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

November 6, 2010 |  7:42 am

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