Appleton farm market targets fake products
APPLETON - One of the Fox Valley’s largest farm markets is taking action to correct a problem brought to light in the story “Faking it?” by USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.
Some farm market booths sell produce purchased from grocery stores, passing it off as crops grown on local farms, the story revealed.
In a letter to farmers dated June 26, Appleton Downtown Farm Market director Djuanna Hugdahl spelled out new rules for produce-sellers.
“All farmers must submit pictures of their fields and date-stamped photos showing them working in their field or have a farm visit to be verified,” she wrote.
“Any vendor who is not willing to comply with this program will be asked to leave the market. We are proud of our 25-year history and do not wish to jeopardize the relationship that exists between the Appleton Downtown Farm Market and our local consumers.”
Hugdahl said says she's been working the past year to make rules simpler.
"The article in the newspaper, with the title and photo, just assured us that we needed to reassure any doubts that customers may have, and come up with a solution that made sense to all," she said.
With this new system, farm market shoppers will eventually see new types of produce signage identifying certified organic, verified local homegrown and unverified produce. Non-produce booths will have separate signs.
Hugdahl did not say when the new signs will appear.
Her letter was posted Wednesday on the Nami Moon Farms Facebook page.
Farm co-owner Chris Holman is a strong advocate for local farms and admits frustration seeing blatant resale in farm markets.
"We were thrilled that the letter came out," he told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. "They took the proactive choice that's in the interest of the market. It's important that the market strives for transparency and integrity."
On his Facebook page, he said the new rules will make it tougher for vendors to sell unlabeled items they didn't produce.
“Of course, no one can produce everything they want to offer, and everything customers want isn't always ready to harvest (i.e. in Wisconsin) when they want it, so it really boils down to providing an honest representation of your work (and others') to potential customers,” Holman wrote.
“This might seem like a small detail for some, but for folks who bust their asses (and their bank accounts) to build their farm community and grow a direct sales farm business ... it matters. A lot.”
An organizer of the Neenah farmers market also reacted to the "Faking it?" story, saying her Saturday morning market already has a verification program in place.
Neenah’s market was not mentioned in the original story on fakes.
“It (the story) didn’t represent us because we’ve made a concerted effort to avoid that,” said Future Neenah executive director Amy Barker.
“We have a Certified Local Grower Program here. That means we certify our local growers by visiting the farms, and if they say they are bringing potatoes, we make sure we see potatoes growing. We also make them label foods that they may trade with other growers, such as Michigan blueberries, so you know where your food is coming from,” she said.
Farmers who participate in Neenah's program have certificates hung in their booths.
“This is a voluntary program," Barker said. "However, most of our farmers are excited to participate as they are very passionate about their livelihood and want to make a strong statement amongst area vendors who may be 'faking it.'”