Is it Local? Is it Organic? Isn’t it both? That seems to be the confusion with customers these days- they don’t understand the difference between the various designations that fresh produce gets when marketed. And really, how could they?
At the Haymarket in Boston you find green grapes and blueberries in May. It is a local market, but the produce can come from far, far away. Maybe you realize the miles between grower and seller, but most likely Joe Lunchbucket doesn’t. What happens when you get outside of the city limits and visit a farm stand – was that peach really grown on the back 40? Probably not. There is an assumption that the farmer is selling what he grew. Yes, probably so. But when you have an audience, you sell whatever they are willing to buy. That farmer might just as well have visited the New England Produce Center and bought the same fruit that the Haymarket vendor purchased.
Whether purchased or grown, is that produce organic? Is it organic by definition or by assumption? The whole ‘know your farmer’ movement is great, but the even deeper knowledge is ‘know your farmer’s growing practices’. Just because Mr. Greenjeans is a nice guy doesn’t mean that he opted out of using pesticides or that he didn’t use uncomposted manure to fertilize the crop. Just because you have met him doesn’t mean that he follows all of the best practices. How many people did Bernie Madoff scam?
I truly feel sorry for customers. Inside the industry we know these things because we deal with them daily. My wife won’t let me go to the farmer’s market with her for two reasons – first I apparently ask way too many questions of the person manning the stand and second I embarrass her while taking all of the fun out of the experience. I can’t help the latter, but the former is fair game for each and every customer. Ask until you are satisfied that you have enough information to make an informed choice. Buy Local, Organic or Locanic!