Assuring genuine farmers market food through screening

WASHINGTON – Farmers markets often say they check to make sure patrons are getting locally-grown food, but how do they do that?

The organizers at Fresh Farms Markets do it the old-fashioned way: they take field trips.

“We make sure that everybody at our markets grows it themselves, harvests it or makes it from scratch using local ingredients,” says Nikki Caporale, the manager of the Foggy Bottom, Union Market and Penn Quarter farmers markets.

And Edgar Barajas, of Barajas Produce, says those visits are unannounced.

“We get inspected three times a year, and you never know when they’re going to appear at our farm to make sure you’re producing what you bring to market.”

Customers who come to farmers markets expect that the food they are buying is local, and fresh, and they like the feeling of putting their cash in the hands of the grower.

“We pay for quality, not quantity,” says customer Bettina Kramer. She says she visits the Foggy Bottom market because it’s near the George Washington Hospital where she’s undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. “We are looking for healthy food, and we are more conscientious about what we eat.”

Farming is a family operation for Barajas, and while it’s hard work, it’s rewarding.

“A great day is when you get a customer that comes and tells you that they’re satisfied with your product. When a customer tells another customer that they love what you have and that it’s fresh and good, that makes your day,” Barajas says.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

Follow @KateRyanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.