August 2012: The Pasadena Farmers Market

by Karen Voelkening-Behegan

Our August meeting took place at Nature Friends Clubhouse in Sierra Madre with about 15-20 folks braving the heat and traffic to participate.  After dinner, special guest Daphne Sterling from the Pasadena Farmers Markets gave us the inside scoop about how the markets are run.  Most of us learned the difference between “CA-certified” markets, “Ag-certified” vendors, and “Organically-certified” produce.  


Without going into the exact legal definitions of each term, we learned that “Ag Certification” refers to certification by the Los Angeles County Department of Weights and Measures that the produce is free of pesticides.  This can actually be a step above organic certification because the “certified organic” label allows the use of some pesticides.  “CA Farmers Market Certification” simply means that the market is certified by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to have the majority of its vendors selling produce they grow themselves in California.  In non-certified markets, the vendors may sell products from anywhere, but in the CA-certified Farmers Markets, the products must be home-grown.  Also the small proportion of vendors at the markets who do not meet the locally-grown standards must be located in their own separate section of the market.   In the case of the Pasadena Farmers Market at Victory Park, the non-certified vendors are located at the northwest wing of the market.  All other vendors at the market are local farmers selling locally-grown produce.


Thanks to Daphne, we now know that the Pasadena Farmers Markets are among the rare few that are not only “CA-certified” but also “Ag-certified!”  Inspectors from the Los Angeles County Department of Weights and Measures keep both the farmers and market managers honest by dropping in regularly and unexpectedly, disguised as normal shoppers.  Everything they buy is tested for pesticides, and if any are found, the vendors lose their certifications.  But true to the integrity of the market, in spite years of undisclosed inspections, there has never been a violation of their pesticide-free standards.  And Daphne assured us, that the waiting list to get into the market is so long, that if any farmer was ever found to use pesticides, they would immediately be fired, and another farmer would be happy to take their space.  So if you’re looking for produce that’s sure to be both local and pesticide-free, then the CA-certified Pasadena Farmers Markets are the place to shop.  




Sometimes the produce may seem pricier than what you find in the supermarket, but we also learned from Daphne that supermarket produce has little to no profit margin, so stores are selling the stuff dirt cheap because they know they’ll get profits from everything else they sell, like processed food, alcohol, cleaning supplies, and health & beauty products.  If the produce in supermarkets were as high quality as what you get from local CA-certified Farmers Markets with Ag-certified vendors, that might be a great deal.  But such low prices can not support healthy food.  For example, by Federal Law, any produce entering the US from another country must be irradiated.  That means that the exotic imported organic produce you buy at health food stores must have been irradiated!  And that’s why it has no flavor and little to no nutritional value.  But even in regular grocery stores that sell US produce, any produce cheap enough to be sold at supermarket prices, though not necessarily irradiated, is usually industrially-grown, non-local, non-seasonal, and therefore also very low in both nutrients and flavor.   In other words, you get what you pay for!


So if you live in the Pasadena area, do yourself, your health, the environment, and our local economy a favor by shopping for all your produce at the CA-certified Pasadena Farmers Markets. Thank you, Daphne for enlightening us with the knowledge of how lucky we are to have such wonderful, ethical, and health-conscious Farmers Markets right in our own back yard.  Now let’s get out, get shopping, and spread the word!


For more information about the CA-certified Pasadena Farmers Markets, go to: http://www.pasadenafarmersmarket.org/pasadena_farmers_market_about_us.html


PS – If you’d like to vote for the “Pasadena Farmers Market at Victory Park” in Pasadena Weekly’s annual Best of Pasadena Poll, the last day to vote is today, September 1st.  To place your vote, go to: http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/index/.

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