I've been getting questions from folks as summer warms up as to whether or not I'll ever be doing any farmers markets again in the future. For now, no. I'm happy with the way our new CSA program is working, and I hope you are too. I've found it to be far less labor-intensive and time-consuming than markets are. And my favorite part? No wasted food.
Food waste is the #1 contributor to climate change within our food system. More so than growing methods, distribution practices, or packaging. With my current system, nothing leaves the farm if it doesn't have a destined eater. If you don't want it, it can hang out in the ground until next week, or I can find another buyer. If that doesn't happen, it can go to a food pantry or I can even invite non-profit gleaning crews that will come pick unwanted produce to help feed the hungry. Worst case scenario it just gets turned back into the ground to help feed the next crop without wasting the time, labor and fuel to cart it around hoping someone shows up to buy it.
I always felt gut-punched every single week at how incredibly wasteful markets can be. After sitting out in the heat half the day, what's left is often not even fit to donate, let alone sell elsewhere. A fair portion of what's brought to market is inevitably going to get damaged by shoppers. Every local market I'm familiar with mandates that tables must still look full up until the end of the day, making it required to waste a significant amount of product. Hang out for a bit after a market closes & watch it all get broken down. You'll be flabbergasted at the volume of perishable food of all types that gets tossed back into trucks, with nowhere to go. Yes, it can be composted rather than tossed in a landfill, but you're still looking at a tremendous waste of resources. Was it a slow day? It'll be ten times worse. Multiply that by the estimated 8600 markets across the country, and that's a heartbreaking amount of food that goes to waste just to put on a pretty show. Any farmer worth her salt is also going to work the cost of that wasted product into her market prices, making your food more expensive than it needs to be. I'm not trying to trash farmers markets or make anyone feel guilty for shopping at them - but at what cost? There is much room for improvement.
So reach around and give yourself a pat on the back for participating in a less wasteful, more environmentally friendly method of obtaining your food. My goal is to run a zero-waste farm. I'm not 100% there, but I feel a few giant steps closer without farmers markets.