5 Reasons Why Farmers' Market Baked Goods Often Suck

Categories: My Rant, Sietsema

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Chalky, crumbly, low on flavor -- and please leave it in the oven a little longer.


You see them lined up on tables between the lavender sprigs and homemade soaps: pale, starchy, looking like a kid who hasn't been in the sun all summer. These are the baked goods of the farmers' markets. And not only do the cookies, cakes, pies, muffins, and sweet rolls often look bad, they frequently taste bad, too.


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This cookie tasted OK, I guess, but, though it was supposed to be an oatmeal cookie, virtually no oatmeal could be detected.


I guess I should be grateful. Good baked stuff has turned the Madison, Wisconsin, farmers' market into a strolling cake cram, resulting in collisions between pastry eaters on the narrow pathway that rings the capitol building, and a general de-emphasis on things you cook with, in favor of things you can eat right away -- instant gratification.

I recently undertook a baked-goods eating binge at one of our markets, to see if this negative impression would be confirmed. It mainly was. Sure, there were a couple of good things -- cider donuts, gingerbread, and a sweet roll with plenty of frosting on it -- but these were notable exceptions.


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Though somewhat unsightly, the gingerbread men were pretty good.


Next: The five reasons


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14 comments
tryingcake
tryingcake

I have to agree with you.  Which is why I give samples - and not just a few - I allow people to sample everything on my table.  And still they buy and come back for more.  I know others will give samples of this or that... but I allow sampling of everything.  It's the cost of doing business.  I don't want you to buy it if you don't like it.  I am a gluten-free baker.  I work long and hard on my recipes before introducing them to the public.  It has to be as good as or better than the commercial gluten counterpart, or it doesn't hit my table.

SouthernRiseBakingCo
SouthernRiseBakingCo

I am a baker in NC and I sell at the local farmers market near my house. It is very small and it's only 2 years old. I have to say though...my baked goods are amazing! You should come by and try them out :) It's unfortunate to know that there are people selling crap products just because they can. I don't believe in that. When I bake... I always look at the finished product and ask myself If I would buy that if I saw it at a farmers market. I always bake everything the day before or morning of marlet. Packaging is very important too! I hate saran wrapping anything...

GiorgioNYC
GiorgioNYC

When it comes to the Union Square Greenmarket, Sietsema's absolutely right. The baked goods are terrible, in all the ways he describes..

Dinner8
Dinner8

Farmer's markets are no place to experiment with baked goods. Practice, perfect your recipe and package it correctly before offering it to the public if you want to get noticed and respected . 

happycao
happycao

I actually find the cider donuts extremely dry and not very flavorful, but I've only had it once, so maybe it might've been off day?

Ninadora
Ninadora

amen!  though the lemon cookies with lemon royal icing from the $1.50 baked goods table (its all he sells) are pretty good.  Bread alone which I'm not terribly fond of for bread has pretty yummy pastries too...

Lauren E.
Lauren E.

I have to wholeheartedly disagree with you on the Concord grape pies. I grew up in the Finger Lakes region and those are some of the most insanely delicious pies I've ever tasted, from road side stands, farmers markets, and festivals alike. I'd say you could wipe out all points above by saying if the product isn't a local specialty, it's probably not very good.

Jesse
Jesse

My mother sells at the farmers market in NC making turnovers. Close to 1000 are made during the summer (The peak season) and almost all are sold out. :)

Mak
Mak

This is certainly true -- with very limited exceptions -- of the Union Square market -- and I think points (2) and (4) are especially good observations.  I think that the breads on offer are especially lousy, and it surprises me that people buy these more than once. 

SusieTimm
SusieTimm

I have not often seen a post as incredibly ignorant as this. Wow. 

stella
stella

Yes, yes, yes!  Concord grape pies are amazing.  I live on the UWS and the Finger Lakes grower at my market only sells the fruit, not finished pies, so I buy a lot and make my own.  It's something I look forward to every fall.

Ninadora
Ninadora

I think he's referring to NYC farmers markets.  You can truly get some phenomenal pies at country farm stands, I agree...

SusieTimm
SusieTimm

Let's take #5 for example: "Farm Folk." Most artisan bakers at Farmers' Markets are not "farm" folk at all. They are professional bakers and farmers' markets are merely a distribution channel. Now, I have only been to markets in Phoenix for baked goods, but we have some of the most talented bakers on the west coast. 

Also your tone is beyond condescending considering the time and dedicated needed to be an artisan or grower. "Tilling the soil..." really? 

Did you interview any bakers for this article? Where did you get your information about when items are baked?

Most people who attend farmers' markets btw are not pastry ignorant. Many are food savvy folks (not to be confused with farm folks) who do understand good pastry or bread from bad.

When I saw this article I did expect to see one complaint that I agree with--bakers need to stop taking their bread out of the oven and immediately placing into plastic bags when the product is still hot. It causes condensation and does erode the quality of the bread.

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