Do you buy the freshest produce possible? According to many area farmers, the fruits and vegetables you buy at the grocery store may not be as fresh as you think.
With farmers' markets open now (or about to open) around the St. Louis area, including Wentzville, Lake Saint Louis, Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Clayton, Ellisville, Wildwood, Arnold and elsewhere, we wanted to talk a little about what "fresh" means to you.
Tim Hess, owner of Silent Oaks farm and a vendor at several area farmers’ markets, told Patch that most of the produce sold in local grocery stores comes from Calfornia or Florida, areas where many farms are staffed by migrant workers.
“It’s a long trail and at the end of the trail you’ll find that migrant Mexican workers do most of the work,” he said. “Not that I have anything against them, but those workers are going back to Mexico, and they’re working for minimal wages too.”
Hess added that on average, grocery store produce is shipped 1,500 miles, and that while it might be cheaper, it’s definitely not as fresh.
“When you buy a green bean from us, it is very fresh from the field, probably picked the day before,” he said. “When you buy it from the grocery store, it’s been sitting on the shelf, hydra-cooled and shipped across the country.”
Another farmer and local farmers’ market vendor, Michael Gehman, agreed that grocery stores’ produce is of a much lower quality than that of local farmers.
“When stuff is grown commercially for retail stores, it has to be planted ahead of time, so it won’t be fresh,” he told Patch. “It’s barely starting to ripen when it’s picked, and they pick in large quantities.”
Gehman noted that commercial growers need to store their produce before it’s ripe so that it can be shipped as needed, and agreed with Hess that most grocery store produce is farmed by migrant workers and shipped from California and Florida.
He said that the storage time involved prevents the natural ripening process, which explains why a “hot house” tomato isn’t as tasty as one grown in a garden and ripened naturally.
“Our stuff was picked when it was naturally ripened, and it’s ready to eat,” he said. “Most stores have to let their produce sit for a week or more because it’s not ripe yet.”
What do you think? Is the produce found at farmers’ markets really better to the fruits and vegetables you can find at grocery stores?