Anyone who knows me personally or reads my blog (or the eGullet Forums) knows that I love Farmers Markets in general and especially the ones local to me. They are great for buying top quality food and supporting an important element of the local or greater regional community (for all the urban dwellers). I love the variety, freshness and social aspects of the market – all things that are extremely difficult to impossible to get in a supermarket, including even the best ones. I also think that when one considers the quality and entertainment factors, they represent excellent value on the dollar.
I am not, however, uncritical. I can understand and appreciate that farmers markets are selective, usually employing strict rules as to what vendors can and cannot sell at the markets. The markets should certainly be vigilant about making sure that their vendors sell only high quality products that were grown, raised or prepared within their particular catchment area. Sometimes, the rules can be somewhat loose when it comes to artisanal food products, such as the peanut butter vendor at some of the local markets even though peanuts are not grown anywhere near our region. I don't really have a problem with that, so long as the product is artisanally made locally and of high quality. I am not interested in excluding vendors so long as what they are selling is of quality and within the framework of the market. But here is the the conundrum. What I do not understand is the Market's exclusion of top quality farm-raised products from specific farm vendors. For example, why can't a local farm that raises some of the best free-range pigs around and has some of the finest pork in the area, not sell their pork at the same market at which they sell their equally high quality grass-fed beef? While there are other vendors selling both of those items, the market is not over-saturated with either. I think that markets would garner even more support if they allowed all the farmers to sell all of their items of quality.