The push is on to disclose farmers’ markets that aren’t the real deal..

The Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association has begun to educate customers about the difference between gen­uine, accredited farmers’ markets and unaccredited markets selling fresh produce. VFMA president Wayne Shields said the popularity of farmers’ markets in Victoria had “exploded” over the past few years, but the downside was the growing number of those passing off their events as genuine farmers’ markets when they “clearly” were not.   The VFMA classifies gen­uine farmers’ markets as ones where farmers sell their own produce, which is grown on farms they own and operate. At community markets, anyone can sell produce they have bought from wholesalers, grocers or supermarkets.

Yarra Valley cherry grower Frank Caccaviello said onselling meant higher prices and poorer quality produce for the consumer. “The onsellers are buying fruit they don’t know the age of — it could be a week old,” Mr Caccaviello said. “They also have to mark-up the price more because they have to add their margin.”

Timboon organic dairy farmer Simon Schultz said ­attending genuine farmers’ markets had helped his business grow from having one employee to 26. “Through the markets we seem to be able to find like-minded chefs and retailers who contact us to source genuine products from genuine people,” Mr Schulz said. “I think consumers have lost the connection with their food and that’s why they come to farmers’ markets — they know the person on the other side of the stall is a farmer. “I think there is confusion out there and some people are duped by the cross-promotion of calling something a farmers’ market when there might be onsellers there.”

Regional Farmers Markets runs markets across Victoria, which are not accredited, but said it adheres to “strict conditions of operation”. Manager Peter Arnold said many stallholders at his markets did not want to pay VFMA’s fees and felt its acc­reditation was too strict. “We allow stallholders to sell their neighbour’s produce as long as they identify it that way,” Mr Arnold said. “It is up to the consumer to ask — buyer beware. “What some people are trying to do is hijack the name ‘farmers’ market’ and define it, but it’s like a garage sale — a garage sale doesn’t necessarily have to be in a garage.”

Original article by Alex Sampson for The Weekly Times.

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