Photo credit: upshift
When the average customer heads to a farm stand, be it on Long Island or any other place, they may well expect that they're purchasing fresh, local produce with all of the benefits that come with that delicious, late-summer tomato But that's not always the case, as some farm stands on the east end of Long Island have begun supplementing their income by importing even locally available items along with melons and peaches from as far as 250 miles away to add to their product line, blurring the line for the average consumer who may well not know the difference.
Of course those items, along with Florida lemons and sweet Mexican mangos are nestled in among the more traditional and locally grown vine-ripe tomatoes, monster zucchini, string beans, eggplants, and mounds of sweet corn. In other cases some farmers have begun importing strawberries weeks before they're actually available on Long Island from places like Pennsylvania. Adding to their bottom line as peak demand for their traditional products has ebbed in recent decades with the increase in two-income families often meaning less family meals spent together and thus less call for fresh, local vegetables.
Compounding the issue is the fact that while local town codes often declare that you must grow between 60-80% of what you sell, enforcement is essentially non-existent as the farmers are charged with policing themselves. And with increasing pressure to find ways to make up for decreasing sales elsewhere coupled with a lack of sanctions for those who don't play by the rules there's little incentive to follow them.
All of this has led to significant debate, with wide-ranging discussions over the last three years in some towns while the facts on the ground indicate that the face of the farm stand, at least on Long Island, is rapidly changing. Think T-shirts, Snapple, an increasing amount of "agri-tainment" activities like hay rides and corn mazes in the fall, along with pottery and certain greenhouse items in summer and you're beginning to imagine the emerging farm stand of the future.
The realities of which, I suspect, means that farm stand customers everywhere will most definitely need to become a bit more savvy to ensure that the produce they buy is locally grown. After all, the economic factors that affect the farm stand on Long Island most likely affect the one in your neck of the woods as well