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Cheating scandal rocks farmers market: Was Mexican produce passed off as locally grown?

The largest operator of Southern California farmers markets has protected a vendor who buys produce wholesale and misrepresents it as his own, alleged one of the company's managers, who made the claim at a listening session held by the California Department of Food and Agriculture on Monday night in Santa Monica. The operator has denied the allegation, but the repercussions seem likely to reverberate in the farmers market world.

The bombshell came near the end of the session, from Shannon Reid, a market manager for Raw Inspiration, a nonprofit organization that runs 18 markets in Southern California in conjunction with a company called California Certified Farmers' Markets. She told the regulators that she had caught a vendor repackaging produce from Mexico for sale at one of her markets but had been discouraged by her organization from reporting such violations to authorities. She said that her employer later retaliated against her after she did so anyway.

Reid started working at Raw Inspiration about a year ago, she said at the meeting, and until recently helped manage three farmers markets, at downtown's 7th and Figueroa and Pershing Square, and Gigi's at the Americana in Glendale.

Read the full story here.

-- David Karp

Comments () | Archives (23)

Farmers Market has been an will always be a great place to go for local produce.

Do you actually think that this is uncommon? This is done by major chains down to the little street "farmer's market" in your town on Saturday or Sunday. Some products imported from Mexico and China are downright dangerous.

Not a big surprise. Stupid people pay more for stupid things. My wife does it all the time. Kosher, yeah right. Higher octane, yeah right. Fresher, yeah right. And on and on and on.

Now I'm jaded. I knew it, too. Just looking at some of the produce around town at the "local" farmer's market you knew it wasn't in season.

Shame on Raw Inspiration. Beware the root of all evil. It's money, by the way.

I do not go to these farmers markets. Prices are rediculous and food looks terrible.

Much better at Vons.

Cheaters are every where from top to bottom, fromm public to private sector, from government to the supper market chain... Where will the world go?

I recently saw a report about this practice on a local news show. How said that we can't trust the food at these farmer markets. And, I'm not going to say what group of people are doing it but, lets just say that they don't obey our laws once they illegally enter our country.

The original idea behind these Farmers Markets was to cut out numerous distribution levels so the producer could sell fresh produce direct to the consumer at discount prices. All the local farmers have jacked up their prices so they are now just as high as any Whole Foods or high end grocery store....

Produce from Mexico are dangerous, yeah right, there were the culprit from recent salmonella/E. Coli outbreaks we had...It seems to me that US produce/Eggs products are far more dangerous...

thats it.. Im stopping shopping at the Americana.. Better to shop at Henrys or Sprouts

Like thus is a bombshell. I guess this reporter believes everything in the NEWS. Oh and its not money that is the root of all evil. Its the Love of money at the root.
I guess that people still believe in Organic produce too. They just have to spray it less.

Yeh! Can't trust anyone, anywhere, anymore...!

"Green" marketeers lying to us to make a buck?

Naw, that would never happen.

Fraud and corruption is the accepted rule of the day and greed is the vehicle to achieve success. What one doesn't know won't hurt you? NOT!!

Really? What is this world coming to?

I shure love those fruits, esspectshally it they lie about were they come from, and it had to be mexico, which make it even more better.

Hmmm...wonder how smart it was to publicly stab the company you work for in such a public forum? I'm sure since the Santa Monica or Hollywood farmers markets weren't mentioned though Miss Reid won't have a problem being received with open arms with a whistle blower/management position at any of those markets there. Yeah right. As a small business owner I've had to deal with disgruntled employees making accusations. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out. But it's probably safe to say that none of these markets are 100% what they promote to be: local, organic, or pesticide free. Lucky for the consumer we have watchdog reporters like Mr. Karp and Joel Grover at KNBC to keep them all on their toes. If i'm gonna pay top $ for a tomato it better be pesticide free and locally grown!

I hope they do not fire ms. reed because Protecting whistle blowers is an essential component of an ethical and open work environment.protecting whistle-blowers from retaliation and encouraging constructive whistle-blowing benefits nonprofits by increasing transparency and by giving management the opportunity to learn early on of unethical or unlawful practices directly from their employees rather than from the media, law enforcement, or a regulatory agency. besides they are laws that protect her,if anybody is going to get reprimand it should be the one's sitting in the board for hiding the facts.

I always new Ms. Raw was fake!

I read the statement of facts posted by raw inspiration title ‘Response to allegations made by Ms. Shannon Reid’ dated Nov. 08.2010.It seems to me that Raw Inspiration is not accepting any blame or responsibity for protecting a farmer who was breaking the law. instead they are accusing their own manager of lying and lacking the qualities of an effective manager. It seems that the only thing they are guilty of is hiring a liar and an incompetent manager. If that is the case how come they have allow her to continue being part of this company, when they knew she is not a effective manager and was cited by the department of Agriculture for personal violations, according to them. The Questions that begs an answer are; what are Ms. Reid motives? Are they altruistic? And why it has taken raw Inspiration all this time to act? You would think that if somebody is breaking the law the department of Agriculture would be the first to be notified. To Raw Inspiration I would ask them to post the violations cited to Ms. Reid by the Ag.Dept. And to Ms. Reid if you still have the video or pictures please post them in Utube, we would love to see them.

I doing what most people should be doing. Growing my own produce. At least I know how it's grown and where it's from.

Hi I am a vendor in one of the markets raw inspiration has in downtown.
last week john Edwards, I did not know who he was or what he was doing at the market,until somebody told me that
he is the president of the board.What he was doing at the market,I only putted together,after reading the la times article.anyway,he came storming to the market and yelling demanding to speak to Shannon.he spoke to the co manager for a while and after some time he left.so did Shannon.If that is not harassment I do not know what is.To fairness to raw inspiration yes they are the only market with cameras,but also they are the company that charges the highest fees,and if you miss a market you still need to pay.


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