Buying the Farm(ers Market)

Regular attendees of Sonoma’s Farmer’s Market might have noticed a few additions to the bucolic hustle and bustle of last Tuesday’s market. Besides the return of once-ubiquitous balladeer Nelson Mint to his perch at the rose garden (strumming and crooning about his recent incarceration in a tune entitled “I did it, so what?”) and the arrival of “wine recycling” troths provided by the Sonoma Sangria Company, there was at least one new vendor.

AgChemetic, Inc., the genetically modified foods juggernaut, raised more than a few eyebrows when it opened its booth to the public Tuesday evening. The Indiana-based company was not represented at the market as an official vendor, but did offer its wares from a nearby stall on the sidewalk.

“Farmer’s markets represent the latest vanguard of the free market economy,” remarked an on-site spokesperson, James Whitman. “One thing big agra companies do well is capitalism and farmer’s markets allow us to scale, direct-to-consumer, in ways that were heretofore unprecedented. Moreover, we can reach educated, upper middle class ‘influentials’ on their own turf, a market we seldom reach through discount grocers and urban outlets where our products have deepest penetration given the lack of so-called ‘healthful alternatives.’ We’re here to give you a taste of the variety from which you might have been insulated.”

Among AgChemetic’s offerings were tubes of “Vegemaxx,” a vegetable substitute made from beef as well as “AllKarb,” a substance completely devoid of protein and marketed with the slogan “Empty Calories mean Lighter Calories,” both of which Whitman describes as “big hits” in inner city school lunch programs.

Samples of a sausage product were prepared on an electric skillet, lanced with colored toothpicks and festooned with a label that read “Pork Larva” in an apparent effort to disassociate the process by which the breakfast staple is manufactured and bolster its appeal to the squeamish. Likewise, a display of “Moo Meats” featured beef pasted with a pairs of “googly eyes.” As Whitman japed, “Our beef program has vision beyond slaughter. Don’t you just want to cuddle up with one of these steaks? Kids love how they glow in the dark too.”

Not to be outdone by our local beekeepers, AgChemetic also proffered its own honey-flavored petroleum-syrup replete with “Styrocomb,” the patent pending “recyclable honeycomb replica.” The company also featured carrot sticks packaged in flip-top boxes reminiscent of cigarette packaging, which it alleged were popular with the teen market. In fine print, meant to emulate the “Surgeon General’s warning,” was the admission that the carrot sticks weren’t actually made from carrots, but rather an “artificially-colored starch compound.” To wit, the product was legally referred to as a “beta-carotene delivery mechanism,” with each serving representing 0.0002 percent of one’s recommended daily allowance of vitamin A (and that was from the artificial coloring).

“Sure, you are what you eat,” laughed Whitman. “but you’re also what you believe. And I believe that companies such as AgChemetic are doing our part to make sure the world is fed in a fiscally responsible fashion. I mean, good food isn’t a right, it’s a privilege isn’t it? And you deserve it for just being you.” He paused. “Now, who wants dessert?”

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