Roadside fruit and vegetable stands: Hey folks, can we talk?

Any day now, the sides of the streets will be dotted with a familiar – and welcome – sign of summer… Roadside fruit and vegetable stands.  

They are most often operated by the farmers themselves, or members of their summer staff team – but not always.

They usually sell produce which has been grown at their home farm – but not always.

The farms represented are often within just a few kilometers of the town they’ve sprung up in – but not always.

Yes, we happen to operate one of these Roadside fruit and vegetable stands.  It’s located in the parking lot at Penny’s Place Restaurant on Hwy 7 East of Perth. We’re heading into our 9th year there.  

The point of this ‘chat’ we’re having today though, is NOT to convince you to come and buy from us.

Surprised? Don’t be.

If you would give us just one more minute of your time, we’ll help you to understand what we’re driving at here.

More often every year, we are hearing from folks who honestly think that they have been buying OUR products… but they haven’t.  We know this because they’ll tell us something like “We stopped in at your stand on the corner and bought strawberries or corn or… fill in the blank.”  

Oh yes, there IS a stand on the corner but it’s not ours. And that’s perfectly ok!

Let’s be clear. The other thing we are NOT doing here is suggesting that you avoid supporting our farming colleagues at the other stands in town. We know them personally. Great folks! They do a terrific job of growing fresh, quality produce for your table. We’re all just making a living, and there’s room for everyone in the world of local food.  

As shoppers, each one of us is absolutely free to choose where we spend our food dollars. That may be at the farm gate, the farmers’ market, the local grocer, or even the big box stores. As consumers ourselves though, we do find it disheartening to learn that the money we had intended to end up in one pocket actually went in a different direction.

Perhaps we could liken it to the times in a grocery store when we’ve purposely chosen fruit from under the sign that said ‘Ontario-grown’. Upon closer examination though, the sticker on that fruit revealed that the country of origin was actually Chile. Not that there’s anything wrong with Chile. Farmers there have to make a living too, but we didn’t intend for our money to go there.

You work hard to earn your paycheck and groceries make up a significant portion of your household budget. It just seemed that this was worth mentioning, having heard from a number of people who weren’t quite sure “who’s who” under the tent…. or in our case, beside the wagon!

The shopper is in the driver’s seat.   What can a person do to find clarity?

By Ontario law, baskets over a certain size must be labelled with the packer’s name and where the product was grown.  Read labels.

When in doubt, ask…  

Ask where it was grown …and don’t settle for the stat answer of ‘locally’.  (‘Local’ can mean ANYWHERE in Ontario)

Ask about our farms.

Ask about our families… and our teams.

Ask us anything!

We’ll look forward to continuing the dialogue when we see you in person.

And – regardless of where you choose to fill up your grocery bags, we say ‘thank you’ for your interest in local food.  We’re all in this together!

Article submitted by Miller’s Bay Farm .

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