That’s a question posed in a comment on Chowhound in 2006 that has drawn 187 responses to date. The answer from most who have weighed in is a resounding “yes!”
It seems there are far more sno-cones, T-shirts and sunglasses on sale at “farmers markets” in Florida than fruits and vegetables. And the produce offered for sale at most so-called farmers markets in the state is plastic-wrapped, supermarket stuff, often sold right “out of boxes that pretty obviously were bought wholesale that morning,” the comments assert. Some “farmers markets” in the state, like the one in Jacksonville mentioned recently here at Truly Local, make no bones about the fact that they offer produce from as far away as Canada and Peru. Many of the reports on the Chowhound thread about visits to markets in the state pronounced them “shameful,” “pathetic” and a “terrible disappointment.”
There are exceptions, by some accounts. One commentator, for example, recommended the Audubon Park Community Market, which is open every Monday night from 5 to 10 p.m. in Orlando, as a place where only vendors who grew it themselves are allowed to sell produce.
To be sure, the market’s rules include a few loopholes that would allow vendors to resell produce they didn’t grow. The rules also declare that the market “will not be bound to apply a particular set of selection criteria in every instance” and reserves “unconditional discretion to accept or refuse anyone as a market vendor.” However, the rules also state that priority will be give to “regional farmers and producers who bring products that are 100 percent grown, harvested, produced or caught within 150 miles of Orlando.” Also, no vendor can resell products without prior approval of the market director, and if approval is granted, “any farm item or product not produced by the vendor must have labeling designating the farm/original source.” To help assure that these rules are followed, all farmers who sell at the market are subject to annual inspection, with advance notice, and can also be inspected if there are complaints about the origin of the fruits and vegetables they are selling.
Another poster on Chowhound held up the West Palm Beach Greenmarket as a truly local farmers market. It is a Saturday morning market that appears to be open in the winter only, from mid-October through mid-April.
Indeed, the rules posted on the market’s web site seem well designed to assure the market’s integrity. The market has two slots for vendors reselling Florida produce, a loophole presumably designed to let in a few, select specialty items that aren’t produced nearby. But those vendors are far outnumbered by local farmers. The market’s rules allow space for up to 40 vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, or herbs that they have grown themselves. These “farmer/growers,” as defined in the rules, “must own, rent, lease or sharecrop the land AND practice the agricultural arts, i.e., s/he must grow from seeds, transplants, or cuttings” and “must be responsible for all production operations.”
Are there other truly local farmers markets in Florida?