Southern California environment news and trends

Farmers' markets sketchy practices laid bare

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Abdullah Pope/AFP/Getty Images

A vendor cuts heirloom tomatoes to serve as samples for potential customers at a farmer's market.

Ever bought the cheaper tomatoes at the farmer's market and wondered how the farmer can afford to sell 'em that way? Maybe you should be wondering harder. In the LA Weekly, brilliant Beth Barrett has a pretty frightening must-read investigation  of the claims of produce hawkers at farmer's markets.

Barrett's piece points out the limits of regulation in "direct marketing" of produce in California. (The term's not rocket science; but it's good to remember, for reasons I'll explain.) California's got no rule that you can't have pesticides at a farmer's market. And state law, Barrett writes, "places no restrictions on the size, or the "organic-ness," of the agricultural concerns that peddle herbs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and other edibles at farmers markets. And state-regulated chemical pesticides and fertilizers can legally be applied to the millions of pounds of non-organic produce sold at farmers markets each week."