Prior to the late 1970s, there were very few farmers’ markets in California. None of these were Certified. Currently there are over 350 Certified farmers’ markets in California. So, what happened in the late 1970s?
During the 1970’s an alarming number of family operated small farms in California were going out of business. Reasons? It is all about how food gets to everyone’s tables, and business. So how does food get from a farm to a grocery store? Individual farmers do not seek out grocery chains, nor do individual farmers each sell to and transport to supermarkets. And, grocery chains do not seek products from individual farms. Rather Produce Brokers buy from farms, and sell to grocery chains. To be competitive, grocery chains seek the lowest prices from brokers, who in turn seek lower prices from farmers. One day a farmer may fetch $12 for a box of broccoli, the next day the best the farmer might get is $4 for the same box. It does not matter how much it cost the farmer to produce a box of broccoli, the farmer will be offered only so much. The farmer is left with the choice of selling the product for what is offered or plow the crop under. The competitive environment was simply too great for many family operated small farms.
During this time, Governor Jerry Brown and his administration felt that direct marketing would help small farm operations. Direct marketing concept is where farmers to sell directly to customers. No middleman and no brokers are involved.
However, the direct marketing concept was strongly opposed by citrus industry lobbyists and grocery association lobbyists. Eventually a state law permitting farmers’ markets was passed. At a farmers’ market, farmers can sell only what they grow. Since resale is strictly prohibited the person you bought the apple from is the person who grew it. It is noteworthy that each stall at a farmers’ market represents a different farm.