If Florida’s Tampa Bay turns out to be merely the tip of the iceberg, good luck finding locally sourced fresh foods in your neck of the woods. In this “Farm To Fable” Tampa Bay News investigative report, food critic and part-time farm detective Laura Reiley, “visited every Tampa Bay outdoor market, recording all vendors and analyzing the data”. What she discovered was often claims by restaurants and farmers market vendors that were untruthful about where their food came from and sometimes (in the case of certain fish) the actual food they claimed to be serving their patrons.
Farmers markets have grown exponentially over the recent years, and as this report clearly shows in Tampa Bay, opportunists have stepped in and are misleading the unassuming public about the food they sell.
The same goes for area restaurants that have jumped on the band wagon of the local farm to table movement and who are stretching the truth about the true nature of the food on their menus.
What’s important about this 2-part report is not only the specific nature of the findings themselves and the bad actors involved, but whether this is indeed representative of a wider problem that extends to other cities and areas of the country.
While individual farmers markets may do a better job of vetting their farmers without an established set of state (and federal) rules to prohibit and monitor such behavior, when it comes to establishing the true provenance of a food in these types of situations, it’s up to the individual consumer to be vigilant and to ask the right questions.
The same can be said for restaurants that claim their ingredients are local, as well.
Along these lines, included in the report, is a consumer guide to help eaters identify the right questions to ask and how to spot obvious signs of misrepresentations. There’s also a list of the restaurants that were sited in the report for engaging in deceptive practices.
The Complete Farm To Fable Series
- Part 1: Restaurants
- Part 2: Tampa Bay farmers markets are lacking in just one thing: Local farmers
- Case Studies: Spot the fables on these 10 Tampa Bay menus
- How to tell if your ‘local’ food is actually local
Also check out this ProPublica podcast, an interview with Laura Reiley, the author of the report: