Farmers markets are friendly community gathering places. Regular shoppers really get to know their farmers and their food. But, how do you know they’re really growing the food they’re selling?
Fortunately, AIM has the answer. The “AIM Checked” Farm Audit Program, managed by Tyler Thayer, AIM’s Director of Education and Market Integrity, ensures the integrity of all seven of AIM’s farmers markets. The audit process begins with Tyler visiting a farmer at the market, documenting what produce the farmer is offering for sale and checking to see that it is listed on their California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) certified producer certificate. Within one week, Tyler goes to the farm to verify that the farmer is growing this same produce he saw in their booth. Seeing food growing in the fields first-hand allows Tyler to confirm farmers are growing what they say they’re growing and build solid relationships with these farmers. New farmer participants hoping to enter an AIM market go through this process prior to being accepted to sell at one of our farmers markets.
“Now I travel to the farm, I slow down and take the time to get to know the farmer, their land, to hear their story.” Tyler shares this important insight about local farming operations with his students during weekly Diggin’ the Market educational tours, in addition to providing quality control and insuring our farmers markets’ integrity.
You may wonder how the need for a Farm Audit program arose. In 2010, LA County Farmers Markets encountered problems when some of their market participants weren’t actually growing the food they were selling. According to Andrew Brait, co-owner of Full Belly Farm, and AIM Board Member, “We realized we needed to create an in-house program. It’s those first-person relationships, transparency, and trust that truly make the farmers’ market what it is.” The “AIM Checked” Farm Audit Program was born, and AIM is proud to have one of only a few programs like this nationwide.
Farmers are the reason our markets exist. It’s our goal to showcase the important work they do: grow nutritious food, protect our environment, and stimulate local economies. And it’s our job to get to know our farmers and their farms, so we can create the highest quality markets that our customers know they can trust.