By Cynthia Hill, NTP
Like family and friends, I eagerly awaited the opening of the Kenosha Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery store. With no Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods close by, a store providing healthier options is definitely a welcome addition to our area.
Once past the cute farm scene façade, I grab a shopping cart and make my way into the store. I immediately find myself in the bakery department. An admirable selection of packaged organic sprouted whole grains & gluten-free items grab my attention. I find most of the in store fresh-baked & prepackaged goods contain the usual concoction of preservatives and/or inferior vegetable oils.
Next up is the salad bar, olive bar and a selection of prepared convenience foods; heat & eat Meals on the Go. Rotisserie chickens, soups, pasta dishes, potato salads, and grilled chicken breasts to name a few. I had high hopes for the well stocked salad bar, but to my dismay not even the salad mix is organic. I could not find a single bottle of salad dressing here or throughout the store that is made with healthy oils. The prepared foods (including soups) contain the same ubiquitous soybean and canola oils which I know are just about impossible to avoid in any commercial food, but hey a girl can dream can’t she? The rotisserie chickens like the prepared foods are conventional not organic.
A generous selection of self serve bulk bins containing grains, nuts, coffee and candy with a few organic options anchors the middle of the store. Hard to miss are the intriguing large stainless steel tanks with tap your own olive oil, canola oil (ugh!), vinegar, honey (local, but unprocessed?), maple syrup & agave syrup (ugh!). Little information about origin or processing methods is displayed.
Next up is the fresh/frozen seafood & meat departments. Fresh seafood is both farm raised and wild caught with country of origin labeling. No wild caught salmon selections. Fresh beef cuts appeared to be all conventional with one grass-fed option. Poultry had a good selection of organic but no pasture raised and an all natural chicken option (whatever that means?).
The Produce Department – now this makes me smile!!!
I made my way to the Dairy cases next…
The processed/packaged food aisles and frozen foods are stocked well with the usual brands finding a few really good choices here & there. Fresh Thyme Broth – not so much…
On to the spirits…
Finally, I enter the home stretch – vitamins/supplements, personal care, paper goods, cleaning products & pet food (A variety of grain free pet food but no fresh/frozen options that I could see). Again, the usual products lines with a few really good choices here and there.
Fresh Thyme Farmers Market is part Traders Joe’s, part Whole Foods, and part health food store. They are strongest in organic produce, their (limited) grass-fed meat options, yogurt & eggs. Also positive are the local choices throughout the store, although they tend to be conventional. From a nutritional standpoint, the weakest areas lie in the bakery, convenience meals, packaged/processed food/products and dairy (lack of good choices with the exception of yogurt). For the most part they are not organic, contain unhealthy oils and preservatives/ingredients and/or are overly processed.
Overall, I find the prices average with some great sale prices.
While Fresh Thyme is certainly not alone, a particular grievance of mine is deceptive advertising. Fresh Thyme has a lot of products that carry their brand name but for the most part are not organic and do not always contain acceptable ingredients. Their weekly sales ads overuse of the word “natural” is particularly annoying as “natural” can mean anything and nothing! Consumers can be mislead by the use of such words and pastoral images of barns, tractors and animals. Looking past these images and reading the ingredients label is one of the most positive proactive steps we can take in improving our awareness and making wiser food choices. We should also speak with our $$ and educate the grocery stores as to what we want and do not want in our food!
I will definitely visit Fresh Thyme Farmers Market again. The Kenosha location provides our community with some much-needed exposure to better food & environmental choices. I am optimistic that Fresh Thyme will continue to grow in a direction of healthier and more local sustainable options with our support.
Fresh Thyme Farmers Market is located at 7100 Green Bay Road, Kenosha, WI 53142 http://freshthyme.com/