Contact

  • Email Address:

Biography

I'm Mark Thompson, a journalist and author based most of the time in Los Angeles, the rest of the time in the New York City area. As a freelance journalist with a law degree, I specialize in writing about law. I'm also the author of a biography of Charles Fletcher Lummis, an eccentric 19th Century Indian rights activist. Among other ongoing ventures, I publish SeasonalChef.com, which features reports from farmers markets far and wide, seasonal recipes, profiles of farmers, interviews with seasonal chefs, and more.

I started covering farmers markets as a journalist in the mid 1990s, when I was a reporter for a daily legal affairs newspaper in Los Angeles. Then as now, I was a regular farmers market shopper and heard from some farmers I knew about a big legal fight in Santa Barbara that I ended up covering for my paper. A strong, farmer-led market association in Santa Barbara had imposed rules cracking down on "peddlers" who were reselling produce grown by others, and a vendor who wanted the right to sell practically anything he wanted at his space in the market sued to overturn the rules. Fortunately for shoppers like myself who want the chance to buy produce directly from farms, the market association won.

That important legal victory cleared the way for statewide laws and regulations in California. They contain some loopholes, and are haphazardly enforced in some counties, but they're still among the best developed farmers market rules anywhere.

In recent years, farmers markets have burgeoned into a multi-billion dollar business in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and elsewhere, boosted by a growing awareness among consumers about the many virtues of buying locally-grown food. In the process, they've become a fatter target than ever for hucksters. The struggle to keep their ilk out of farmers markets continues, even in places with decent laws on the books, like California. Efforts to regulate farmers markets, and turn them into what they're supposed to be, are just getting underway in many other places.

That's a welcome trend, which is gathering steam. This blog will follow efforts around the world to keep farmers markets honest.