Community / Food Politics / News / May 20, 2009

Ethics: Galesburg Farmers’ Market

Most vendors at the Galesburg Farmers’ Market believe that only locally grown products should be sold at the market, but others see no problem with bringing in produce from other regions. This past weekend in the parking lot between The Continental and Foster Insurance on Simmons St., the third weekly Galesburg Farmers’ Market of the season took place from 8 a.m. to noon, surrounded by quiet debate about ethical practices amongst vendors.

While most farmers at the market try to make a constant effort to bring only locally grown produce and food that they grow and make themselves, there are some members of the market who are known for trucking in products from southern parts of the country in addition to their own products.

“We’re homegrown and we’re very proud of it,” said Nan Toohey from Toohey Achers farm in Dahinda, Ill. She and Sandi Conley represent Toohey Achers every week at the market and share in the belief that only homegrown produce should be brought to the market.

“You can tell people who wholesale when they have things not in season in their booth,” said Conley.

The tent with the most produce to offer and also the widest variety of things not in season was the tent from Huizenga Farms from Henderson. They also attend the market every Saturday and bring many of their homegrown items such as rhubarb, asparagus, and radishes; all crops which are or soon will be in season. They also sold produce from Georgia, Louisiana, and Florida.

Donna Huizenga, one of the owners of the business, said that the produce they bring from their farm is organic, and that they would like to bring those items to a farmers’ market “rather than something that’s been across the U.S.,” even though they do get deliveries from southern states. “You have to use good cultural practices,” said Huizenga of whether or not she felt it was wrong to bring in non-local items. She also said that the items she brought to Galesburg had been grown locally where they were originally grown.

Conley said one of the biggest impacts on other farmers when one vendor has produce that is not in season is the economic factor. “If people have been eating something since May, no one’s gonna buy ours,” she said. She said she remembered other markets in which no one had to compete with anyone else because all the products came in at the same time and everyone benefited. Referring to the Huizenga tent, she said, “It doesn’t do us any favors pricewise.”

Cordelia Kaylegian, the manager of the Galesburg Farmers’ Market, had another table at the market and disagreed with Huizenga, saying that just because food was grown locally somewhere doesn’t mean it is okay to truck and sell elsewhere. Kaylegian owns a farm with her husband in North Henderson and makes a great effort to improve the market and use more local producers.

She said that while most markets have steadfast rules that products being sold must be producer-only, the Galesburg Farmers’ Market is more lenient. Even so, on a personal level, Kaylegian said she does not support bringing food from other states to the market. “I don’t agree with that. 99 percent of the people here sell what they produce. That’s the essence of a farmers’ market,” she said.

In Kaylegian’s eyes, another important aspect of the market is that the customer can meet the vendor face-to-face and hold the vendor accountable for any problems or questions. “You have every right to ask [them] what practices they use, [and] did they produce the food,” she said.

In addition to the farmers’ market, which will take place Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon until mid-October, the Local Growers’ Network has also returned to the Galesburg area. Like the market, it runs from May until October. The Local Growers’ Network has a farm stand open each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Oak Run Mart in Dahinda, about 25 minutes from Galesburg.

People interested in buying from the Local Growers’ Network produce can also place orders by e-mail. To sign up for the Weekly eHarvest Update email list and order through email, contact Orders can be picked up at Vintages, 57 S. Seminary St.

Annie Zak

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