Turtle Bend Farm is a sustainable vegetable farm in Polk County, Georgia. Adam and Mecca Lowe are growing vegetables on approximately 7 acres of family farmland using ecological methods without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. Our goal is to produce clean, healthy, fresh vegetables for our local communities while protecting and enhancing our local natural and social resources.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Trust, Integrity and Social Accountability

Sometimes there are opportunities to stand up for something that you believe in. We recently had one such chance at one of our local farmers' markets. We thought that the Powder Springs Farmers' Market would be a good place to bring our vegetables and meet folks in our area including other farmers. Well, it was a good place for some of those things, but we soon realized that the market was not keeping their end of the bargain. The farmers' market is operated by a board and a market coordinator. They set their rules at the beginning of the season and all vendors signed an agreement to follow the rules. Among their rules is a restriction on selling produce that was not grown by the vendor- wholesale produce. It's the same stuff you would find in the grocery store- these vendors go down to the Atlanta Farmers' market where other wholesalers are selling commercially grown produce from around the country and the world for dirt cheap. The re-seller then takes this produce to a local farmers market, gussied up with bushel baskets and a thick southern accent- oh, and don't forget the boiled peanuts, and hocks his wares for cheap and makes a killing off of unsuspecting customers. "Oh yeah, I grew ALL this stuff- best watermelons you've ever tasted- just put them on the truck last night." You can hear the lies echoed through the farmers market parking lot. One customer recently found a "grown in the USA" sticker on this wholesaler's "homegrown" cantaloupe. Well, many farmers markets around Atlanta have wised up to ol' vegetable hockin' Joe and have created rules that prohibit this practice. The Powder Springs Farmers Market has some similar rules on their books- with a few exceptions, or loopholes as you might call them. You see, several board members for this market are from the local Merchants' Association, and they have one goal- to increase the downtown foot-traffic in order to increase patronage in their stores. They want as many vegetables as possible all season long, even when the vegetables are out of season- like tomatoes in May, or watermelons for the 4th of July. Vendors who resell are supposed to post a sign that the items is not grown by them, and the items must also be Georgia grown. But instead of enforcing these rules that would help keep the market fair, the board just looks the other way and allows the rules to be broken. The result? Rampant wholesaling, lying vendors, and the "real" farmers get undercut by the low prices of resold vegetables. Well, we brought our complaint about the lack of enforcement to a member of the farmers market board. He not only refused to enforce the rules, but threatened to call the police if we came to the market and caused a "disturbance." He didn't appreciate our point of view to say the least. Somehow, because he was in a "volunteer" position, he was not responsible for enforcing the rules they had laid out. It is our belief that in these types of situations, a long lost tool called "social accountability" must be resurrected. Somehow it is offensive to hold someone accountable- he even threatened legal action if we went public with this- well here ya go sir- no, I won't print your name, but it's pretty easy to figure out who's on the board that's not a farmer.
What has happened to community values? Why must everything be rationalized along economic lines? Can't we understand that a constant predisposition towards "earning a buck" is not what's best for our society? I hope that anyone who reads this will take seriously their position as community members, as people in society, and live with integrity, honesty and claim some values and stand by them! Contrary to what Mr. Merchant board member or Mr. Lying wholesaler think- it's OK to believe in something and stand up for it. So, we will no longer be selling at this unfair and corrupt market- I hope that customers of this market will get to know their produce vendors- a few bad apples can spoil the bunch in this case. I would tell you, like I have before, to ask the vendor if he or she grew their produce, but in this case, you would have gotten a bold faced lie. If we are going to change our food system then we have to stand up for the values that it must represent- honesty, transparency & sustainability for starters. If farmers' markets begin to sell the same food that is available in the grocery store, then we have not really changed anything- "local" and "natural" become just a marketing scam. If local food networks are to be more meaningful than the conventional food system, then consumers must begin to gain more knowledge about agriculture and food so that they can hold farmers and vendors accountable. Likewise, farmers may need to raise their expectations of consumers. Perhaps there should be more than just a monetary transaction over food? Should consumers be more involved in farming and food so that they form closer relationships with farmers? I don't know the answer, but I know that sometimes you have to look closer to understand the difference between a scam artist and a hardworking farmer.


  1. Preach it, my red headed sister! I know the struggles of standing up for something you believe in and getting trampled on because of it...but keep chugging along and hopefully change will come. I'm proud of you and know y'all did the right thing (not that you need my validation). I still hope you compose a letter to the editor or something though as well.

    "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

  2. Sorry That you have to put up with this kind of unethical business behavior,Our garden is winding downand the good newe is frost is not predicted for at least a week.