What’s the deal with growing locally, sustainably, chemically, organically? Our practices are an extension of our farmers’ and ranchers’ practices. Bringing clarity and transparency to what you buy at the market is our top priority.
Carla Jenkins, Texas Farmers’ Market Manager, describes why we do what we do in the article below. Our policies are strict as the only producer-only verified market group in town, we can assure you that vendors are honestly bringing the fruits of their labors and using the practices they tout to shoppers. Please continue to ask questions of your farmer/rancher to understand who is farming sustainably at all times and who relies on integrated pest management and when, why and how they may use herbicides or pesticides.
Farm inspections are the best part of my job, ensuring what the farmers are growing is what they are actually offering for sale at the market and how they grow it. The farmers are proud and love sharing what they do. Learning something new is rewarding and with each visit, I find out more about how difficult it is to be a farmer in Central Texas.
My first farm inspection was at a farm southeast of San Antonio. We drove up into one of the fields where I saw a hoe next to the rows of potatoes; some had been uncovered. “How do you harvest these potatoes, Johnny?” “With that hoe”, he said. This field was at least an acre! I was shocked that he did not have a big tractor with an implement that dug potatoes or someone that he paid to dig for them. We traveled next to his watermelon field that had been eaten by wild hogs. From that day on, I have continued to be amazed by what farmers and their families do to get food to our tables.
When farmers raise crops organically and sustainably their efforts and costs seem to double, or triple. Sometimes the bugs or weeds get the crop and they have to abandon it and replant, start over. Farmers who use chemicals in their fields have a huge advantage. Just as ranchers do when they use hormones in what they feed their steers, adding weight more quickly on less feed. When you see perfect tomatoes or corn without worms, there is a reason. I’m still torn between what I call the “supermarket look” and a piece of corn with a worm in the end. So, is it fair for farmers who use chemicals and those who don’t to compete at a farmers’ market? How do the organic growers make enough money for their smaller yields and the crops they have lost and had to replant? Is it enough to be delivering fresh, locally grown food to shoppers?
The answers to these questions are complex. There is no way we have enough farmers in our area to require that they all grow with organic methods. Most that use chemicals use them only when they “have to.” If they do use chemicals, they cannot dance around their answers to those of you who ask! They must be immediately honest and transparent. Our practices dictate that we can only host vendors who are up front about this.
Until we have more farmers in our 150 mile radius we will bring farmers who use integrated pest control management (IPM is the selection and use of pest control actions that will ensure favorable economic, ecological and social consequences and is applicable to most agricultural, public health and amenity pest management situations) to our farmers’ markets to supply your demand. Make sure you personally support what is important to you, be it local, organic, sustainably grown, less expensive, conventionally grown or looks perfect. Your demand is what will drive our farmers’ market future.
Learn more about why shopping at producer-only markets is important in this KVUE television feature and in this article from Pam Walker in the Houston Chronicle.
In addition, Texas Farmers’ Market is a proud partner of Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Texas, which helps consumers source high-quality, locally grown foods directly from Central Texas farmers and ranchers. Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Texas makes it easier than ever to find local producers and products, while supporting local economies, our environment and the cultures represented by food produced in our area. Learn more about Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Texas on their website.