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Farm To Fable

I have been encouraged by friends and customers to wade into the fray on the

recent Farm to Fable expose from Laura Reiley. First let me congratulate Ms.

Reiley on her tenacity and courage in facing this issue head on and presenting the

not-always-pretty facts as she found them. I am humbled to have been a small

part of her research.

Next, I want to say that nothing Laura said in her articles came as a surprise to

me. Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm was established in 2008 and one of the first

lessons we learned is that not everyone is as honest as you might hope or assume

they are. At the very least, we learned that some folks find it easier to believe

what they want to believe or what suits their current need. We have faced small

farmers, open air market vendors, community market managers, customers and

even family members who have conveniently “overlooked” what we saw as

obvious discrepancies in the provenance of the produce they believed to be

locally grown. Our first (and last) experience participating in a neighborhood

farmers market resulted in our being placed directly across from the outdoor

“supermarket” vendor who had everything from out-of-season fruits (with labels

still intact) to peeled garlic in jars. And then there was the produce vendor who

wanted to buy from us so that he could say that his produce came from the local

hydro farm. The fact that we could not supply him with everything that he

wanted didn’t seem to be a problem for him because he could always get

everything else from that “hydroponic farmer in Plant City.” When we challenged

what was being “grown” by the Plant City farmer, we were told that the reason he

had more out-of-season vegetables than we did was because he is a “better

farmer” than we are. It is fortunate for us to have an on-site farm market where

customers can purchase fresh vegetables directly from the farmer as they actually

look out over the rows of produce being grown on site.

I want to comment here on something that is a pet peeve for me. That is, why are

these open air bazaars or street fairs being called “farmers” markets? Where I

come from, words have actual real meanings and the word “farmer” means the

folks who are actually planting, growing and harvesting produce. In nearly any

other part of the country, or the world for that matter, a farmer’s market is where

the local growers (i.e., the farmers) bring their crops to be sold. A group of

vendors selling (or re-selling) trinkets, baskets, utensils, etc. is a street fair or

bazaar. Given the information Laura uncovered at some of our local markets, it is

hard for me to believe that it is a coincidence that the title of “farmer’s market”

has been used. I think this needs to change.

So, what comes next you ask? Unfortunately, dear reader, I believe the proverbial

ball is in your court. You now have the information, what are you going to do

with it? Are you willing to make the effort necessary to find what is fresh and

locally grown? Does that fit into your already overfilled schedule? Does any of

this matter to you? Or are we just annoyed to have been lied to and deceived?

The truth is, not everyone has the time or resources to ensure that their families

eat only what are locally and organically grown. We hear often about the food

deserts in our inner cities and hope that applies to someone other than us and

those we care about. But, like Ms. Reiley’s expose, the truth may be something

we only want to hear if it doesn’t mean we need to take more responsibility for

our own decisions. No one likes to be lied to and deception is still universally

frowned upon in business dealings. But how is this problem to be solved? We

have learned that there are no produce police who will crack down on the bad

guys and force them to stop telling lies. Perhaps the lesson for all of us is simply

that we cannot expect others to be responsible for our decisions. We need to be

accountable for our own choices. We need to decide for ourselves (based on our

own research) what we are willing to accept and who we are willing to support

with our dollars. As a business person, I can tell you that the fastest way for us to

change what we’re doing is if it is not successful. As long as we continue to give

our dollars to the dishonest re-sellers and restaurateurs, there will be no reason

for them to make any meaningful changes to their status quo. Make no mistake,

dear reader, you are in control.

I hope you realize that Urban Oasis Farm is the real deal. We work hard to grow

seasonal vegetables and make them available to the public at the Urban Oasis

Farm Market. Although we are not certified organic, we grow to organic

principles and are not using harmful chemicals. The Farm Market is open to the

public on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Is that inconvenient

for you? All of our products are available for purchase on our website

(www.UrbanOasisFarm.com). When you place an order, we harvest the produce

fresh for you and place it in our locked walk-in cooler. Your receipt will include

the door lock code and you can pick up your order at your convenience. Still not

convenient for you? We also offer delivery. Check the website for details.

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