Farmstand Fresh? Better Make Sure: Supermarket Savvy
Ahhh, the roadside farmstand. Who doesn’t love just-harvested corn; sun-warmed tomatoes, and fresh-picked lettuce. Last month, I stopped by one of my favorite stands here in Massachusetts for local asparagus and was both surprised and pleased to find strawberries, too. I hadn’t realized they were in yet and mentioned as much to the proprietor while picking up a quart carton: “Oh, they’re from North Carolina,” she told me, oblivious to the irony on the giant sign that read “local”.
It never occurred to me that produce at farmstands wasn’t local. The proprietor explained that she only grew a little of what she sold and purchased the rest for resale. Basically, she was a store without walls.
Full of questions now, I spoke with a farmstand owner I know in another state. Abby told me that if something is not in season locally, it certainly won’t be native to your farmstand. While Abby purchases some items from regional farms, she never labels anything out of the area as “native.” She went on to explain that, sadly, many farmstands are not as honorable. She said she’s heard of owners buying produce at grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and, yes, even Walmart. Abby advises using common sense as a guide. Don’t assume, like I did with my strawberries, that the farmer has some magic touch to harvest berries six weeks before anyone else. If something’s not in season—and costs more than it should—chances are the farmstand bought it from far away; if it’s local and in season, the produce will be plentiful and inexpensive.
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