I both love and hate the Farmers’ Markets.
I like the samples or, at least, I used to. Some time ago, I witnessed a man reach his fleshy hand in a bowl, dig out some cut up apricots with his fingers, and put the chunks of fruit in his mouth along with his fingers. Then he reached his slobbery hand into another bowl for the pluots.
Disgusting! I no longer partake of the cut up sample bowls.
THERE ARE TOOTHPICKS OFFERED FOR A REASON!
I saw one woman holding her dog while she squeezed peaches. She readjusted the dog, putting her hands under his belly, then turned him over like a baby in her arms, and reached down to handle more peaches.
Kids regularly reach their little hands up onto tables, into bins, fingers in the sample bowls.
But, in all honesty, I have not been turned off from farmers’ markets – until possibly this weekend.
I picked up a lovely, healthy looking bunch of kale and put it in my sack. When I got home, I started to put it away and got a whiff of it. It stunk. It smelled like a dirty sponge. I washed it and let it dry. I tried again – mildewed sponge smell stuck to it. I washed it again and laid it to dry. This time the aroma of old bleach wafted from it’s thick leaves.
Unwilling to take a chance and eat something that might make me sick (that’s what happen last week after my farmer’s market visit, I got sick. I didn’t then chalk it up to my farmers’ market finds, but now I’m wondering), I tossed it.
I’m not bothered by the loss of my few dollars, but more feeling betrayed by the farmer who tried to pass this off as fresh. I’m not sure what happened to turn the lovely kale into a dirty dishpan scented germ haven, but I do have the feeling the person on the other side of those leafy greens knew what he was selling.
It occurred to me that the farmers’ market is much like a buffet in a restaurant, minus the sneeze-guard. Yes, we’re going to be responsible and wash the food before we eat it, but is that going to be enough?
Beyond the numerous hands touching the produce, the unclean fingers lingering on the individual items, what about those – like I witnessed this weekend – who cough and actually sneeze near the food?
There’s no one checking on these open air food markets.
I’m certain many of the farmers are proud of their produce and wouldn’t allow infested products to line their tables; however, how many can afford to lose money by tossing away bins of forgotten water-logged or other problematic food?
I’m unclear how these farmers and their sales people can keep people from coughing, sneezing, molesting their fruits and veggies – I mean we are, in some sense, avoiding the supermarket system and trying to buy local – but how do we do this safely?
I imagine I could go back and talk to the guy who sold me that wretched kale, but what would that do? I have every faith he’d offer me a refund or replacement. But that’s not what I want. I want to feel this food is of a higher and safer quality than what I buy in the grocery store. I want to support the local farmers.
But I don’t want to get a staph infection from an avocado skin or the flu from a persimmon nor do I want to pick fleas off my peaches.