What Farmers Selling at Farmers' Markets, Detest

With warmer weather comes a weekly event many of us live for-farmers' markets! Shopping at these inspiring markets is always a happy experience for me.

Over the years of faithful attendance, I've talked to many farmers who regularly sell at markets. When asked, they have plenty to say about what the experience is like for THEM. In a nutshell, THEY would have a happier experience if people's manners would improve. I was saddened by this, and thought you might like to know what their five common complaints are (so you'll be sure to avoid this behavior).

Keep sticker shock to yourself. Whining about the price of things is tacky. While it's less common nowadays than it's been in the past (because more people are more educated about the cost of growing organic and the value of local produce), some customers still harangue stall-holders. “I can get bell peppers for much less at Costco!” they'll say. One farmer I talked to said he actually responds with, “Then you should go to Costco.”

But complaining is a waste of time, he says: "It's like going to a restaurant. If you don't like the prices on the menu, you don't go in and criticize the chef." In other words, if you think those tomatoes are a rip-off, just take your business elsewhere.

Don't be a “buzzard.” It might seem reasonable to expect a deal at the end of the day, when farmers may want to offload all their produce before it spoils. But if farmers need to knock down their prices, they will already have done so. Farmers call the folks who swoop in at the end of the day and demand half-price goods, “buzzards.” They'd rather re-sort the items, re-price them, and sell them at the next market. Or if a farmer is going to “give away” his unsold produce, he'll choose a worthy cause, like a local food bank, not some well-heeled foodie.

There is one exception to a price drop though: when you buy in bulk. Then, say farmers, it's fine to ask for a discount. Just don't expect a protracted bargaining session. It's not like you're in North Africa haggling for three days with a rug seller. Make an offer and a counteroffer, and then either pay the price or move on.

Don't block the aisle. One of the most consistently annoying things about customers' behavior, is how they'll block the aisles. For instance, couples walking through the market run into old friends, get talking, run into a few more friends, and soon there's a clump of people completely blocking the farmer's stand. Sellers wish people would be more aware of the needs of others and just get out of the way if they want to stop and chat.

Don't squeeze and grab everything in sight. Farmers' market produce is more fragile than rock-hard wax-coated apples at your local chain store. While produce headed for grocery chains is picked under-ripe so it can ripen during transport or storage, farmers at the market have often harvested their produce at its prime, so it may be soft and easily bruised. Furthermore, over-handling the merchandise is unsanitary and inappropriate in these germ-phobic times.

One farmer told me, "People pick the produce up and smell it and put it right against their nose. In Europe, you would get your hand slapped right away if you started fondling all the fruit." (‘Nough said!)

Finally, control your kids. Obvious, right? Not so much anymore. Every farmer I talked to expressed disgust at how so many parents today let their kids rage out of control, turning a blind eye as the youngsters mix up signs, knock produce on the ground, or stuff it in their mouths.

“Besides being angry at this stupid behavior, I feel embarrassment for the parents. Kids only know what they're taught, and it's not their fault if their parents fail to teach them basic good manners!” said one of my favorite farmers.

Well, now we know. And because we do know, we can do our part to help the farmers' market shopping experience be happy for everyone!

  •   www.cfmatl.org
  •   www.seela.org
  •   www.livescience.com
  •   www.csunshinetoday.csun.edu
  •   www.parents.com

    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author! alice@dvo.com

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