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Farmers' markets go online

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/File

(Read caption) Workers set out fruit for sale at the Westmoreland Berry Farm stand at the Arlington Farmers' Market in Arlington, Va. Now farmers are connecting with local consumers through the Internet too.

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It isn’t always easy finding fresh, high-quality food in this country. Supermarkets with their long, complex supply chains usually offer unripe or subpar produce that leaves a lot to be desired.

But the usual alternative methods of provision have distinct limitations. Luckily, technology provides one great answer to this dilemma, opening up an important new avenue for small-scale producers to connect to customers.

Only local farms can deliver the very freshest produce. But while the common methods of providing this bounty to consumers – community supported agriculture (CSA) plans and farmers’ markets – are essential components of a revitalizing fresh-food sector, they don’t always provide a sufficiently flexible or robust shopping experience.

IN PICTURES: Urban gardens

CSAs require a large up-front cash layout and lock you into eating whatever happens to be delivered. Farmers’ markets vary vastly in size and quality, from those that enforce requirements on farm size and distance to those that don’t seem to hold vendors to any standards at all. It’s dismaying to discover resellers at “farmers’” markets; for all you know, they bought their wares at Safeway that morning.

For quality-minded consumers who would like to support local agriculture, it can be a struggle to obtain the freshest food on a consistent basis. And small farmers may struggle to find enough convenient markets for their goods.

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