Guaranteeing produce is fresh from farm


July 31, 1991|By Charlyne Varkonyi

"Producers only" are the new buzzwords in farmers markets these days. Simply put, it means you should not be able to buy bananas or mangoes in one of these local markets unless a researcher has uncovered a miracle way to grow tropical fruit in the Chesapeake Bay climate.

But, it seems that "producers only" can mean different things to different people.

Case in point: Tracy Baskerville, public information officer for the Baltimore Office of Promotion, called us recently to ask why the Baltimore Farmers Market (Holliday and Saratoga streets under the JFX on Sunday mornings) wasn't listed as a "producers only" market in a story we did on local markets.

No, we didn't goof. The Maryland Farmers Market Directory, published by the Maryland Department of Agriculture, lists only five markets as "producers only" -- markets where farmers sign a pledge to sell only what they grow. The purpose of this designation is twofold: to ensure the shopper that the products are fresh from the farm and to protect the other farmers from unfair competition from those who might pick up discount produce at Jessup and sell it as their own.

George Roche, marketing specialist with the MDA, said the brochure lists only those markets that are overseen by his department -- Highlandtown Farmers Market, Everedy Square & Shab Row Farmers Market in Frederick County, Oakland Mills Farmers Market, Takoma Park Farmers Market and Washington County Farmers Market in Hagerstown. Markets regulated by local municipalities could also be producers only markets, he said, but they wouldn't be on his list.

So, this means that other markets may also be considered as producers only. In fact, Carole Simon, market master of the Baltimore Farmers Market, says participating farmers must list the produce and food items they intend to sell and the county extension agent must certify that the farmer has the capacity to produce the items on the list.

"We have had people who have violated the agreement and we have asked them to leave the market," she says. "We follow up on every complaint and make on-site visits. The only exception to our rule is during the Thanksgiving holidays when we allow them to sell citrus and other craft items and things like fresh goose."

Have a question about the market? Call Ms. Simon at 752-8632.

This ain't no fish story

Everyone -- from medical doctors to dietitians -- has been urging us to eat more seafood. Well, we may dream of lobster and snapper. But, according to a survey done for the National Fisheries Institute Inc., here's what we are really eating:

* The top four buys remain the same as last year -- tuna, shrimp, cod and pollock. If pollock seems like a strange choice for fourth place, consider that pollock is a key ingredient in Surimi (imitation crab meat) and it's a popular fish for breaded fish products.

* Salmon entered the top five for the first time this year. The institute attributes salmon's increased popularity to greater production in Alaska, promotional efforts, increased supply of canned salmon and proliferation of farm-raised salmon.

* The rest of the top 10 includes catfish, clams, flounder/sole, scallops and crab meat.

Making label reading easier

Label reading can really get you down. It takes precious time to turn the product over and squint to read all those polysyllabic terms on the package. And once you read them, how in the world do you know what they mean?

Surely, no one wants to tote a huge textbook around with the grocery list. Now there's an easier way to get the facts. VPS Publishing is offering Donald and Elisabeth Saulson's "A Pocket Guide to Food Additives," a small booklet that fits easily in a man's pocket or a woman's purse. The 62-page booklet includes an alphabetical list of more than 500 food ingredients with safety rating codes. Additives unsafe for infants, pregnant women, asthma sufferers and those who are aspirin sufferers are also listed.

Write VPS Publishing, P.O. Box 2705-261, Huntington Beach, Calif. 92649. Include a check or money order for $3.45 per booklet. Allow four to six weeks for delivery.

The Tidbits column welcomes your organization's food-related event notices, contest announcements and news items. We regret we are not equipped to respond to recipe requests. Please send press releases to Tidbits, Attn: Charlyne Varkonyi, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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