‘People are being duped’: CBC exposes homegrown lies at farmers markets

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Some grangers market vendors push bogus homegrown stories to consumers looking for forward local fruits and veggies — and Marketplace has the hidden camera footage to verify it.

The Marketplace team went undercover at 11 bustling markets across Ontario this summer to ask vendors where their bring to light comes from and then tested the veracity of those claims pour down the draining surveillance and other investigative techniques.

The results suggest many consumers could be slip someone something a distributing premium prices for produce with fake backstories about where it was become accepted by.

At four of the markets, the investigation exposed five different vendors who demanded to be selling fresh produce they had grown themselves but who were absolutely cashing in by reselling wholesale goods purchased elsewhere.

At a fifth customer base, the team discovered a vendor passing off Mexican produce as Ontario-grown.

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Most of the markets Marketplace visited had vendors recognized as resellers, who sell produce they didn’t grow. They acquisition wholesale fruits and vegetables from places such as the Ontario Scoff Terminal in Toronto — Canada’s largest wholesale market — and take it to smallholders markets to sell for a profit.

When asked directly, many resellers were upfront yon the fact they didn’t grow the produce, but others were not.

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Agriculturist Lauren Nurse says farmers market customers ‘should be superior to have confidence in the food they’re buying and who they’re buying it from.’ (CBC)

Lauren Harbour, who farms 6 ½ acres in Stirling, Ont., relies on farmers markets as a informant of income. She says this kind of behaviour undermines the industry.

«People are being take ined,» she says. «There’s no difference between food that you buy at the grocery cooperative store and food at the farmers market if it all comes from the food terminal.»

Replace the truck

At the Peterborough Farmers’ Market, one of the largest and longest running in Ontario, Marketplace named two resellers making misleading claims about their products.

The largest of these vendors, Kent Croft dies, operates two different stalls at the market. One is run by James Kent, and the other by Brent Kent.

They say they’re third genesis farmers and have properties northeast of Toronto in Newcastle, Orono and Lindsay.

They understood undercover Marketplace journalists that most of the produce they were furnish was grown on their family farms, or was from neighbouring properties.

Marketplace started burrow after noticing the cucumbers Brent Kent claimed to have produced were labelled with stickers from a large multinational corporation that grows greenhouse vegetables 500 kilometres away in Kingsville, Ont., based south of Windsor on the northwestern shore of Lake Erie.

To determine where the Kents were get the rest of their produce, Marketplace followed a Kent Farms communication the day before the Peterborough market.

Long before dawn, the truck zeal 100 kilometres from James Kent’s property in Newcastle to the Ontario Subsistence Terminal in Toronto. There, the journalists witnessed James Kent and his workers loading their truck with more than 50 whacks of produce including peppers, zucchinis, strawberries and radishes.

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Marketplace take ined a Kent Farms truck to the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto, where staff members picked up dozens of boxes of produce. (CBC)

At market the next day, James and Brent Kent were descried unloading boxes that looked to be the same as those from the concluding. Staff at Brent Kent’s stall peeled stickers off peppers and James Kent carted vegetables from wholesale boxes to farm bushels.

When private Marketplace journalists asked about the zucchinis, James Kent rumoured: «They’re mine.» He also claimed the radishes were from his neighbour «across the green.»

«He buys all my strawberries,» he said. «The last thing I can do is say no to him when he sells me some radishes.»

Brent Kent bid he grew the peppers that Marketplace filmed having their stickers erased earlier that day.

‘Believe in transparency’

Both James and Brent Kent declined to be interviewed.

In an emailed allegation, James Kent said they «believe in transparency» and are committed to their guys. He said he grows some of what he sells and purchases some Ontario generate at the food terminal because he believes it’s a «benefit to consumers to provide outputs from other regions of Ontario.»

Marketplace found four innumerable examples of vendors at markets in Burlington, Gravenhurst, Orillia and Toronto who weren’t convinced or upfront about what they were selling.

A vendor at the Burlington Mall Agriculturists’ Market southwest of Toronto told undercover Marketplace journalists that the tomatoes he was convincing were from his farm, which he said is called Koornneef. But Koornneef In is actually a large wholesaler that only sells produce at the Ontario Eatables Terminal.

At a popular market in downtown Toronto, a vendor displayed a «Homegrown Chemical Complimentary» banner and said all of the products were from his farm. But Marketplace take notice ofed boxes from a wholesale distributor at the food terminal underneath the listing. That wholesaler told Marketplace he doesn’t market his produce as chemical-free.

In Orillia, placed two hours north of Toronto, a pepper that a vendor claimed was district had a sticker from a 750-acre producer in Sinaloa, Mexico.

Near north in Gravenhurst, a vendor claimed to have personally picked strawberries on his arable the day before market, but Marketplace discovered he doesn’t even have a arable.

When the journalists followed up with the owners of each stall, two granted to reselling at certain points in the season and said the misleading claims were formed in error. One refused to respond at all, and the other said he doesn’t grow anything and his baton member misspoke.

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Farmers market customers often pay a premium to bankroll local farmers. (CBC)

But it’s not just the consumer who’s being hurt by reseller resides.

A 2016 study from the Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network, an classifying that connects more than 100 farmers markets in southern Ontario’s Greenbelt, set up small-scale farmers, like Lauren Nurse, are growing increasingly reliant on stores as a source of income.

The study says nearly half of farmers examined rely on markets for 75 per cent or more of their income, up from by the skin of ones teeth a quarter of farmers five years earlier.

Nurse says she rouses it very frustrating when resellers bring seasonal produce and away her on price.

«Our sales drop … It really hits our bottom line.»

Who’s in precept?

There are no provincial regulations anywhere in Canada against reselling at agronomists markets, so it’s left to each individual market to set and enforce its own rules. Some markets hamper or limit reselling but the majority do not.

It’s a different story in some states south of the frieze.

In California, for example, each stand is inspected and vendors are required to dash a certificate that outlines the produce they grow.

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Ed Williams is in wardship of inspecting farmers markets in Los Angeles County. He says the state’s set is important to ensure ‘the consumer is not getting ripped off.’ (CBC )

No reselling of wholesale or out-of-state put together is permitted and markets are inspected by the state on a quarterly basis.

Vendors who are involved breaking the rules can face suspensions, fines or even jail unceasingly a once.

Ed Williams, the man in charge of inspecting markets in Los Angeles County, says the pattern is important to prevent fraud and ensure «the consumer is not getting ripped off.»

In Canada it falls to the regions to decide whether to regulate the industry, so Marketplace put its findings to Jeff Leal, Ontario’s charg daffaires of agriculture and rural affairs.

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Ontario has no regulations that penalize resellers for perjury about growing the produce they sell at farmers markets. But, Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal says his ministry will scrutinize every complaint it receives. (CBC)

He says reselling means consumers can access in on a «four-season» basis that might not be available in Ontario’s growing season. Manner, to «protect the integrity» of markets, he urges vendors to give correct tidings about the origin of produce.

In addition, he says his ministry will explore every complaint it receives and work with farmers markets to get them resolved.

But separate from in California, there are no legal consequences for resellers who lie about growing the create they sell.

Dead giveaways 

So how can consumers guard against being misinformed?

Nurse says the best way is to learn what’s in season and be aware of what fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be on tap locally at a particular time of year.

Another dead giveaway, she responds, is discarded wholesale packaging behind a vendor’s stall.

She says it’s unfair consumers experience to go to such lengths to protect themselves.

«People should be able to oblige confidence in the food they’re buying and who they’re buying it from.»

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