The Purpose (and History!) of Certified Farmers Markets

Certified Farmers Markets all stem from “direct marketing” legislation to support California farmers. Direct marketing supports California farmers by allowing them to:

– Sell their products directly to the public
– Be exempt from complying with regulations for size, packaging, and transportation standards for fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables
While the Farmers Market allows farmers much more freedom in getting their crops from the field to your table, farmers at Certified Farmers Markets still have to abide by standardization regulations regarding maturity, quality and size of produce, as well as packing, container and container marking standards.
Within those parameters, farmers must still ensure that their products are of acceptable quality and that their selling practices are honest and fair.
Direct marketing also benefits farmers by providing them with a higher share of each “food dollar”. Farmers can set the prices of their goods, without having to discount those prices to middlemen, such as distributors.
This helps both farmers (who make more money for their foods) and shoppers like you and me, who don’t have to pay for the many costs tacked on to produce you might find at a grocery store.
For those of us who have grown up with Farmers Markets to enjoy, it’s important to realize it wasn’t always this way! Direct marketing for California farmers is the offshoot of a labor dispute.
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At the height of the harvest season in the summer of 1976, workers at 29 canneries throughout the state went on strike. Although the strike lasted for only eleven days, it was the costliest agricultural strike in California history. For example, the entire apricot crop, which had not been harvested when the walkout began, was lost! Other especially hard hit crops were peaches, pears, and tomatoes.
Determined to find a way to salvage what they could of their crops during the strike, growers petitioned then Governor Jerry Brown for an exemption to the standardization regulations, so they could sell their goods directly to the public. In 1977 Governor Brown signed an executive order allowing farmers to do so, and direct marketing took root!
Today, the 825 California Farmers Markets listed in the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture’s National Farmers Market directory attest to the demand for (and success of!) directing marketing in California!