Questioning the Ethics of Farmers Markets

Is everything you buy from the farmers market from a local farm? If you think so, I hate to tell you, but in some cases,  you would be wrong.

As with every industry, business and activity, there are those who will jump on an opportunity for a quick buck.

Got to be NC Agriculture

Got to be NC Agriculture

There are ethical markets that vet their vendors to prove the products they are selling are indeed from the local area. Locally, the Matthews Farmers Market, Atherton Mills Market and Yorkmont Markets are truly farmers markets. Then there are others.

It really irks me when I see opportunists take advantage of trusting customers. Our local Farmers Markets  sell produce, hoop cheese and country ham; primary season is from April through October 31; adding pumpkins and squashes as the season comes to a close. The markets are extremely busy.

Ask about how the animals are raised

Ask about how the animals are raised

People buy there thinking they are in some manner, doing better for their families, communities and supporting farmers.

I remember when Robert used to tell me of the farmers market on the corner near his house. I lived in the mountains of North Carolina at the time and walking to a weekly farmers market painted romantic dreams of urban living.

There is a corner market nearby that I have been observing for years. It is a family run business, they own a nice block or two of land in what would be considered “prime commercial real estate” for mid-town Charlotte.

On market days, there are often traffic jams which require hiring off-duty police to direct traffic. People pile in and load up their baskets with whatever produce they find; feeling good about feeding their families on fresh “farmers market” foods.

They don’t ask questions, they just flock in and buy.

Vegetables at the marketEarly in the morning, restaurants show up at the market to buy the produce at wholesale prices. In turn, the restaurants go back and advertise on their menu’s that they offer “local vegetables bought from the farmers market.”

The biggest buzzwords in food lately are “local, sustainable and organic.” Claim that and you gain an easy audience in your marketing; your marketing image leans towards a caring business who supports the local community.

However, the public is being duped.

People don’t ask questions!

On my visits to the market, I noticed they would have the same bagged greens that we could buy in the grocery store.

Locally grown? Chiquita, really? Mangoes? Pineapples?

Locally grown? Chiquita, really? Mangoes? Pineapples?

I noticed they always had corn. Always have corn, from April through the end of November. And the corn has a sign on it, written with highlighter, “Non-GMO.” Somehow I don’t believe it. I’d like to ask for proof.

What really caught my attention and lit my fire was the last time I was there. Each check out station was surrounded by pulp baskets of strawberries with signs on them declaring “Sweet Strawberries $3.99 qt.”

Being July and knowing it is well past strawberry season here, I asked:

Commercially grown strawberries dressed up to look like farm-fresh. These "local" berries are from California and sometimes Driscolls grows in Mexico too.

Commercially grown strawberries dressed up to look like farm-fresh. These “local” berries are from California and sometimes Driscoll’s grows in Mexico too.

“Where the berries were from?”

“California. . .”

“Are they organic?”

“No, they are Driscoll’s.”

This makes them no different from what you buy in the grocery store! Driscoll’s just happens to be a huge mono-culture farmer of commercial berries.

Commercially grown strawberries are sprayed and hold residue of many different chemicals. Here is an in-depth article you can read here:

Pesticides are a Danger to Health and the Environment – Choose Organic!

The article will tell you about the research and how dangerous chemicals are being used on commercially grown strawberries and other produce and best of all, what you can do about it!

So when people buy the berries from this market, they are not getting an organic berry but commercially grown berries instead. The berries are packaged to look like farm fresh; the hand written signs are casual and fit the marketing image.

Muscadine grapes

Muscadine grapes

I looked around and saw shoppers scarfing up the berries and other produce thinking they are in some way or another doing good because they are buying their food from the farmers market.

The problem is, they are buying the same as they would get from the grocery without it being disclosed! They are buying the same stuff commercial restaurants buy from commercial broadband vendors and smaller vendors like Restaurant Depot.

 The are buying the commercially grown food they are trying to avoid by shopping at the farmers market in the first place.

This is the kind of food we try to avoid for better health.

I think all markets should be required have signage on every product that says where it was grown and by whom. All items should be labeled how it was grown and be able to provide the paperwork to prove it, if asked.

Full Disclosure!

Let us have the right to make a choice and they should be prepared to provide the proof. I’ve lost my trust in our corner farmers market. They may have a few farmers but I don’t believe their corn in Non-GMO, I don’t believe their claims. Broccoli is not coming out of any local garden at this time of year, yet they have a table full of it.

The public needs to be aware of this practice so they can actually support the real farmers; go to a real market.

At this time of year, you won’t see any strawberries because they aren’t in season.

California has passed a bill to crack down on Farmers Market Fraud. See the article below for information.

 http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2014/08/27/california-legislature-passes-bill-to-crack-down-on-farmers-market-fraud/

In the meantime, when you go to a market, ask questions. If they can’t or won’t tell you, don’t buy it! They are probably a commercial enterprise posing as a farmers market for easy money.October 15, 2011 farmers market 021

Here are some easy questions to ask:

  • “Where are these (insert whatever fruit or vegetable) from?”
  • “Are they organically grown?”
  • “Does the farm have a website?” Then use your phone and look them up. You’ll know if it is a commercial farm or a local farm.
  • “Why do you have broccoli in August? Where is it being grown? and how far did it travel to come to be here?” [To people wanting to reduce their carbon footprint, this matters!]

The Farmers Market industry currently has few regulations. Some require you to apply and be approved before you can sell there. They actually verify you are truly a local food producer.

However, if you own a few acres of vacant land, you can throw up some awnings, spread tables with produce you bought at the broad distributor food service uses, invite a few folks to sell grass-fed beef, home-made cakes, pies, flowers, and you too can be in the Farmers Market business as long as you have a business license.

I think this is scandalous and it really makes me quite angry.

Don’t Assume!

We’ve all got brains in our heads, it’s time to put them to use. This is something everyone who goes to a farmers market should be aware of.

Do some research, find out what kind of farmers market you patronize.

Be sure you are actually getting what you think you are getting. Ask a few questions. The answers may surprise you.

Don’t be duped!

#eatfresh #farmersmarkets #ethicalfarmersmarkets #Knowyourfood #wheredoesyourfoodcomefrom #eatwell #freshfood #fruit

#vegetables #freshproduce #healthyfood

Support your Local Farmer!

Support your Local Farmer!

Eat Fresh – What’s in Season NOW! September

Here is a quick run down on Eating Fresh – What’s in season now, September 2014.

Every where you look, people are trying to eat better.

To be an educated eater, you need to be aware or what fresh #fruitsandvegetables are available according to season.
Simply going to the grocery store or that busy farmers market on the corner isn’t a good way to determine what is in season. Food gets shipped in from all over the world so the availability seems season-less.

Eggplant and Okra

Eggplant and Okra

Knowing what is in season and that winter would be the “bleakest” food season; you can prepare and plan to have a pantry full of amazing things. But that’s another discussion.

Summer is winding down, days are getting shorter. Tomatoes are in full swing, melons are ripening on the vines.
Okra is growing over your head the plants have become so tall!

Here's what you can buy fresh from the garden in September:

Click on the hyperlinks to get fun, interesting ideas and recipes.

  • Apples- are coming in, crisp and fresh! Look for more varieties in the market as fall progresses.

    Apples on display

    Apples on display

  • Blackberries- soon to be gone! Make some Blackberry Sage Jam for a cold winter morning.
  • Cabbage – a good winter staple
  • Cherry Tomatoes – great for salads, snacking, roasting or sauté – abundant now through first frost
  • Collards – Simply an amazing green to simmer and eat with beans and cornbread, ’nuff said! Don’t forget the hot pepper vinegar!
  • Cucumbers- until first frost, time to make some pickles. Here’s a primer to get you going.
  • Figs-  get them quick! They are almost gone. Fig and lemon jam will capture their essence, or simply do whole figs in syrup. Wrap them in prosciutto. . .
  • Green Onions I find they winter ok if you grow them yourself. For fun, try sprouting the root end again by putting it is a small glass of water, it grows!
  • Greens- Easily available, get baby varieties to eat raw
  • Herbs- easily available in most varieties. Mint may be dying back, Basil is trying to seed. Freeze fresh herbs in ice-cube trays for winter use.
  • Indian Corn- begins to hit the market through October
  • Muscadine Grapes- Short season, all-time favorite regional treat. Freeze some for Halloween, use them as ‘eyeballs’ in the punchbowl or drinks.
  • Mushrooms- Late summer varieties rich flavors!
  • Mustard Greens- start coming in mid-September. Try some for a spicy different taste.
  • Peaches- leaving the market soon. Get your fill now! Make some fresh peach ice cream this weekend and serve it over warm peach cobbler or pie.
  • Peanuts- a year round favorite, raw, roasted or boiled.
  • Pears- the best pears are just starting to show up. Pears will only be here a short while, through October.
  • Persimmons- tricky to get just right, those who do love them!
  • Pumpkins- YAY! I adore pumpkins, eating and decorating and carving, flesh seeds and all! (Check out the links! You’ll have fun, promise!)
  • Raspberries- Almost gone until next year. Freeze some.
  • Snap Beans- Coming to an end of the season. I adore green beans and freeze some for winter. I think canning them makes them to soggy.
  • Yellow Squash- I know some aren’t sorry to see these go. Still available through mid October.
  • Sweet Corn- the symbol of summer, gone by the middle of the month. If you haven’t yet, grill you some corn on the cob for dinner.
  • Sweet Potatoes- Available year round although some specialty varieties come and go. I adore the garnet type from mid summer.
  • Tomatoes and Tomatillos- Through first frost. Be sure to get the green ones at the end of season to make chow-chow!
  • Watermelon- Another summer classic about to depart as fall descends.
  • Zucchini- only through the end of September. Shred some and make some Brownies!

I hope this helps. If you’re at the market and see things that really don’t seem right, like strawberries in September, ask where they came from and how they were grown. Leave them behind if you don’t like the answer.

Use your dollar to vote for better food and health with every purchase you make.

How do you eat, do you follow seasons? Buy Local? Please comment below and tell us how you plan your meals.

The What to Eat Now – October will be out soon. Subscribe to Spoon Feast so you are sure to get it! Use the subscription button on the right.

Massaged Kale Salad

Massaged Kale Salad

#eatfresh #seasonaleating #localfood #fruitsandvegetables #foodinseason #supportfarmers #eatlocal #seasonalfood

 

Lemon Detox Challenge

Lemon Detox Challenge!I’d like to invite you all to a simple challenge.

The 21 Morning Lemon Detox Challenge

Here’s what you do:

Each morning, before you have anything to eat or drink, squeeze 1/2 or a fresh lemon into a glass, add 8 ounces of room temperature water and drink it down.

Then go about your day as normal.

Make any notes about anything you may feel or how drinking the lemon water effects your body.

People report having more energy, clearer skin, calmer gut, less gas, regular bowel movements, anti aging effects (you’d have to do it a lot longer than 21 days, like, forever. . .) and easier weight control.

I’ve done this before and I really do like how I feel when I do this. My mother used to tell me when I was a little girl to drink a glass of lemon water every morning for your health. Good thing I like lemon.

Would you like to join me?

I’ll be doing a brief post each day about my experience on my Health Coaching Website’s blog www.chefpamela.com in hopes of supporting you in successfully completing your challenge.

SO go buy 4 fresh lemons and get ready to join me in the morning.

It’s time to feel good!

Related Articles:

Natural Beauty-21 Day Detox Routine http://ourlittlegreendot.com/natural-beauty-morning-detox-routine/

 

 

 

Join The 2014 Food Revolution Summit with John & Ocean Robbins

Don’t let Monsanto or Coca-Cola control your menu or your country

For the April 26-May 4 , bestselling author John Robbins is personally interviewing Vani Hari, Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Dean Ornish, Woody Harrelson, Andrew Kimbrell, Dr. Mark Hyman, and 18 more real food leaders. Join in for free to find out what’s really going on in the food movement, and more importantly, what you can do about it.

You’ll get urgent insights on topics like GMOs, the collapse of bee colonies, the real meaning of words like “organic” and “natural”, and how to protect yourself from toxic chemicals that should never have been approved.

You’ll also get the latest science on hot topics like gluten, sugar, fat, Paleo and vegan diets, fair trade, and what it’s going to take to feed a world of more than 7 billion.

Join The 2014 Food Revolution Summit with John & Ocean Robbins.

9 Days, amazing speakers!

Register for free for full access anywhere, follow the link below

http://www.foodrevolution.org/summit?orid=271881&opid=108

Listen this about Monsanto’s lies

My Cooking Culture

george-chochran-shoot-086.jpgMy Cooking Culture

We lived all over the world, moving about every 3 years to another place on the planet. From Morocco to Spain, Canada to Japan with a few of the United States in between.

My father is an avid gardener; we used to joke about having a corn field in our back yard no matter where we lived. Fresh snow peas were the gardeners treat. They got eaten in the garden and never quite made it to the table. I used to eat snow peas instead of potato chips. After school, I would head to the garden and sneak a few off the vines then help my dad after work with weeding and tying vines to eat more.october-15-2011-farmers-market-015.jpg

To this day, I love garden grown green beans and home-grown tomatoes seem to be better than anything you can buy at a store.

My mom is Canadian; grew up in Nova Scotia where they grew a lot of their food. She fed us with garden grown fresh foods, or frozen. She tried cans on us once and we rejected them as repulsive so she didn’t try that again.

In the foreign countries, mom always managed to hire a native cook to prepare meals for us a few days a week. My parents made sure no matter what country we lived in, we learned about the culture, food and language. When we lived in Japan, the family that lived behind us was the same size. The mom there and my mom made great friends with each other. On Wednesday night, they would each prepare a full meal for the family, put it on trays; walk out the back door and swap meals. They got a traditional American/Canadian meal and we got a traditional Japanese meal. I loved it! My dad, not so much.

Imagine, from my Dad’s point of view, the aroma of pan-fried pork chops, green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy wafting through the air. Ah, the smell of the roasting garlic whetting the appetite. The coming to the table and finding plates of various sushi, rice, miso soup and tofu with cucumber seaweed salads. Surprise!

We have always eaten a ton of fresh vegetables, local meats and foods. What is horribly frustrating is seeing the decline in the quality of our food supply. In addition to the decline in quality, there is also the fact that so many people really don’t know what they’re eating, or how to eat well or make good food choices.

This is where I want to make a difference!

My dad, who is 87, still grows a garden and has the best tomatoes in the world. He also makes a terrific gyoza, thanks to “Mamasan’s” recipe.

Final Harvest!

Final Harvest!

I am one of the lucky ones. My parents didn’t take us to McDonald’s. Even though as kids we begged for it. I remember looking at the McDonald’s signs and noticing how the numbers of how many hamburgers they sold kept increasing. (Yes, they kept count in the early days!) I wondered if I would ever be lucky enough to be part of that statistic. Then came the day when the signs changed to “millions served” now it might be “billions served”. Yes, I finally got one. They must have, among other things in this category, the worst bread on the planet.

My son used to say my meals were always the same: 1 starch, 1 or two vegetables (1 always green), and a protein with a sauce of some kind. I have to admit it is a type of formula.

Today my Typical Dinner Consists of:

1 Green vegetable (1 cup)

Leafy greens, broccoli, cabbages, peas, any variety of beans, snow peas, there are so many! If you’re not familiar, pick something you don’t know, ask about it, look up recipes on the internet and play with cooking it.

Fresh picked kale

Fresh picked kale

1 Vegetable of another color (1/2 cup)

Any veg that is not green, peppers, onions, cauliflower, squashes, this is to make the plate visually interesting and it also adds a punch of nutrition!

Corn Crusted Grouper

Corn Crusted Grouper

Grain or starch of some kind (1/2 to 1 cup)

Whole grains like brown rice, exotic rice, lentils, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, barley, millet, mung beans, quinoa, farro, cous cous. I love how much the level of choice in this category has grown. There is so much more than just rice and potatoes.

1 High quality protein – not always animal based (4-6 ounces)

Guidelines for animal proteins:
  • No beef
  • No pork (but I love bacon! ) ;)
  • No farm raised fish except catfish or trout
    • No Tuna, Sea Bass or Redfish

Note: we no longer eat any fish from the Pacific ocean.

  • Organic poultry
  • Organic eggs
  • Organic Dairy

    Multi colored Carrots (I bought these!)

    Multi colored Carrots (I bought these!)

1 Sauce (1-2 ounces)

Can be made from de-glazing the pan or reserved cooking liquids or stock or vinaigrette. This provides a bit of moisture and can add another dimension of flavor. I avoid using fat and flour thickeners and cornstarch. Instead I thicken by reduction (enhances flavor), adding mustard or miso which also contribute to flavor.

1 Side dish of raw vegetable salad (1/4 -1/2 cup)

This can be a green salad, carrot salad, cucumber, onion, Caesar, or lightly blanched vegetable and may contain a fermented/ pickled vegetable like pickled beets, cauliflower or onions. A homemade vinaigrette dressing, sometimes lemon juice and olive oil and cracked black pepper.

Anaida's Beans

Anaida’s Beans

This side does not need to be a big portion. 1/4 to 1/2 cup is a typical serving.  It can be used as a palate cleanser between tastes on the main plate.

Lunches:

Sandwiches with a chip and pickle of some kind. I’m working on improving the chip option but I really am fond of a handful of chips with a sandwich. I’m trying nori chips and kale chips. . . I may still go back to potato once in a while.

Light bits of left over dinner

Soup with good bread (I’ve made the bread we eat in the house for the past 10+ years)

Noodle stir fry

Grill pan dinner“Ploughman’s lunches” using what we have on hand

Vegetable Sushi

Breakfast:

On our own for breakfast. Most of the time I’ll grab something with protein.

This meal is usually quick , easy and light. Unless it’s oatmeal.

What we always have on hand:

Buy Organic whenever possible

Chicken stock, 1/2 & 1/2 for morning beverages and sometimes chai, fat-free milk, fresh greens, eggs, fruit, tetra-pac tomatoes, variety of beans, canned and dried, various rice and grains, legumes and potatoes. We will keep a stock of chicken and sometimes fish in the freezer for meals during the week.

I shop whenever we need fresh vegetables; I try to use fresh vegetables over frozen.

I leave processed foods on the shelf and process my own condiments, pickles and breads.

That’s it! My cooking culture, in a nutshell. A bit of many cultures rolled into a multitude of meals.

I believe everyone should be able to make healthy food choices and healthy food should be affordable and available to all.

Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

Learning to Love Yourself

Hearts in the snowLoving ourselves isn’t always easy.

Most of us don’t treat ourselves as if we even like ourselves let alone love ourselves.

We find ourselves running around doing things for others, our friends, family, children, spouses and fall short on finding time for ourselves. The scary part is being alright with no time for yourself.

When do we pay attention to ourselves, it’s usually a comment directed to a reflection in a window or mirror.

“Ugh, I need to lose weight; hate my hair, my thighs are fat, wish I had clear skin or straight hair or better sense of fashion.”

“Why am I short, tall or why does my top ride up over my backside like that? One day you’ll start exercising, look at that belly!. . .” and the messages go on and on, continually.

It makes no wonder so many have self-esteem and confidence problems!

The first step we need to do in order to accept ourselves just the way we are is to  take a look at what is in your heart.

Most of us are kind, loving human beings who choose to do the best we can as we go along.

Take a deep breath. Try to listen to your heart and recognize that feeling. Pour the same love you have for your spouse and children all over yourself.

How does that feel?

Can you allow yourself to feel good and wonderful from receiving love from your own self?

Why are we surprised and flattered when someone expresses interest in us? Why do we wonder why they like or love us? Why can’t we simply accept the feeling and feel like it’s good, deserving and wonderful?

Why do we put ourselves last? We ALL matter, each in our unique way. When we learn to love ourselves, it becomes easier to be happy. It becomes easier to be brighter and as we all know a bright smile and happiness is easy to spread.

When you learn to love yourself and accept who and how you are right now, everything you do from then on will celebrate that.

The food you eat will change to nourishing because you make better choices, you body will change because you choose to take care of it by exercising, your mind will change because you will have lost that negative self talk that poisons everything.

Take 10 minutes, just ten quiet minutes and listen to your heart. You may love people or animals, but accept that you deserve some of that love energy directed at you too. You deserve it, you are worth it.

Look in the mirror and tell yourself: “I am worth it!”

It makes it easier to put that doughnut down and go out for a walk.

Catch yourself next time you find yourself criticizing anything about you. Find one thing you like about yourself at that moment and dwell on that. It could be how fast you got errands done, a good hair day, how you helped someone, anything you feel good about and hold on to that thought and feeling for a few minutes, if you can.

Do not allow any negative self talk, or if only’s or whens. Now. Just now.

So this Valentines Day, whether you have someone else to love or not, take a nice long look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself from your heart, “I Love You”.

  Start there, it’s a good beginning.Rose

Organic VS. Conventionally Grown Vegetables

Vegetables ready to pickle!It can be confusing to shop for vegetables these days trying to figure out whether to buy organic vs. conventionally grown produce.

Some say if it has a thick peel organic doesn’t matter, but sometimes it does.

Here’s a couple of lists: One of foods you should always buy organic and the other a list of produce that is alright to buy conventionally grown items.

Always Buy Organic:

Why? These foods have been found to have high levels of pesticide contamination.

Always wash all fruits and vegetables just before cooking and preparing.

Fruit:

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Imported Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries

Vegetables:

 farmers market radishes

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cherry and Grape Tomatoes
  • Corn – to avoid GMO
  • Cucumbers
  • Collard greens
  • Hot peppers
  • Kale
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash
  • Sweet Bell Peppers

OK To Buy Conventionally Grown:

Why? These crops are safely grown with the low usage of pesticide resulting in lower pesticide residue on your fruits and vegetables.

Always wash well before preparing.

Fruits:

Fresh Blueberries

  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas – Check it for GMO
  • Pineapples

Vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage, all varieties
  • Eggplant
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Sweet Potatoes

This list features the most pesticide contaminated foods which are advised to purchase organically whenever possible. The conventionally grown foods on the list are the ones grown with the least amount of pesticide contamination.

if it’s not on the list, you’ll have to do some research and decide for yourself whether to buy organic or conventionally grown.

Most produce in the USA will come with a PLU number on it. It is not required by the government but the PLU system was designed to streamline things for processors and pricing, not consumers.

Here are a few basic guidelines for selecting fruit and vegetables using PLU codes.

Conventionally grown produce will bear a 4-digit number in the 3,000-4,000 range

Organic produce will bear a 5-digit number starting with 9

Supposedly GMO produce bears a 5-digit number starting with 8, but you don’t see it  because they really don’t use those PLU codes to identify GMO grown foods. Why don’t they use the 8-digit code? Growers are afraid consumers won’t buy if it bears a code starting with an 8, so they choose to leave the code off the product. Use of the PLU code is optional, not required.

So the best thing to do is not totally depend upon PLU codes but know who grows your food and know where it comes from.

Here is a list of the foods most likely to be GMO:

I hope this helps all of us eat better this next year!