Larry McClements | Appreciating Farmers Markets

Letters to the Editor
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In 2018, my son Brandon and I were honored to have an Antelope Valley peach farmer ask us to sell peaches for him at our local Saturday Newhall Farmers Market. I had long been a proponent of supporting local farmers who sell at our local farmers markets. I loved being able to purchase fruits and vegetables that were far fresher, better tasting with varieties I could not find in supermarkets.

We spent the summer peddling peaches and handing out samples to potential customers. Time and time again people would complain that fruit bought at the supermarket today doesn’t taste as good as it used to. I would hand them a peach sample and see how amazed they were at the quality. It was always an easy sale.

We also sold many varieties of stone fruit one would never see in supermarkets. My favorite was the Satsuma plum. Deep red on the inside, the skin was a deep, dark green. It was a plum I had in the 1980s but could never find a supermarket that had even heard of them. At a farmers market I asked a farmer if he had ever heard of that variety. He told me, “It wouldn’t be summer without them.” I now am able to enjoy them every summer.

Fast forward to present day, I now manage the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market and I wanted to call attention to National Farmers Market Week which began Aug. 3. 

Certified farmers markets operate throughout Los Angeles County every day of the week. These are venues that allow small family farms to bring what they grow direct to the consumer. Rules for L.A. County farmers markets are among the strictest in the nation, with inspections taking place at farms and quarterly surprise inspections at the farmers markets. The goal is to make sure that farmers-market shoppers are getting real farm-direct produce. 

The focus of supermarkets is to provide the cheapest possible produce to the consumer. To meet this goal, supermarkets buy from suppliers that grow on a massive scale. There are hundreds of varieties of peaches, yet you will only see the one or two varieties in supermarkets that will make the most profit. Supermarket produce also needs to be able to withstand changing hands multiple times from growers to packing houses to purchasers to distribution centers to warehouses. Some produce can sit for months in cold storage after being picked before it is placed on store shelves.

At a farmers market, the focus is on quality. Produce being sold is picked days before consumers purchase it. A farmer selling peaches at a farmers market can grow as many as 80 different kinds of peaches. All of them ripen at different points in the season, ensuring what is available hasn’t been sitting in refrigeration for months. 

I am honored to know and work with many farmers. I have seen firsthand the pride and hard work that goes into everything they do. This is not an easy life. This passion extends beyond the produce and ranch-direct meats our market carries. Local food artisans who bring products like bread and fresh seafood to our farmers market are equally focused on bringing only the best to consumers.

I urge everyone to take a moment and think about where their food comes from. A simple Google search for CDFA farmers markets will direct you to the state website that lists all certified farmers markets in our state. While I would love to see everyone at our Saturday market in Old Town Newhall, visiting any certified farmers market would be great.

Larry McClements

Market Manager
Old Town Newhall Farmers Market

Santa Clarita

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