“You need a cantaloupe? These are better than Rocky Fords.” The man at the farmers market said.
“No, thanks, not today.” I replied. “C’mon, kiddo.” I said to my child. We moved up the walk to the table next to the end. I stopped here to smell the ends of the cantaloupes on his table while he weighed the heirloom tomatoes out for me. He handed my kiddo an extra pint of cherry tomatoes, I saw his rough hands and dirt caked under his nails as he tucked the extra treat in for her.
“Thanks!” I smiled. “And this melon, too.”
“But, Mom! You lied to that other farmer. You said you did not want cantaloupe.”
Kids. They bust you like this. I’d been bringing her to this farmers market since she was three months old in a baby carrier. But, I had never explained to her why we shop this way. Maybe now at six, going on seven, she was ready to learn.
“No, honey,” I replied. “I did not want that cantaloupe. It was grown in a Colorado. It was bought from a warehouse and the man is reselling it. This cantaloupe,” I said, nodding toward the farmer, “was grown by this man.”
“I only buy the foods here at this market grown by farmers we know. It keeps them in business, keeps them on their farms. It tastes better because he just picked it. And it’s healthier, because it’s fresh.”
The quiet farmer smiled at me, “Thank you,” he said.
“No,” I said, “thank you,” in response. To the kiddo, “Besides, it’s really important to know who grows your food so you know it is safe to eat.”
That was a month ago. Today’s headlines, September 28, indicate that warehouse cantaloupe could have been dangerous. Cantaloupes from the Rocky Ford area have been implicated in the deadliest listeria outbreak in a decade. Seventy-two people have been sickened and thirteen have died so far.
So, even at your own farmers market, make sure the farmers are clearly marking their produce for where it was grown, and if it was sourced elsewhere. Some markets do not require farmers to do this, and have wholesalers selling produce instead of the actual farmers. Be sure to ask, and Know Your Farmers, Know Your Food.