Today I saw a woman carrying a reusable shopping bag with the phrase “Locally Grown” on the outside. As I watched her purchase her produce from a competitor and fill her bag, I realized my challenge. Our biggest challenge is not fighting the unseasonably cool weather, the need to water, finding the time to get chores done (weeding, watering, harvest, packaging). Our biggest challenge is educating the customers on local food.
The market that we are selling at this year has several other produce vendors. Most of these vendors do not grow their own produce. Others grow some of what they sell, but bring in other produce to round out their offerings. As I look at some of their booths, I see “grocery store produce.” A lot of customers probably see beautiful colors and great variety. But I see perfection gained through chemicals and pesticides, I see out of season produce that was shipped in from other states. Unfortunately, a large number of customers at the farmer’s market think that because a vendor is there, he must be farming it himself, or that the produce is somehow fresher than the grocery store.
There are customers that we have gained at the market through our story. They understand the difference and once you know the difference between the mass market grocery store produce and locally grown, you can tell the difference. Everything on our table was produced by us. Another competitor who does grow his own has a sign that says, “Where was it grown? Who grew it?” Those are important questions. If the guy behind the table can’t tell you he grew it himself and where he is growing it, then what’s the difference between that tomato and one at the grocery store?
We’ve been able to gain some regular customers, and I would say that the regulars that buy from us know the importance of buying local, and they know what local means.