Last week, I went into Asheville to take my mom to a Dr's appt for a procedure (no big deal, everything's okay). On my way back, I decided to take inspiration from this book and go by the Western North Carolina Farmer's Market for some fresh, local (relatively) produce. I went into the retail barns with high hopes, knowing that there were some things not available locally yet, but maybe there would be some foods fresh from only as far as South Carolina, making the transporting of those foods much shorter than, say, those at my grocery store.
The strawberries, yes, were from SC. Mountain NC strawberry farmers were hit hard by a late frost making for a short season. I've been waiting for the new potatoes, remembering the fresh dirt taste of them from my dad's garden last year. So when I saw some at several booths, I was excited. I asked the little old man behind the table, "Where are these potatoes from?" "Oh, California or somewhere like that, I guess." What? At the Farmer's Market? I decided to dig a little more. At another table I asked about the peppers. California. Carrots were even packaged in their plastic just like those at the store. At least the tomatoes were locally grown--in a greenhouse--but still local.
I was very disappointed by all of this. Local food advocates really tout the farmer's markets, and the WNC Farmer's Market is a mecca for tourists year-round. Wile I understand it's still early for garden produce, I thought it was disingenuous to find the same foods as my grocery store in the two barns that are the ones most visited.
There is a farmer's barn down below, where there are no permanent stands, just folks selling from the back of a truck, but most people don't make it down there, thinking it's wholesale only.
At the NC State Farmer's Market in Raleigh, the first barns you come to are all NC farmers. They can't sell items there that aren't from NC. As it stands the retail barns at the WNC farmer's markets are no better than your local shopping mall or Cracker Barrel, selling more junky faux mountain crafts and grocery store veggies than fresh food.
The sad thing is that tailgate markets around our mountain town are pretty pitiful, too, with only one or two folks selling mostly plants and crafts and not too many actual farmers.
I know I just need to wait for our garden and the natural order of things if I want fresh, local foods. Eat from my garden and my Dad's other garden. It tastes better that way anyway.