There is no question that Farmers Markets are popular throughout Colorado – in the Vail Valley alone there are three major markets: Edwards, Minturn, and Vail. Each one is different in terms of size (Edwards and Minturn are what you’d expect from a local farmers market while Vail looks more like an outdoor trade show) and what they offer, but they are all definitely weekend destinations for both locals and tourists.
According to the Farmers Market Coalition, “A farmers market is a public and recurring assembly of farmers, or their representatives, selling the food that they produced directly to consumers.” While that certainly continues to be the case, farmers markets have become more than just a place to buy and sell produce. Vendors peddle clothes, trinkets, blankets, jewelry, soaps, and the list goes on and on. In fact, some farmers markets are beginning to look more like flea markets because the non-food items for sale outnumber the food vendors.
Five Farmers Market Coalition Facts:
- By cutting out middlemen, farmers receive more food dollars and shoppers receive the freshest and most flavorful food in their area, allowing local economies to prosper.
- Each farmers market defines the term “local” according to the agriculture of its region and regularly communicates that definition to the public.
- The number of farmers markets in the United States has grown rapidly in recent years from just under 2,000 in 1994 to more than 8,600 markets currently registered in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- More than 85 percent of vendors travel fewer than 50 miles to sell their products at farmers markets. And, according to the USDA, over 50 percent of farmers travel less than 10 miles to their respective markets.
- Supermarket comparison: Seven to fourteen days can pass between the time produce is picked and when it becomes available to shoppers. In that time, fruits and vegetables travel, on average, more than 1,200 miles before reaching grocery store shelves.
Although the mission behind farmers markets is definitely positive, these weekly events have evolved into more than just food and money exchanging hands. Attending these markets has become tremendously trendy. In fact, they have become so coveted that some have started attracting some incredibly pretentious consumers. Part of the issue is that farmers markets have almost become a novelty – people feel great about buying directly from the farmer and don’t mind/realize that they are spending way more money than they would at the grocery store. These are the type of people who wear their farmers market attendance as a badge of honor. They are also the people who tell their dinner guests that all the fruits and vegetables used to prepare the meal came from the farmers market when no one asked.
Another aspect I find interesting is that people talk about how much better the produce tastes when it’s purchased at the farmers market. While in many instances the fruits and veggies are sweeter and fresher, I feel like other times it’s mental. Maybe someone should do a taste test similar to the Coke vs Pepsi commercials from the 80s. Put two different peaches in front of a blindfolded person and see if they can tell which one is from the farmers market!
All of that being said, I enjoy stopping by to my local farmers market to say hello to friends and pick up something delicious. But over the last few years I’ve noticed that I’m in the minority. Farmers markets are becoming places to “see and be seen” and the pretentiousness that comes with that mentality makes me want to avoid the markets all together.
Examples of people I encountered at the Edwards Farmers Market last Saturday:
- Women carrying yoga mats, in addition to their canvas bags, because they only want to put their organic produce in environmentally-friendly containers.
- People who continuously bogarted the time of busy vendors by telling them about every gluten allergy they have and all the foods they can’t eat while others (some patiently and others not so patiently) waited in line behind them.
- One person who was deathly afraid of my dog and several people who didn’t know how to walk their dogs on a leash.
- People who tasted everything and bought nothing.
- A vendor who, when I asked if she had one of the items she featured on her chalk board, said she had already sold out because I arrived way too late to buy it. The market starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 1:30 p.m. I arrived at 11 a.m.
- A few couples who looked like they just stepped out of a J.Crew catalog.
While farmers markets are going to continuously change and develop, and the people who organize them have every right to include a variety of vendors and do whatever they can to make them successful, I hope that the authenticity of these markets is preserved. I also hope organizers across the country remember to keep the initial mission in mind and continue to make farmers markets accessible for all types of people.