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Thread: questions about farmers' market vs. grocery store fruit and vegetables

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Austin, TX

    questions about farmers' market vs. grocery store fruit and vegetables

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    After reading about the popularity of farmer's markets among MDA readers, I finally decided to check one out for myself. I bought some cherry tomatoes, some blackberries, and some strawberries. I also bought comparable items at the local grocery store just so I could do a direct comparison with the items I bought at the farmers market. Much to my dismay, the strawberries and blackberries I bought at the farmer's market didn't taste nearly as good as the ones I bought from the grocery store. Additionally, they started showing signs of decay within a day even though I refrigerated them as soon as I got home. By comparison, the store-bought blackberries and strawberries didn't show any signs of decay at this point. The tomatoes I bought from the farmers' market tasted about the same as the grocery store tomatoes, but they too began to spoil after only a day, whereas the store-bought tomatoes still looked fine at that point.

    The above experience made me realize how little I actually know about how food is grown and ultimately made available to us. Here are some questions I have for anyone who cares to reply:

    1. Does food from a farmer's market typically taste much better than the same item from a grocery store, or does it tend to be very hit or miss in your experience?

    2. Why did the farmer's market items spoil so much faster than their grocery store counterparts, given that the farmer's food was grown locally while the grocery store produce had to be shipped from CA to TX? Is the grocery store food treated with preservatives or something? If so, then these must also be used on organic fruit and vegetables, as they seem to stay fresh just as long as their conventionally grown counterparts.

    3. What is done to make the fruit or vegetables taste better? Did the local farmer just not have access to the same superior seeds and farming methods as the giant berry farms in CA?

    Maybe there are far too many variables involved to answer the above questions, but if I at least learn a little bit more about how the whole "food supply chain" works then I'll be satisfied.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    1, yes because it's naturally ripe and not artificially ripened with gas
    2, because it's not coated with wax or sprayed with chemicals or irradiated
    3, fresh, ripe food tastes good

    it's not that farmers' markets are magic, it's that the food doesn't have to be picked while still green to survive the cross country drive to the grocery store
    yeah you are

    Baby if you time travel back far enough you can avoid that work because the dust won't be there. You're too pretty to be working that hard.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Southern California
    1. I can't speak for all farmers' market products but generally the stuff there are in season and not artificially grown. The fruits do taste sweeter.

    2. ^ what bloodorchid said. Grocery store produce is engineered to look pretty and stay that way. They're sprayed with gas to enhance the color and waxed within an inch of their life to look shiny and treated to last awhile on store shelves so they can be sold over time and not spoil easily and lose money for the store.

    3. You bought one batch. It could be the one off basket of berries. One experience is not proof that something is definitive. I've bought berries at markets that have tastes terrible, I've bought berries at markets that have tasted great. Same for farmers markets. Experience varies.
    F 28/5'4/100 lbs

    "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath; do your research."

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Raleigh, NC
    Regarding spoilage, your industrial farmer is going to take their product straight into refrigeration, and wash it with an antiseptic wash (with that much produce touching you have to to prevent large-scale contamination), and display it in an air conditioned building.

    Your local farmer may not have stored or transported the product in refrigeration, may not have used an antiseptic wash, and is displaying it on market day in a hot outdoor area and if it doesn't sell, the next day the same thing again.

    They have also likely used an natural ripening variety and picked it when it was ripe, rather than picking green and ripening in shipping.

    That said, while there are some foods that are far better from my market than my local store, I don't notice a difference in other foods and I've never had the total disappointing experience you report.
    “In God we trust; all others must bring data.” W. Edwards Deming
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    also, do some digging as to which farmer you buy from at the farmers' market. Many farmers' markets are unregulated or have very little regulation. There are actually quite a few conventional farms at most farmers' markets.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    If local in season fruits, tomatoes, and other produce does not taste superior to the regular grocer than

    1. I smell a rat at the market.

    2. The grocery, even big chains, are using more and more local product.

    Anything I've ever grown has been knock your socks off superior compared to anything picked before ripe. That growing experience also gives me a good idea of the quality I'm getting from my usual stores (which is actually pretty good lately).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Quote Originally Posted by Special K View Post
    Much to my dismay, the strawberries and blackberries I bought at the farmer's market didn't taste nearly as good as the ones I bought from the grocery store.
    I remember buying blackberries every year when I was a kid from an old lady who picked them off her property. They were quite bitter and tangy. In comparison, cultivated ones are tasteless. So this may just be a case of expectation on your part.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Santa Barbara
    I live in California. Most everything is grown here anyway so it's almost always local produce even in the big grocery stores. Some of the farmer's market stuff is exactly the same stuff as what the grocery stores have. Not everything at the farmer's market is organically grown, either.

    What I go for are the little gems you have to hunt for. Like there is one farmer that sells all kinds of unusual greens and herbs you can't get anywhere else. Another has purple carrots. A few farmers bring in grass-fed and pastured meats you can't get anywhere. Other things: Goose eggs, unusual nuts, strange tropical fruits, peaches you can eat today and not take a risk they'll only end up mealy, truly local farmers as in down the street local, not Coachella Valley local.
    Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Quote Originally Posted by Special K View Post
    3. What is done to make the fruit or vegetables taste better? Did the local farmer just not have access to the same superior seeds and farming methods as the giant berry farms in CA?
    It depends what you consider superior. Do you just want produce bred for maximum flavor or a product with a more natural flavor and probably a higher nutritional value?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    In the Washington DC area, markets distingush between regular farmer's markets and "producer's markets." At a producer's market, you can only sell what you grow yourself. If it doesn't say "producer," then the all rules are off, and the vendor may have purchased the stuff at a produce auction. Check the website for your farmer's market; they are usually run by the county government. Or look on They should tell you if it's a producer's market.

    Blackberries and strawberries are very touchy anyway. Some varieties are sweeter than others. Blackberries can be notoriously sour.

    And was this recently? Good gosh, it's been 94° F in Austin the past week. Berries are going to spoil very quickly no matter how good they are/were.
    5'0" female, 45 years old. Started Primal October 31, 2011, at a skinny fat 111.5 lbs. Low weight: 99.5 lb on a fast. Gained back to 115(!) on SAD chocolate, potato chips, and stress. Currently 111.

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