Consumer concerns and answers at the farmers market
Are you concerned about the food you eat? Most consumers are – mainly about the healthiness and safety of it.
Consumers have concerns about their food, although the level of concern varies widely from country to country. On a day like today, food concerns seem so far away. It’s one of the first sunny days after the winter - when I met the German farmer Thomas Brech – a friendly looking man in his best years with short hair and a nice German-Palatinate accent. I met with him on one of his small savoy fields in South Germany. While showing me around, he tells me that he grows vegetables – everything from tomatoes, to potatoes and pepper on 25 hectares.
He explains “I sell most of my crops at the local farmers’ market. My farm is quite small, so that this is the only chance for me to sell my crops. I can’t compete with the big supply chain requirements.”
That sounds interesting but leads me to more questions. Having the results of the Farm Perspectives Study in mind, I wonder how Thomas perceives consumers’ concerns about food and the way it is produced. He tells me: “I like to go to the farmers’ market. I get to know new people each time, I can talk to them and they are interested in the way I farm and how I grow my vegetables.” I get the feeling that the people that buy vegetables from Thomas Brech want to know a lot. “They ask – where do the vegetables come from? How are they fertilized? How are they treated with pesticides? How fresh are they?”
The picture I get goes hand in hand with the study results. Today most of us are separated from food production by more than one generation. Buying food is like walking through a jungle. You have a great variety of food options – fresh, processed, large, medium, small, with or without labels, etc. To find the right way through this jungle of food choices raises concerns, because we can’t work out what is behind all of them. What is the best choice for me? Which is the healthiest and safest choice?
Thomas Brech can give answers to these kinds of questions at the farmers’ market. That’s why people like to buy from him and his colleagues. They can give a little guidance through the jungle of food choices. He gives me an example: “When people ask me, how I make sure that the vegetables I sell are free of residues, I give the following answer: I have a research lab where I can test the quality of my yield. I test the vegetables for residues, for the quality and for the taste.” He concludes, “Only when the vegetables fulfill all standards and they are of good quality, only then I can sell them.”
Farmers like Thomas Brech produce fresh and healthy food, and they make sure that the food is produced in the right way. That means they consider residue levels, health and quality aspects and they have the consumers in mind. It is actually in our hands – we, consumers – to limit our concerns about the healthiness and safety of our food and the choices we have. The meeting with Thomas Brech showed me that farmers are open to answer our questions. Maybe we should just ask them once in a while.