season and be activist, complain to market organizers if you see stuff that's clearly out of season or otherwise doesn't look right.
Post Reply By Norm in EAST YORK on 7/16/2009 11:09:00 AM

Another question, do organizations like LFP have a role to play here or they just more red tape for the honest farmers?
Post Reply By Norm in EAST YORK on 7/16/2009 12:05:29 PM

One way to get around this is to shop at one of the five the MyMarkets in Toronto (my-market.ca), which are certified by Farmers' Markets Ontario to verify that the farmers at the markets sell only what they produce. Wonderful fresh produce. The latest one just opened at St. Andrew's park, Adelaide a few blocks west of Spadina, Saturdays from 9am-1pm.
[Disclosure: I'm on the local volunteer committee for the St. Andrew's market, and want it to be a success so that we can continue to have fresh shopping in our neighbourhood.]
Post Reply By Sandy in TORONTO on 7/16/2009 12:30:03 PM

That's good Sandy but here's the problem, like with organic certification there are multiple different organizations that are doing some sort of certification of this stuff, it winds up being confusing for the consumer and creates an opportunity for fake certifications.

For the record at most of the smaller/newer markets such as my local (Brickworks) I've seen no evidence of this kind of weaselry happening (with the exception of Susur Lee's slaw stand which is/was NOT using ANY local produce) the only place it seems to be endemic is the North St. Lawrence.
Post Reply By Norm in EAST YORK on 7/16/2009 3:58:53 PM

I agree customer engagment is probably the best weapon against this. Speak to your vendors/farmers, build a relationship and not only does that benefit you as a consumer but you then know more about where your food is coming from and "who" it's coming from. It's nice to put a face behind the product, hear their story become more aware of what you're putting in your body and the care that went into getting it to you in the first place.
Post Reply By Kathleen in TORONTO on 7/17/2009 8:43:22 AM

We don't need another government intervention. All you have to do is ask where the produce comes from. Generally you can also tell whether the vendor is a farmer or not..
Post Reply By John in ETOBICOKE on 7/19/2009 1:34:39 PM