Farmers caught lying about produce origins and pesticide-free-ness

Rotten tomatoes: It had to happen. With demand for SOLE food surging, and farmers able to charge a premium for it, it’s no surprise that some unscrupulous characters would see an opportunity to make a quick buck without getting their hands dirty. An NBCLA undercover investigation caught farmers at markets in Los Angeles markets lying about whether they grew produce that they bought wholesale, and whether it in fact was pesticide free. ( What really makes this worrying is that one of the appeals of buying directly from farmers is that you can look them in the eye. Ones who can blithely lie to your face about their practices will have a chilling effect on all farmers trying to do the right thing.

7 Responsesto “Farmers caught lying about produce origins and pesticide-free-ness”

  1. Glo says:

    Dear Ethicurean,

    First of all thank you for alerting us on this matter, it is a though that would cross any farmer’s market shopper, but until it actually happens you wouldn’t believe it to be true.
    I was wondering if you had any thoughts on what a proper solution would be to avoid these particular farmers from being able to lie about their produce. I am not very familiar with how exactly farmers markets are regulated, is it more about the individual consumer engaging in dialogue and finding out from the farmers themselves or do they go through a checking process before being allowed to sell at markets?
    Considering the rapid spread of farmers markets across the U.S, it concerns me that newer markets running to fit the trend may not be as well established as most markets in California (and even there we see the presence of lying farmers). Do you think that at the pace farmers markets are growing it may easier for these dishonest farmers to find a spot in one?

    I look forward to your response,

  2. Jackie says:

    It seems to me that the market supervisor and/or organizer has the final responsibility to check on the veracity of their farmers’ claims. It shouldn’t be too hard to make a farm visit or two each season to assure that the crops being sold on the market tables are indeed grown on their farm. Large markets with hundreds of vendors can instigate random farm checks. Farmers pay to rent the space; this money should be used to ensure a marketplace that consumers can trust in completely.

  3. Elly says:

    I think consumers need to take responsibility for themselves. Yes it is annoying that farmers would lie to us. However, it’ bound to happen if you trust everyone. Don’t buy produce unless you’ve visited their farm, spoken with the farm director, and inspected everything as much as you can. I suppose that the farmer can still hide their pesticides and sprinkle bugs around before you get there, but I feel a lot more secure in my food choices having seen where it comes from.

    I feel like the point of a farmers market is that it’s from a local farm that you can visit, not just so that you can look at a person who’s selling you food.

  4. Mike Lickey says:

    We see it all the time. We grow all that we sell and have to compete with the resellers at the market. Market managers are under the gun to fill spots.
    We just had a lady tell us about the guy she gets her chicken from, How great his birds are and ours don’t compare? Then, one of the farmers we supply with Meat chickens and Chicks just happened up, He asked her if she was taking about so in so. She say’s, why, yes, how did you know. He told her that the guy lives in a condo and gets the chickens from him, doubles the price and resells them at market. They were our birds.
    If you buy at a market, Just tell the farmer you’d love to see his farm. If he say’s no, say’s he practices Bio security and refuses to let you visit, Turn around and walk away. You will always be welcome at a family farm.
    Also, take a second to look around. If you see a guy selling tomato’s and he brings them in nice Boxes that have pictures of tomato’s on them and look like new, He didn’t grow them. Look for the guy carrying in old, home made crates, or old baskets, He’s the farmer. Take a second when you get there to just LOOK, you can see the difference.
    We have been a full service farm for 12 years now [ it's all we do ] and almost insist that people visit us before they buy. We feel that if we are blessed to get to raise or grow your food, you have the basic right to see how and where it is grown, raised and cared for. We both need each other, but us more than you.
    Bless you all who take the time to care. It is so much easier to just go to the corner store.

  5. Mike Lickey says:

    O and Please don’t call them farmers, they are RESELLERS – scammers!

  6. Unfortunately there are always a few who lack ethics and will do anything for an easy buck. If you are not familiar with a vendor and have suspicions try engaging that person in conversation about their farming practices. What natural weed and pesticide management systems have worked for them?, etc.
    You will be able to tell pretty quickly if they are the real deal!

  7. RichWa says:

    In actuality, it’s not just farmers faking USDA Organic, it’s the California State Organic Program, the CCOF, and the USDA NOP. All of these groups are knowingly certifying CA produce as USDA Organic when they know it is not.