Farm fresh fraud: Not all produce sold at markets is fresh or local

In addition to grabbing lunch and other prepared food items, shoppers at the farmers market by the White House also shop for their week\'s produce. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON – Nothing beats farm-fresh tomatoes or sweet summer corn.

And for many of us, the best way to get that fresh taste is by visiting the farmers market. But some vendors at farmers markets don’t grow their own produce. Instead, some have been known to buy food at auction or even purchase at a grocery store and sell from their own stands. How can you tell the fakes from the real deal?

Jennifer Abel, with the Arlington County Virginia Extension service, says most farmers markets in Arlington are producer-only, meaning that they must grow their own.

“One of the things that consumers can do is ask, and engage with the farmer about what’s being grown,” Abel says, adding to keep in track of what’s in season. “If there’s a farm that’s selling peaches in April, they probably didn’t grow those, because peaches don’t tend to be in season here in April.”

What if you don’t know chard from kale, and figured tomatoes were in-season year-round because you can always find them at the grocery store?

The Virginia Cooperative Extension service has a chart that details when to expect different types of produce at a local farm stand. And ask the farmers when to expect to see your favorite produce to appear.

Although it’s sad to see those juicy tomatoes disappear, you can look forward to the comfort that comes from crisp fall apples and hearty soups made with potatoes and winter squash.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @kateryanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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