Friday, May 18, 2007

Market Madness

Did we all see this coming? Or just me? Carlo Petrini founder of the Slow Food movement, the very man who inspired so many farmers at the Ferry Plaza farmers market has dared to criticize the farmers at the very same market for their outrageous prices and their vainglorious customers. The funny thing is, it's been Petrini telling us all along that we should pay more for our food. Like a mantra he repeats the sentiment that good food costs more to produce and we should be prepared to pay for it.

The problem is, there is expensive and there is highway robbery. And now someone has dared to blow the whistle. My infrequent trips to the Ferry Plaza farmers market are much like my infrequent trips to the local supermarket--I look for what is ripe, fresh, in-season AND reasonably priced. I don't buy out of season imported raspberries at the supermarket and I certainly don't buy $3 peaches at the farmers market.

It seems some market supporters don't appreciate any dissent. A post by the Culinary Muse complaining about $8/dozen eggs resulted in a questioning of her priorities. And now Petrini is feeling the heat. His book signing opportunity at the market was abruptly cancelled after farmers and management got wind of his views.

Of course criticism of the market is justifiable when it is based in fact, but some claim Petrini's facts are more like fiction. In particular Steve Sando proprietor of Rancho Gordo claims that the villainous farmers out to cheat the land and their customers, described by Petrini in his latest book, Slow Food Nation, do not exist. Perhaps he is right. But there are people charging ridiculous prices at the market. That fact is undeniable. Now if customers want to pay, that's fine, but I and Petrini and anyone else have the right to complain if we find the prices untenable. Pay more for good food? I say yes! Pay through the nose? That's up to you. Either way, when it comes to criticizing the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, watch what you say or be prepared for the backlash.

Read a chronology of the ruckus at the San Francisco Chronicle.

For Steve Sando's take, please check out both his blog posts here and here on the subject.

Another discussion in the comments section at the Ethicurean.