How local is your local Farmers’ Market?

January 27, 2014


In San Luis Obispo County, we are lucky to have a whopping 19 certified farmers’ market to shop at.  It makes sense though, given how much agriculture our area is responsible for – from avocados to lemons to zucchini, we pretty much have it all!

With this kind of bounty growing within 60 miles of any given ”local” farmers’ market you would think that almost every vendor is also within that same 60 mile radius but you would be incorrect in that assumption.

While we live in a unique area, surrounded by multiple pockets of microclimates that allow area farmers to grow a vast array of produce, your local farmers’ markets have vendors from as far away as Reedley (320 miles round-trip), Sanger (330 miles round-trip) and Orosi (340 miles round-trip) just to name a few out-of-area locales.

The operators of these markets would have you believe that certain items are just not grown within our “local” area, but that is simply untrue.  Figs are grown in Reedley AND Templeton, stone fruit is grown in Orosi AND Paso Robles and Templeton, “Asian vegetables” are grown in Selma AND on multiple farms throughout the county, citrus is grown in Sanger AND Nipomo and various nuts are grown in Huron AND multiple “local” communities.  There is very little out-of-area produce brought to our “local” farmers’ markets that does not grow in our own 60 mile backyard.  Did you know that kiwis and Loofah sponges are grown on the Mesa?  Pretty cool!

When non-local farmers are taking up the finite space at our “local” farmers’ markets, local farmers are being cut out of their very own communities.  That Templeton farmer growing figs doesn’t get a chance to sell within their own community because the market operator only allows the Reedley farmer in – a Fresno county farmer who has traveled 320 miles round-trip to sell their figs.  Do you think the Reedley farmer is traveling that far only to lose money each and every week?  Our area farmers’ market sellers are doing hundreds of thousands of dollars in vendor sales each year.  The Saturday morning farmers’ market at the Madonna Plaza did one MILLION dollars in vendor sales in 2012.  Yes.  You read that right.  $1,000,000.00.   Local sales that our local farmers’ cannot attain.

The other dirty little secret at our “local” farmers’ markets is that when those particular out-of-area items are no longer in season, the out-of-area farmers are still selling produce that is direct competition for our area farmers, in order to keep their booth space at market.  When there are no more figs to bring, they are transporting onions, cilantro, carrots, kale, squash, etc.  The very produce that is being grown in Huasna Valley, Nipomo, Santa Maria and Edna Valley and being sold at the next booth over.  Items that have no signage telling you what is the local cilantro and what is the Lemoore cilantro.  It makes you wonder – who is the local vegetable farmer and who is the Hanford vegetable farmer?  No banner is required to provide that information.  The market operator doesn’t make that information mandatory.

As a shopper, wanting to make a calculated “buy local” shopping choice, you would think that our “local” farmers’ market is the most logical choice – a “no brainer” in today’s parlance.  That would be incorrect, thanks to the very folks bringing you these markets.  With no required signage telling us where the produce was actually grown and the market operators helping perpetuate that false “locals” assumption by disavowing SLO County’s “Buy Local” program, we the consumers are caught in their self-serving lie of omission.

This Tuesday evening, Jan. 28, at 6:30pm, the Arroyo Grande City Council will make a final decision on what conditions (if any) their Village Farmers’ Market will be required to adhere to.  The market operator does not want you, the very person that votes with their local dollars, to know which vendors are from the area and which vendors are traveling over 300 miles to sell to you – which vendors are taking up the space that a local vendor or farmer does not get to occupy.  The same market where you can buy the multi-level marketing product “Scentsy”, hummus from a national food company, jelly from Oregon, (via their national sales representative) alongside farmers that travel a combined 2,700 miles round-trip each and every Saturday, every year, year in and year out.  Now is your opportunity to stand up for our truly local farmers and your chance to “buy local” at our area certified farmers’ markets.

Click the link for the AG City Council meeting information, and you can also send correspondence to the following city council members and city planning officials, for consideration at the upcoming meeting:

April McLaughlin can be reached at and she looks forward to meeting you on Tuesday.


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

What I don’t understand is the price of local produce. If farmer’s have a lot it would be good to have ‘bargains’, if not so much then I understand the price going up. I bought oranges at the farmer’s market in MB, they been frozen or stressed in some way, so I bought Sunkist at Costco, much better. That bothers me.

All politics aside what is the harm in the vendors voluntarily posting signage of origin at their stands and letting the shoppers decide who to buy from? It seems that would resolve the issue of where it comes from if even by omission. Just saying ‘local’ though would defeat the purpose. We need an actual location and we the shoppers can decide what is local which may or may not be determined by actual mileage one way or the other.

And we are not stupid. If there isn’t a sign it would be safe to assume it is not coming from our ‘local’ area. Truly local farmers have bragging rights just by default and would certainly want to advertise that fact to those that do want to shop and support our local growers. And then there are those that don’t care either way and signage or lack there of is of little or no consequence and that is fine too.

I frankly see no harm in giving the consumer information that may or may not be important to them but most assuredly does offer the facts of the matter. And I am not shy when it comes to asking the local vendors where they are from or if the product is a GMO. And when I get an “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure, my wife handles all that kind of stuff.” I can figure it out from there.

Although, I don’t have any specific knowledge or opinions on this subject, I do appreciate your concerns. However, equally concerning to me was the immediate observation of your misrepresentation of the facts. I found it odd that you would describe the “out of area” locations (who you are against) in terms of round trip mileage, twice the actual distance. However, when you describe the local area (who you are in favor of) you describe it, correctly, as being a radius of one way distance.

Of course, it is obvious why you did this – to misrepresent the actual facts. If your opinions and arguments are legitimate (and they appear to be a legit concern) then you don’t need to try to manipulate the facts. Doing so detracts from your position, and honestly – you are not fooling anyone.

Be honest . . . . . .

Very astute observation… and an even better response to it.


I’m more concerned about farmers selling unlabeled GMO crops at the farmers market — and that is going on — than about a few central valley farmers showing up. As for who’s who and where they’re from, it seems pretty obvious — some valley farmers have signs identifying where they’re from, and I’ve never had a farmer try to hide where she’s from. If there’s an issue in market management we need to get up in arms about, it’s unlabeled GMOs. They SHOULD at least be labeled, if not prohibited, but the manager refuses to do either. If I wanted GMO junk, I’d shop at the grocery store, and save some time and money.

You know, there is another name for GMO food: food

So nice to have the luxury of being picky about our food. Gotta love this Country!

It’s also known to some as “Frankenfood” :) It does not appear that there are nearly enough studies to assure us that this stuff is safe.

I found some interesting material here:

“* DNA does not always fully break down in the alimentary tract.3,4 Gut bacteria can take up genes and GM plasmids5 and this opens up the possibility of the spread of antibiotic resistance.

* Insertion of genes into the genome can also result in unintended effects, which need to be reduced/eliminated by selection, since some of the ways the inserted genes express themselves in the host or the way they affect the functioning of the crop’s own genes are unpredictable. This may lead to the development of unknown toxic/allergenic components, which we cannot analyze for and seriously limiting the selection criteria.”

The whole article is worth a read.

Roy, you’re one cool dude, but when you say GMO is another name for food, you’re (f)actually wrong. When you buy GMO corn at the SLO farmers market, you’re buying a registered pesticide. Yep, every molecule of that stuff is a pesticide. Last I heard, pesticides aren’t food. Drinking DDT on TV to “prove” it’s safe went out of style decades ago, and even those guys didn’t pretend they were drinking food, only “safe” pesticide. If they put an honest label on the stuff that LOOKS like corn that said: “this is a registered pesticide,” it would be outa there fast ’cause you can’t eat enough of it all by yourself to keep the farmer in business, and probably you’re the only CCN reader who would buy it. So they don’t label it, fool us into thinking it’s food, and let us eat pesticide.

I own a business in Arroyo Grande Village and I LOVE the Farmer’s Market, in fact it fuels my Saturday sales and it does that for others as well. We have NEVER had a problem in the Village of AG until April got mad that she could not bully her way into the market and now this dialogue is the result. It’s a sad statement that does not disclose all the facts and even so the Market is not perfect it serves a wonderful purpose – and most people love and appreciate the offerings at that particular location.

I have bought my produce from Kerry for years at the various farmers markets in the county for years. It’s always been good.

this is no suprise

Thanks for making this upfront for locals to see rather than hidden from our purview.

A note to this very issue though – the true local farmers should be obvious with signage about their foods being local. Those that can’t say they’re from Nipomo, San Luis Obispo or Paso Robles for instance, couldn’t say that. It would be quite apparent.

Again, thanks for the article.