Market Terms

It’s all in the definition!

There are a lot of terms that are used at farmers markets. Here are some general definitions to help guide you at the Market.

Artisan/Artisanal: These terms imply that products are made by hand in small batches.

Certified Organic. The USDA National Organic Program states that all products sold as “organic” must be certified. Certification requires a farm to submit a production plan and be inspected annually by a certifying organization. The organic certification process is designed to assure customers that the organic products they purchase have been produced using appropriate organic practices, with records that allow traceability.

Conventional farming draws its meaning from the contrast to alternative methods of farming, such as organic, certified natural and even genetic engineering. Conventional farming dominated the 20th century is still dominant today. Chemical fertilizers and chemical plant protectorants are common; however, IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is part of conventional farming. IPM applies principles of organic farming and so the definition of a conventional farmer will vary from farmer to farmer.

Farm fresh is really just a marketing term used in retail and direct farm sales. It generally means that the product is being purchased directly from a farm. However, if you are really concerned about freshness, ask when the produce was harvested or the eggs were collected. Just another good reason to buy at our Market as you can ask the farmer directly since we are a producer-only market. A producer-only market is a market where the vendors only sell items they produce.

Free-range implies that a meat or poultry product comes from an animal that was raised in the open air or was free to roam.  When the term is used on poultry products, “free range” is regulated by the USDA and means that the birds have been given access to the outdoors, but for an undetermined period each day.  “Free-range” claims on red meats and eggs are not regulated.  Please note that free-range egg producers have no standard on what the term means. Many egg farmers sell their eggs as free-range simply because their cages are two or three inches more than standard size, or because there is a window in the shed.  It’s always best to ask the farmer directly what he or she follows to label their products “free-range.” This is just one of many reasons to buy at a farmers market – you meet the producer face-to-face, and can find out how your food is grown.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): GMOs are plants and animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs. In general, genes are taken (modified) from one organism that shows a desired trait and transferred into the genetic code of another organism. Genetic modification is currently allowed in conventional farming in America, but not allowed in a number of European countries. There is a lot of controversy around GMOs and we suggest that you read more in depth to better understand the issues.

Gleaning: Historically, gleaning was the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they had been harvested, and was one source of feeding the poor. Today, many farmers markets glean from their markets. At the end of each Market, the farmers and vendors give a portion of what they have left to charitable organizations including food banks and soup kitchens. The HLFM and our vendors also glean at the end of every Market day, and donate fresh produce and baked goods to Casa San Francisco’s Food Bank in Milton, DE.

Naturally Grown, Naturally Raised, Certified Naturally Grown. The use of the word “natural” in supermarket labeling is not regulated.  However, the USDA does have a definition of “naturally raised” that growers of meat can voluntarily adopt.  There is much controversy over the actual definition, but essentially, it requires that the animal not be fed growth hormones, antibiotics or animal by-products. On the fruits and vegetables side of the table, we have Naturally Grown and Certified Naturally Grown. There is no standard definition of “Naturally Grown.” On the other hand, Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) is an independent non-profit organization that has Certification Standards that take as their starting point the USDA Organic Standards.  However, this is an independent program that is not in any way affiliated with the USDA’s National Organic Certification Program. CNG claims to be an alternative program for small-scale direct-market farmers using natural methods. They now certify over 500 farms nationwide. Certification is done through farm inspection by other farmers. Standards are available to view online at naturallygrown.org.

No antibiotics: Antibiotics are given to livestock in order to treat or prevent diseases. Advertising “no antibiotics” may indicate high animal husbandry standards. Ask the farmer to explain how she/he avoids antibiotic use. (There is concern that anti-microbial drugs are overused in large industrial chicken, pig, and cattle farms. See Farmacology.)

No hormones: Hormones are commonly used in commercial farming to increase the growth rate of beef cattle or to increase the production of milk in dairy cattle. Some of these hormones are natural, some are synthetic, and some are genetically engineered. If a farmer or rancher states no hormones, then they do not engage in these practices.

No spray/pesticide free: This indicates that there are no sprays applied to the produce. This does not necessarily indicate what farming methods a farmer is using, or that the produce is free of pesticide residue. Ask the farmer if anything has been applied to the surface of the produce if this is a concern to you.

Raw-Milk Cheese: Cheese and other dairy products made from milk that is not pasteurized say “raw milk” on the label. In the U.S., raw milk cheeses are required to be aged for 60 days as a safety precaution.

Vine-ripened/Tree-ripened: Fruit that has been allowed to ripen on the vine or tree. Many fruits that are shipped long distances while still unripe and firm are then treated with ethylene gas to “ripen” and soften them.