These days farmers markets are a recurring trend, with people becoming increasingly interested in buying their food fresh and local. However, while buying food that's natural and organic has its perks, no one wants to come home with a pest living in their groceries. So, how are pests prevented?
Starting from the beginning
Before the fruits and vegetables even arrive at the farmers market, farmers need to take certain measures to ensure that their crops are not infested with pests. If the fruits and vegetables are healthy and pest-free before they get to the market, then there usually are no problems while farmers actually sell their bounty. So, if you've picked up a ripe apple or a few tomatoes and wonder why these plants look so healthy, ask the farmer who grew them about his or her process. Many of their stories will go something like this.
Natural from the get-go
Many use a process known as Integrated Pest Management, which uses natural ways to control pests without the use of harmful pesticides. Though there are organic products on the market, most try a few tried and true methods first before beginning their harvest.
Floating row covers
When farmers first plant their crops, many use floating row covers to help shield them from hungry insects, Stonyfield stated. These covers, which usually are made out of a burlap material, help the plants get water and air during their first months of growth without being disturbed by voracious bugs. That way, when the plants become bigger and heartier, the farmers can remove the covers without worrying that certain pests may destroy them.
Farmers also practice a method known as crop rotation, in which they plant different crops in various places each year to keep pests guessing, Nourishing the Planet noted. If farmers continually grew the crop in the same place, the pests would return each year and often would grow in number, making for a disastrous harvest. Moving the crops keeps pests away naturally, and also helps keep the soil fertile and healthy.
Intercropping can also confuse pests. This is when farmers will plant two crops among one another, so that there isn't a large number of one crop in a certain space. Planting two crops near each other doesn't hurt the crops' livelihood, but it does cause pests to have difficulty sensing where certain crops that they feed on are.
Letting it go
Lastly, farmers prevent pests from arriving at farmer's markets by discarding any crops that have been infested. Though some seasons are more pest-free than others, many don't want to take the risk of bringing bad bounty with the good, for the benefit of the customer. So, when they pick crops they diligently look over each to ensure that they are worthy of sale, just for you.