i recently read a great article on farmer's market etiquette, so i thought that i would share a little bit of it with you today, for those tough questions you want to ask your farmers. if you're like me, and head to the farmer's market with great anticipation for the "buy here, i'm organic!" signs, you're most likely disappointed by well, none.
it's important to talk to your local farmers, it allows them to talk about what their passionate about, lets you learn more about the food, and opens up conversation on what the consumer (that's you!) would like... mabye more organic, less pesticides etc. sometimes, however, it can be a little intimidating to approach a farmer with tough questions. most likely, if everything was organic, they would proudly display it. however, many small farmers can't afford the organic certification, even though they may be practicing sustainable farming. in any event, many local farmer's practices are going to be healthier than the mass producers. so, it's best to start asking some questions, but how?
in efforts to avoid causing any guilt trips, the way you ask these pressing questions is the most important thing to remember. be mindful about your tone of voice and the way you approach your farmer. a non-judgemental, interested approach will get you much further than the yes or no question, "is this stuff organic?". there is a lot more that goes into growing sustainable produce than a yes or no question will answer. if you would rather ask the direct question and get it over with, just remember that you may be the fifteenth person to ask that very same question today, so be warm and courteous in your tone.
what if the farmer doesn't have the answer you were looking for? bummer. but you can politely say, "thanks, i'm going to look around a bit" or "ok, i try to buy only organic, but please let me know if you change". you certainly have a right to know how your food is grown, and it's important that the farmer hears what you're looking for!
as for what to ask, here is a small list of questions to keep in mind. for dairy and any kind of meat product, make sure you ask, was/is the animal grass fed or grain? did it live in a pasture or was it confined? if confined, how many hours a day did it get to be outside? was it ever given any hormones or antibiotics?
for produce: what do you grow? how do you grow it? what do you do for pest control? do you use pesticides? what are you doing to promote sustainability? and finally, does anything you grow happen to be organic?
hope this helps! do you have any more questions? how do you approach your farmers and what has your experience been?