The Saturday market outside the only store in Tutukaka caused me to question my assumptions about the ‘authenticity’ of the whole farmers market thing. Specifically, in my mind, the actual farmer is supposed get up early, harvest only the things at the peak of ripeness, wash and bundle it all, load the produce into crates and boxes and drive into town to stand humbly before me hoping for a few dollars. But that model only makes sense for farms at a very particular scale… if “the farmer” is actually a person or a family. But if in fact the work is done by a dorm full of migrant laborers, overseen by professional supervisors, and the landowner is a body corporate of some sort, who’s the farmer anyway?
At farmers markets we’ve been to, I’m pretty sure some of the stands actually operate like I romantically expect them to. In Parnell, it’s the honey lady, some of the fruit stands, the sausage seller. But others are probably retailers who’ve never set foot on the farm in question. Hmmm.
In Tutukaka, a single van full of Indian guys pulls up and unloads crates of every fruit and vegetable you can reasonably imagine. There’s no way it all came from a single field or greenhouse! Predatory shoppers, most of whom are holidaymakers (like me) who would not be uncomfortable at a Junior League meeting in Amherst or Millbrae, wait with carefully disguised eagerness. Money changes hands, and nutritious fresh meals are prepared for all the above-average children.
In fairness, the plastic crates were stamped with something about a growers cooperative… so maybe the whole farmers market concept as I imagine it is actually operating in the background… but it’s a distribution system, only cutting out the actual physical store, rather than a 1:1 connection between a farmer and a market stall.
And in even more fairness , nobody said it was an actual farmers market… maybe it’s actually just a fresh produce market in a town that would otherwise be too small for fresh seasonal veggies… In which case, awesome!!! And we got exactly the fresh herbs we wanted… so the system works!