BOUNTIFUL - Bugs and the weather aren’t the only problems local farmers have to worry about.
Though it’s less of a problem than it is in Salt Lake, vendors at the Bountiful Farmer’s Market will occasionally attempt to cheat both customers and other vendors by selling vegetables they purchased rather than grew. Though market coordinator Mary Carpenter has bounced out the few vendors who have attempted the trick, she said she has to keep vigilant.
“It’s a problem you have to keep on top of,” she said. “I run a pretty tough and tight market. If I see something not right, it’s not going to be there.”
The most common technique that these “fake” vendors use is to buy produce from a wholesale market, the same place chain grocery stores use, or another farmer and then mark up the produce. This allows them to undercut those farmers who have to factor in the expenses of actually growing their produce.
“I had to warn one guy to clean up his act,” Carpenter said. “I’ve talked to the people who run Salt Lake Farmer’s Market, and he has. But people have the tendency to try.”
To help combat the problem, Carpenter and other market coordinators regularly meet with each other and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. Most of the vendor policing is done through these coordinators and complaints from other farmers, and the meetings are a way to warn other markets about potential problems.
“There was one man who I think was bounced out of quite a few markets,” said Carpenter. “Not only did I know he wasn’t growing anything, it was his attitude.”
Currently, the Bountiful Farmer’s Market has eight produce vendors, ranging from larger farms to individuals, but she expects more to come when crops such as corn and tomatoes start coming in.
“The reason we have zucchini and squash when we do is that people were able to start planting a little early this year,” she said.
Though it normally runs through October, the specific date depends on the weather and the growing season.
“The farmers are the ones who call the shots on that,” she said. “When they say ‘We won’t be able to come in next week,’ that’s when it ends.”
The market is open Thursdays from 3-8 p.m., or dusk depending on the circumstances. Carpenter has assistants who oversee the crafts section of the market, so she can keep a watch on the produce section.
“I’m over there the whole night, so I can be hands-on if there’s a problem,” she said. “It’s up to the managers to make sure those people don’t come in.”