I’ve boasted plenty of times about our small farmers market here in Coronado.
It’s quaint and people have pushed for it to be something bigger and better than what it is, but I believe in appreciating something good when you have it. And our farmers market is as good as it gets when it comes to produce you can count on.
The Coronado Farmers Market is certified. Seems simple enough, but it’s actually a process that involved the county, the state and dedicated farmers. Not all markets are “certified.”
“Markets that aren’t certified don’t want to be inspected,” market manager Mary Hillebrecht warned.
The inspection is a yearly process. An inspector from the county visits the farms that attend the market and walks through their entire crop production, carefully noting every single item grown on the farm and whether or not the farm is or pesticide-free.
Later in the year (twice, actually), the inspector visits the market and checks each farm stand. The inspector at Coronado’s farmers market, who declined to be named, took about an hour at last week’s market to browse through the stands, noting certificate exposure and the selling of fruits and veggies listed as grown on their farms.
The inspector said that when he sees stands that boast “organic” or “pesticide-free” he will sometimes take a sample of the food and send it to Sacramento, where the state will test for pesticides and chemicals. He also said that he gives out about one ticket per week for organic violations, which result in a hefty fine (around $5,000) for farmers.
The inspections are headed by the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture, but the inspector works for the county. The market is responsible for paying for the inspector, which is why some markets opt out of having a “certified” label.
Certified markets began in 1977, according to the state’s website, and regulations on packing, sizing and labeling became routine. Certified farmers markets allow small farmers to market their products without the added expense of commercial preparation. They also are beneficial to us, the consumers.
“Inspection helps consumers know that what they’re seeing is true,” Hillebrecht said. “It also helps keep farmers honest.”
Hillebrecht keeps a copy of each farmer’s certificates, in case of emergencies. The inspector also said that all certificates could be examined by anyone who asks, so you can double check for accuracy in the produce yourself. Look for the certificates hanging up under the tents of each farm.
During the hour-long inspection, the inspector found one violation, but it had nothing to do with the food. Instead, a certificate was not being properly displayed—proof that our market is legitimate when it comes to good food.
You can click here for a list of certified farmers by county in California and see if your favorite farm made the list.
Facts and Numbers (from Department of Food and Agriculture)
- There are approximately 700 certified farmers markets and approximately 2,200 certified producers.
- Of these markets, 51 percent are year-round markets. The balance are seasonal.
- In a typical year, the majority of the seasonal markets operate from April through October.