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Farmer's Markets, Rip off or Worth it?

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  • Davina May 22, 2006 11:57 AM
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So, yesterday I went down to my local Farmer's market in Encino, California for some fresh flowers, veggies etc. I attend these markets knowing full well that I will pay a premium for organic produce and that I'm supporting local farmers etc. However yesterday I laid out $80 and this is what I took home...tell me if you feel this is worth it or a rip off, I'm curious about public opinion of the whole Farmer's Market Experience. Here's my take home:

1) 1/2 lb of mixed greens lettuce (bibb, butter, romaine)
2) 1/2 lb of baby spinach
3) Small bunch of fresh dill
4) Small bunch of fresh cilantro
5) Small bunch of fresh chives
5) Three fuji apples
6) Three small bunches of purple irises ( 15 flowers total)
7) Pint of Raw Cream
8) One Baguette
9) One box of strawberries
10) 4 white onions
11) 1 box of grape tomatoes
12) 1 head of celery
13) 1 bunch of green onions

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  1. I would guess everything except the irises would come to under $30, so how much did you pay per stem of iris?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Karl S

      $3/five stems...this was one of the better deals. The more expensive item was the raw cream...$10/pint.

      1. re: davina

        Raw cream is generally $12+/pint in stores, so that was a bargain.

        "Worth it" is subjective. What is freshness worth? What is being able to taste before you buy worth? What's preserving heritage varieties that agribusiness disdains worth? What is supporting local agriculture worth? For that matter, what is the worth of supporting local agriculture at prices that they can afford to keep the land "green" and not to sell it to developers to pave over? That's priceless.

    2. It really depends on where you are, too. I have some friends who operate a family farm, and during corn season they take truckloads of corn to farmers' markets all over the area - they hit a different one every day of the week, traveling as far as 100 miles. Their prices will vary substantially based on location alone....as much as 100% variance.

      I'm guessing that you're going to pay more in Encino than, say, Bakersfield. (Not that I'm suggesting you drive to Bakersfield, mind you!)

      1. Always a ripoff.

        You're paying premium for the "privilege" of supporting supposedly local produce/growers.

        10 Replies
        1. re: ipse dixit

          Supposedly? When I go to my local farmers' market I see stalls that display the location of the farms where the produce comes from. These are not "supposed" local farmers. Am I paying a premium for that? Yes and no. I buy seasonal produce so the slight premium I pay over Costco produc imported from Chile not only supports local farmers, but also supports the life style I choose to live. The vine ripen tomatos I buy from farmers' market is 10 times better than the pale red stuff from the supermartkets. So the quality of the produce is also better.

          1. re: Peter

            I say supposed because I live in Los Angeles and I haven't seen a local farm in Los Angeles County in several decades. Ventura County has a few representatives, but most vendors travel distance to come to this event.

            1. re: davina

              You'd be surprised how many farms are actually in LA County. It's a huge county you know.

              1. re: davina
                m
                Morton the Mousse

                Ventura County is still relatively local as opposed to, say, Chile.

                1. re: davina

                  You are making assumptions and also distinctions without difference. For one, Kenter Canyon grows in the San Fernando Valley. Most of the farmers at the Los Angeles area farmers markets drive in the morning of the markets with just picked produce, whether they are grown in LA, Ventura or Bakersfield County. If that's not locally grown, I don't know what is, unless you grow it yourself. I'd rather eat produce that's been grown 100 miles away and picked that morning, than something picked a week ago from Mexico.

                  1. re: davina

                    Then you need to hie your keister up the 14, exit at Pearblossom, and head east. There are at least twenty orchards between the 14 and the San Bernardino County line. Tenerelli Orchards, for example, where I buy my peaches.

                    Not to mention that Los Angeles County -- the Valley in particular -- is the #1 producer of honey in the state.

                    It depends on what your definition of "local" is -- a few hours away is still local, especially when you know that the produce was picked the night before.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      Tennerelli also sells peaches in season at the HFM.

                      1. re: JudiAU

                        And Glendale.

                2. re: ipse dixit

                  Wow! Who crowned you expert?

                  I lived in Monterey CA for a dozen years and found both farmers' markets there incredible values featuring lots of organic stuff unavailable even in the best markets in town: cardoons, long beans, gai lan, baby lettuces sorted by type (frisee, red oak leaf, etc) rather than blended together, bears head mushrooms, huge bunches of organic purple basil, etc.

                  Of course, there were stands set up by growers (or maybe even retailers) that didn't feature local organic produce, but it was easy to tell the difference.

                  I have noticed that other farmers' markets don't always have that variety or quality, but I certainly would never judge all farmers' markets based upon one or two bad experiences.

                  ed

                  1. re: ipse dixit

                    Not sure where you shop, but there is no "supposed" about it at the certified farmer's markets in Los Angeles. For instance, last summer I visited the Weyser family farm, and saw firsthand their operation, so I have no doubt they are (a) local, (b) family owned, (c) committed to growing unusual/heirloom varieties unavailable elsewhere, (d) that they grow their products in a sustainable way, and (e) that they get them to market when the products are at their peak freshness.

                    I for one have had excellent experiences buying produce from this and other local vendors at my farmer's market (Hollywood Market on Sundays) and have no qualms about paying a little more for something that I know is fresh, locally and sustainably grown. YMMV.

                  2. That sounds like a lot more than I'd pay in L.A....but raw cream is going to be expensive everywhere.

                    1. I added the prices of what I usually pay for your list at my grocery stores, Ralphs, Gelsons, and TJ's. My total was $39.32 for everything on your list.
                      Have you tried the Calabasas Farmers Market on Saturday? I haven't been in a while, but I seem to remember their prices being a bit more resonable.

                      1. m
                        Morton the Mousse

                        You've raised an interesting question.

                        Most Americans have a skewed concept of what food "should" cost. Due to federally subsidized industrial agriculture, modern Americans spend a smaller proportion of out income on food than our contemporaries in any first world country. Of course, there are many external consequences of our "low cost" food production system: war in Iraq, pollution, near slave conditions for farm workers, a public health crisis, high taxes, the list goes on...

                        The prices at a Farmers' Market tend to reflect more "normal" prices when compared to other countries.
                        Personally, I think it's "worth it." The quality is almost always superior, the food is more nutrituious, and you are supporting a more ethical, humane and environmentally positive method of food production.
                        When you look at the whole picture, in terms of your health, the world's health, and the quality of your meal, supermarket produce is the real rip off.

                        Of course, for some families an $80 trip to the Farmers' Market is simply unaffordable. If that is the case, you should look into a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in you area. CSAs offer a more economical approach to supporting farms. As the farmer has more direct control over distribution and consumption patterns, his/her bottom line decreases and the cost of produce goes down. A "box" containing enough produce for a week ranges in price from $20 to $30. I suggest that you return to your local market, seek out the stands with the best stuff and inquire about CSAs.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Morton the Mousse
                          m
                          Morton the Mousse

                          That said, after crunching numbers those prices do seem high. At my local FM that much food would have cost between $50 and $60.

                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                            I couldn't have said it better myself. For all those reasons, plus the fact that a farmers' market is much more fun than a supermarket, I shop at farmers' markets as much as I can. Plus, if you live in a big city or other area with a high cost of living, farmers' markets tend to be much cheaper than national supermarkets. The only places to find cheaper produce are ethnic markets.

                            Having said that, I do try very hard to keep myself under control when at the farmers' market. I only buy what's cheapest, because that's what's in season. To me, going to a farmers' market and buying what's out of season defeats the purpose--which to me is to support sustainable, local, small/family farms.

                            Last week, I hauled away more than I could carry for $15 (not my entire grocery bill, of course, but it was at least half of what the two of us needed for the week, which means at $90 I would have had way too much or could really have splurged):

                            15 lb. sack of ruby red grapefruit (easily over a dozen big fruits)
                            an artichoke the size of a football
                            1 lb. purple baby artichokes
                            1 bunch asparagus
                            1 qt. raw whole milk
                            1 lb. strawberries
                            1 bunch each of parsley, oregano, and sweet basil
                            1 sack of lettuce for my rabbit (complimentary with herb purchase, I just filled up a bag with the clean trimmings the farmers don't want)

                            The herbs and baby artichokes went into a big pot of pasta, the other vegetables were sides for various meals, we've been eating plenty of fruit all week, and our rabbit is very very happy.

                          2. s
                            sally from LA

                            Given your list, it does seem expensive - I estimate I'd be paying ~ $40-$50 at the South Pas farmers market for the same items. If you can't get the same range and quality at local stores, then it's still worth it, as long as you can afford it!

                            1. That's pretty expensaive for what amounts to a large salad, some herbs and flowers. I can't figure what you spent all the money on. Even the cream shouldn't be that much. I buy fresh local produce every week at my farmers market in Trenton, NJ and pay nowhere near those prices. I get into trouble when I go to the gourmet specialty store and start buying all of those wonderful imported and US micro cheeses.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Ellen

                                ditto. I find the farmer's market to generally be LESS expensive than what I would pay in a grocery store for the same quality product.

                                I bet the herbs ran up the total....a good reason to grow your own.

                                Indeed, it is cheese that's breaking me.

                              2. You bought items that you wanted and you paid the going price for them at that market. Only you can choose to feel "ripped off". Everything has a different value to different people. To some $10 for raw cream is a great value since it is not easily found elsewhere. To someone who doesn't value raw cream theymight you were "ripped off". Same with the price you paid for the irises. I personally love fresh flower and my irises have not bloomed yet so to me they spund like a good value. My husband on the other had thinks I am crazy to buy flowers that I will have in abundance later in the season. Any price paid would be a "rip off" to him.

                                My point is you will pay what the market supports. If that farmer is successful at that market he/she will continue to charge what if he feels he can get. If you think they are too expensive tell them and don't buy it. If you are the only one chances are the prices won't change and that the majority think the prices are "fair". But if farmer feels the pinch the prices will be adjusted accordingly. No use having buyers remorse after the fact.

                                1. Your shopping basked does not offer good value but let's take a look at mine. Do you think it offers good value? I do.

                                  We shop weekly at Sunday FM in Hollywood. The prices are identical or better to other high quality organic produce available in the city. The produce is fresher, tastes much better, and in my opinion, is much healthier than that available elsewhere.

                                  I am not sure how you managed to spend $80 on the items listed but some items like the raw cream and flowers are red herrings. I also, frankly, don't think you are shopping well because you didn't take advantage of what is great in the market right now, with the exception of that raw cream, which is fabulous. That raw cream btw-- is cheaper at the FM than at supermarkets. It is a simply an expensive product.

                                  Shopping at the FM is like shopping anywhere-- rarity and seasonality effect the price and shopping well means paying attention to pricing, availability, condition, organic vs. unorganic, variety, etc. etc. Your shopping basket is not representative of the seasonality or value available at the market right now.

                                  For instance, pre-washed mixed baby greens are a luxury item whether you buy them at the store or TJs. The difference is that the ones at FM taste good and won't rot in two days. Head lettuce is cheaper and lasts longer still. You can enjoy the best organic produce-- the same stuff the best restaurants in city use-- by shopping carefully within a budget. It doesn't have to be expensive.

                                  California has had a lot of rain this year that has pushed back spring crops so we are still getting early spring items and strawberries, for instance, haven't hit their stride yet. Buying seasonally gives you the best produce with the best flavor at the best price. Right now green garlic, squash blossoms, spring onions, fava beans, pixie tangerines, English peas are abundant and cheap. The artichokes at the market have hearts twice as large as supermarkets for the same price. Strawberries are still expensive but the quality will jump up and the price will go down in another couple of weeks. Apricots are still delayed. Blood oranges are still around and avocados will peak soon. Farmer's grow what they can sell and make a profit on so certain items are never a good choice (celery, green onions) because the growers can't begin to compete with imports from Mexico so they generally don't bother. Finally, tomatoes are still out of season so the ones you bought were probably hothouse grown which increased the cost. Good Food on KCRW has a weekly "market report" which helps track seasonality.

                                  We spent almost exactly $90 at the market yesterday and this is what we bought and how I think it broke down cost wise. You'll notice that I, too, have a lot of luxury ingredients in my shopping basket. We normally spend closer to $40-50 at the market. But I am on vacation and have a chance to entertain this week so I splurged on lots of seasonal goodies. If the price on something is high like my chicken or those shelled peas it isn't because I am a fool-- it is because it is absolutely worth it.

                                  $1 bag of organic spinach- super tasty version about 6 oz. ($1 vs. $3 at grocery store)
                                  $2 1/2 pd. Crimini mushrooms
                                  $16 1 pd. wild morel mushrooms in perfect condition--the only place to buy them if you don't want them to taste desiccated dirt
                                  $2 1 bunch lamb's lettuce-- grown by one farmer and the only place to buy
                                  $2 1 bunch purslane--grown by one farmer and the only place to buy
                                  $1 3 heads of mature garlic, with huge cloves and easy to peel
                                  $1 3 large grey shallots, tastier than pink
                                  $2 3 sweet Maui-style sweet onions
                                  $2 2 yellow onions
                                  $4 2 pounds of fava beans
                                  $6 One bag of shelled English peas, equivalent to about 30 minutes of labor and 3 pds of peas, a major luxury
                                  $6 1 pint amazing organic blueberries that are the closest to wild you can get in California, a major luxury because there are few growers and no competition, but these are really special
                                  $16 1 organic, free range chicken which I think is the absolute tastiest available in Southern California
                                  $1 1 bunch of parsley
                                  $1 1 bunch of chervil
                                  $4 12 squash blossoms
                                  $4 Pint of blood orange juice
                                  $1 blood oranges for garnish
                                  $4 meyer lemons
                                  $2 avocado
                                  $2 cavolo nero
                                  $4 2 bunch nantes carrots- exquisite
                                  $2 actual new potatoes- delicious-- grown by one farmer and the only place to buy
                                  $10 2 pds. Free range bison stew meat-- low in fat, deep in flavor, cheaper than whole foods

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                    We have a two person household but entertain frequently. We have a stocked pantry and some leftovers from the weekend but if something has to be purchased I've noted that as well. We don't have a set menu for the week but after reviewing what we purchased we will probably serve it in the following way.

                                    Sunday Dinner for 6

                                    Blood Orange Cocktails (blood orange juice, compari, vodka)

                                    Tempura squash blossoms filled with ricotta, mint, parsley, and anchovy served with a little marinara enriched with white wine and olive oil

                                    Handmade bavette pasta with English peas, fava beans, morel mushrooms, cream, and bacon

                                    Banana cake with chocolate ganache (buy bananas- $3)

                                    Monday Lunch (leftover pasta)

                                    Monday Dinner for 2

                                    Spinach and Lamb's lettuce salad with peas, favas, and pecorino

                                    Lamb-which with rare lamb, caramelized onions, piquillo peppers, and Dijon mustard (leftover leg of lamb from weekend from half organic lamb we buy, $6/pd, buy baguette $2)

                                    Tuesday Lunch (soup out of a can at my desk)

                                    Tuesday Dinner for 4

                                    Blood Orange Cocktails (blood orange juice, compari, vodka)

                                    Wild salad greens with champagne vinegar dressing, chervil, and avocado

                                    "Zuni" chicken with roasted carrots, new potatoes, and sautéed cavlo nero

                                    Meyer Lemon Tart with Blueberries

                                    Wednesday Lunch (leftovers)

                                    Wednesday Dinner for 2

                                    Pizza with pork sausage (from half organic pig we buy at $2/pd) spinach, crimini, morel mushrooms

                                    Thursday Lunch (bacon wrapped hotdog from street vendor $3)

                                    Thursday Dinner- eat out- probably vegetarian Ethiopian $25 for 2

                                    Friday Lunch (probably treat myself to omakase sushi lunch at Kiriko $35 for 1)

                                    Friday Dinner for 6

                                    Goat Cheese soufflés with cornmeal and walnut crust, microgreen salad dressed with walnut oil (TJs- $4)

                                    Bison carbonnade a la Julia Child served with home made spaeztle, roasted carrots, parsley

                                    Friends bringing dessert

                                    Weekend? Who knows.

                                    Frankly-- I think that is good value.

                                    1. re: JudiAU

                                      Thanks, JudiAU. You are killing me but post like these are why I stick around. I think I need to take a week off to do some serious cooking/eating.

                                    2. re: JudiAU

                                      Hey, I like your shopping list!!! Are those chickens good then??? I saw them at the Hollywood market a couple weeks ago and wondered. And I know this is blasphemy!!!, but right now, I think the Hollywood Sunday market has better stuff than Santa Monica Wed, better berries, and more variety. The Santa Monica growers don't seem to have hit the upswing into summer that I expect by now.

                                      1. re: ciaolette

                                        I actually stopped eating chicken if I had a choice a few years ago. It was so boring, flabby, mealy, and tasteless that I would eat pretty much anything else. Plus, production is vile.

                                        My husband, who loves roast chicken, was always trying to sneak one into the rotation. He got a little traction on the kosher organic but it was only when we discovered the Kendor Farms chicken that it stuck. They are really good. Firm-fleshed, tender meat, and great flavor.

                                        We salt them on Sunday ala Zuni and generally eat it on Tuesday. Several of our friends have figured out the schedule and we get a lot of people who want to get together with us on chicken night.

                                      2. re: JudiAU

                                        I have to say, though, I met a lady at the Studio City Sunday market who kept insisting that it wasn't time for cherries yet because the host of Good Food said they were delayed... but there were cherries all over the market, and some of them were actually very good.

                                        (Remember the time a few years ago the farmers all decided they had to be first to the market with cherries, and they all tasted like wood? That was a dark year indeed... the lesson has been learned by farmers and consumers alike.)

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          But they are going to get REALLY good...

                                          1. re: JudiAU

                                            I can't wait... I've got my clafoutis pan ready!

                                        2. re: JudiAU

                                          "$16 1 pd. wild morel mushrooms "

                                          Would you mind confirming that price?
                                          $16 per POUND of fresh wild morels seems way too low.

                                          TIA!

                                          1. re: RicRios

                                            I think they are actually $32 per lb at the Hollywood market.

                                        3. The big Farmer's Market at Union Square in NY changed everything. A lot of very good restaurants opened nearby, so the chefs could prowl the market at 7 AM and select the best. A guy from Pa graduated from Princeton and decided to buy a farm and devote his life to seeking and growing the best heirloom tomatoes. Ditto for a woman in Connecticut, except she raises cows for cheese. I've eaten a lot of great restaurant meals thanks to that farmer's market.

                                          Image: http://miserychick.net/archive/v2/gon...

                                          1. What is with the raw cream?? never saw it here in the east. Why would you want it? isn't it dangerous (assuming it is not pasturized)??? How long does it keep and what do you use it for???

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: emilief

                                              Oh, I would kill for raw cream. Availability in eastern states depends on state rules. Raw milk has much more flavor and is much more digestible than pasteurized, homogenized milk (I have family who are severely lactose intolerant but handle unhomogenized milk very well; something about the homogenization process makes it more difficult to digest milk for them). For people with weakened immune systems, it's not to be recommended, but human beings ate raw milk for millennia. Has to be properly handled to reduce risks, and risks there are, but there are risks with everything. I myself would prefer to have a choice in the matter.

                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                Karl,
                                                There is a vendor at Union Sq. market who sells raw milk products. Not sure he carries cream, but he does carry milk, buttermilk and 3 kinds of cheeses. I'm hooked on his cheeses. Unfortunately, I'm always either too late or not going straight home to buy fresh raw milk - I'd kill for some raw milk - I grew up drinking freshly milked still warm out of cow milk, mmmmmm...

                                              2. re: emilief

                                                On the raw milk issue, when refrigeration was not common, oh, like 80 years ago, pasteurization (basically, cooking the milk) was a necessity for health and safety reasons. Today, this is no longer necessary, because freshly drawn milk can be refrigerated immediately. Raw milk is far tastier and healthier for you than pasteurized milk (which kills important enzymes, proteins and vitamins in the milk, which is why most milk you see in the supermarket has all kinds of vitamins, etc. added to it).

                                                On a very basic level, raw milk taste better.

                                                However, raw milk is still treated with suspicion in some states. Fortunately in CA we can get it at most Whole Foods markets and the like.

                                                The link below has information about where you can find raw milk in your state, and more detailed information on the debate between raw v. pasteurization.

                                                Link: http://www.realmilk.com/

                                                1. re: emilief

                                                  Here at the LA area farmers market we have a supplier called Organic Pastures. Their products are amazing. I don't buy the cream often, but when I do it makes the MOST AMAZING creme fraiche ....
                                                  and with strawberry season apon us, I can see some good uses for whipped cream
                                                  They also sell true kefir, which is bubbly and fermented like beer. I think they sell lots to the Iranian, and Armenian market goers, it is similar also to a traditional middle eastern drink.... I like to blend it up with berries and honey, but my husband thinks it is awful...

                                                  1. re: emilief

                                                    I love the stuff and on special occasions I will splurge for it. It is expensive because the farmer's are very careful with their cows (environment/diet/milking) and at least in CA, the state absolutely plagues them with paperwork and tests. Organic Pastures posts weekly bacteria counts on their websites and you can imagine what that costs.

                                                    Link: http://www.organicpastures.com/labtests/

                                                  2. Looking at your list, and then comparing it to prices at two of my favorite local FM's, I'd say you got ripped pocketbook-wise but then you did see the prices prior to picking each item and paying the vendor...

                                                    I wouldn't say that shopping for produce (and flowers) at the local FM is a rip, though. If you're thinking an $80 is too cost-prohibitive to do every week, then hit more booths and price-compare.

                                                    At one FM, Van Groningen & Sons - Escalon (URL: http://www.vgandson.com ) provide THE BEST melons I've ever enjoyed! I'd happily pay 3X's the cost of Safeway or Albertson's. (Reality, though, shows I pay the same.
                                                    )
                                                    BTW: Every vendor at both certified farmers' markets are local growers or bakers. It's well-worth supporting them year-round. I also enjoy the "steals and deals" towards closing times.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: The Ranger

                                                      Thank for wording that so well, everything you said was what I was thinking. My only addition is along the lines of the deals and steals subject, several friends of mine have actually established a rapport with their favorite vendors and have enjoyed even more savings.

                                                      1. re: Tracy L.

                                                        > [..] "establishing rapport for greater savings..."

                                                        Heck yeah!

                                                        I hit pretty much the same booths every week. If they're looking like they don't want to pack it up and put it away, I'll ask and they'll usually wheel-and-deal. Cash always gets me the best deal, although two will allow me to write checks "after hours."

                                                        Sometimes getting to the Vallco Farmers' Market can backfire badly. I ended up missing several vendors and not getting much produce one week because it was the first rain-free days. I had to adjust my menu for that night. (G)

                                                    2. I have noticed the downtown Portland market getting more expensive as it becomes more of a tourist spot, but I still find it cheaper than someplace like Whole Foods. That, and the quality is amazing. Of course I seem to end up blowing my budget on baked goods and cheese.
                                                      I read a lot of responses from CA. Don't you guys have U-Pick places down there? We have quite a few in OR and go throughout the summer to pick blueberries, peaches, flowers... everything except blackberries which grow like weeds and you can get all you can eat for free on the side of the road. U-Pick is a terrific bargain and an easy activity for kids. Just wondering.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Morgan

                                                        LA County is huge and urbanized. You'd have to go a long way to get to a U-pick type farm. Besides you'd have to hit different farms for different produce, rather than have many varieties at the same place.

                                                        1. re: Morgan

                                                          In the LA area we do have some upick stone fruits, cherries and apricots, and apples, but all over an hours drive. Yes it is fun, and nice for an outing, but impractical on a weekly basis.

                                                        2. I think I would have paid about $40 for what you bought, without the cream (never bought raw cream, no idea about the price). Of course, prices vary depending on the season (strawberries are more costly when they are just starting to ripen locally, and then there is a glut, and you can buy as many as you want very cheaply).

                                                          I like the farmers' market because I am now a city person who used to be a small town person with a garden. The freshness of the market approaches what I could get growing my own, and I appreciate it. But I also generally feel that I am paying about the same or less than at the supermarket, for much better quality.

                                                          I'm guessing that some farmers' markets are priced higher than others, based on the area (distance to the farm and what they think the customers will pay). When I lived in Madison, WI, and shopped at a small neighborhood market, I used to feel I should offer some of the small farmers more than they were asking, everything was so cheap. They probably drove less than half an hour to the market. In Chicago, where I live now, half an hour gets you nowhere.

                                                          I do find it a little humorous that the farm/garden fresh fruits and vegetables that I took for granted in my childhood are now so trendy. The "sourcing" for the tomatoes of my childhood (and for lots of noncity people now) is "outside the kitchen door". Even in the city, I have basil (two kinds), oregano, dill, cilantro and parsley in my garden right now.

                                                          1. Most of my experience of Farmers' Markets have been at Detroit's Eastern Market and various farmers' markets in the cities and towns in southern and eastern Ontario and Quebec. The quality has been really outstanding and many of the farmers have been very helpful.

                                                            In Detroit, which attracts farmers from Southeastern Michigan and Southwestern Ontario, has many farmers on Saturdays that raise fresh herbs and who would grow herbs for my commercial kitchen back in the time when fresh herbs were not available in local supermarkets.

                                                            As for the price, generally the prices charges were LESS expensive that the local supermarket chains on both sides of the border. Cash only of course. At the end of the day (after 3pm as vendors wanted to head home, prices would drop substantially.

                                                            I will be the first to admit that when I head out west, I get sticker shock at some of the prices being charged to consumers. But then, I am not willing to pay over $2.50/lb for apples and the like when I can get them off the tree for well under half the price.

                                                            Reading over your list, I would expect to pay about $30 max excluding the cream. I get all the cream that I need from our farm.

                                                            1. Yesterday we went to the Hollywood Farmer's Market, specifically for strawberries. We bought:

                                                              3 baskets of Gaviota strawberries from Harry's Berries - $11

                                                              1 Fuerte avocado and 1 Pinkerton avocado - $3.00

                                                              3 Japanese cucumbers - $1.75

                                                              maybe 6 oz. unwashed mesclun & arugula (Kenter) - under $2.00, forget exact amount

                                                              1 lb. sugar snap peas - $4.00

                                                              We also ate a lovely pupusa breakfast - 1 cheese/chicken pupusa for my husband, 1 cheese/squash/mushroom pupusa for me, 1 bottle of water - $5.00.

                                                              I know I can get Hass avocados for less but I wanted to try other varieties.

                                                              The strawberries were a slight splurge but they are fabulous. The Seascapes from Harry's Berries didn't taste nearly as good, maybe they're not quite in yet. I didn't go with a specific list other than strawberries. I can be indecisive about what I want to cook and maybe I should have gotten some artichokes as they looked good but I wasn't inspired. I was pretty happy with what we bought and think it was a good value for money spent.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Debbie W.
                                                                a
                                                                Amuse Bouches

                                                                I got a huge purple artichoke at the Pasadena Farmer's Market a couple of weeks ago. At $3.50, it was probably the single most expensive artichoke I've ever bought. On the other hand, it was the best artichoke I've ever tasted.

                                                                1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                  $3.50 is worth it for a giant artichoke. There were some green ones yesterday in Hollywood that, I swear, were almost as big as basketballs with stems about 8" long! The Barry Bonds of the artichoke world.

                                                                  1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                    $3.50 is a small price to pay for a grand luxury that tastes great! Indulge yourself in wonderful artichokes, what a great vice.
                                                                    For a sobering aside: much of the rest of America wouldn't blink at $3.50 for a cup of mall/chain coffee in a paper cup. For the same money, you bought a real treat. Enjoy!

                                                                2. Well, you don't say which of that stuff is organic, so it's hard to say because that stuff is often 2-3 times conventional produce prices. The produce we get at this time of year in NYC is different, but that seems awfully high to me. (I can't speak to the raw cream - raw dairy can only be sold AT the dairy here in NYS.)

                                                                  On the whole, our main farmers' market prices are suprisingly (and pleasantly) comparable to supermarkets and even some less expensive alternatives.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: MikeG

                                                                    PS: Not for everything - things like meat can be 2-3x prices from other "organic" or "natural" sources and I have no idea what stuff like goat's milk sells for - I was basically thinking of produce

                                                                  2. Am I missing something? I thought part of the attraction of the FM was eliminating the middle man and buying direct from the farmer. I haven't gone to an FM yet this year, but in the past I've done better at the FM than at my grocery store, whether the produce was organic or not.

                                                                    1. You buy some of the same things I do, except I go to the Studio City market on Sundays... so here we go:

                                                                      1) 1/2 lb of mixed greens lettuce - $6.00
                                                                      2) 1/2 lb of baby spinach - $6.00 if bought at the lettuce vendors, $1 if bought at the Asian vegetable vendors
                                                                      3) Small bunch of fresh dill - $0.75
                                                                      4) Small bunch of fresh cilantro - $1.00
                                                                      5) Small bunch of fresh chives - $1.00
                                                                      5) Three fuji apples - about a pound? $2.00
                                                                      6) Three small bunches of purple irises ( 15 flowers total)
                                                                      7) Pint of Raw Cream
                                                                      8) One Baguette - $2.50
                                                                      9) One box of strawberries - $3.50
                                                                      10) 4 white onions - $1.50
                                                                      11) 1 box of grape tomatoes - $4.00 (not in season yet!)
                                                                      12) 1 head of celery - $1.00
                                                                      13) 1 bunch of green onions - $1.00

                                                                      Not including the flowers (which I never buy) or the cream (which is unavailable at Studio City), that's $30.25. If the cream was $10 as you said and the flowers were $9 for 15 stems, you're now at $49.25. Did you buy any prepared food? Perhaps you left something out?

                                                                      My week's shopping at Studio City:

                                                                      Quart blackberries: $3
                                                                      Overflowing pint strawberries: $3.50
                                                                      Quart cherries: $5 (not quite season but they were good!)
                                                                      2 clusters (2 lbs.) hothouse tomatoes: $5
                                                                      Large head red oak lettuce: $2
                                                                      Large head butter lettuce: $1.50
                                                                      3 huge heads garlic: $1.00
                                                                      3 enormous bunches mature spinach: $2.50
                                                                      1 large bunch (10 bulbs) cipollini: $2.00
                                                                      3 onions: $1.00
                                                                      1 large bunch basil: $1.00
                                                                      1 lb. raisins: $3.00
                                                                      Bacon, egg and cheese on whole wheat bread: $4.00

                                                                      TOTAL: $34.50

                                                                      It was so much I had to pause and put down the (cloth) bags so they wouldn't cut my hands... so I can't imagine spending $90 unless I were buying apples for one of my enormous skillet pies... or truffles, or a pound and a half of morels...

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                        Excuse me, I meant $80... brain must engage with fingers!

                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                          You said it much more diplomatically than I could have. Thank you.

                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                            ooh! skillet pie! can you post the recipe on home cooking? :-)

                                                                          2. I'm a huge farmer's market geek and proponent, but your total sounds pricey for what you got. I used to shop at the Burbank market when I lived in LA and never spent that kind of $ for my goods. Things are even cheaper or better value up here in Santa Cruz since we have so much farmland nearby.

                                                                            Of course, I'm selective about what I buy and when. I always make one full round w/o buying anything to compare quality, selection, and pricing. I then hone in on my purchases and have become enough of a regular to know where to go for what.

                                                                            I also usually don't buy the "first" of anything...it's usually more pricey and not at its best. Haven't bought any peaches or cherries yet, but did splurge on my first basket of organic strawberries this season. Glad I did, but can't wait for them to get even better.

                                                                            Only you can decide if your $80 was well spent. If everything tasted full of flavor and life and you beautified your house w/ fresh cut flowers, then heck, sounds good enough to me...

                                                                            1. I shop at the Northridge Fashion Center Farmer's Market and I can't imagine paying that much for what you got.

                                                                              I usually get 2-3 bunches of herbs (cilantro, parsley, dill), 1/2 lb of spring mix, a bunch of asparagus, 2-3 bunches of green onions, a couple avocados, 3-4 apples, 3-4 asian pears, a loaf of jalepeno cheese bread, a basket of strawberries, and a couple other things like kettle corn, plums, a glass of lemonade or things like that (varies week to week). I don't think I've ever spent more than $25, and even that is a high estimate.

                                                                              1. I shop at the Farmers Markets here in Sacramento and I get tons of wonderful produce (and flowers) for 30.00 bucks. I love to go the outdoor market. I meet lots of really great people, enjoy the sun, and save money. I must say....the best Farmers Market I've ever been to is the one in Portland. I wish we had one like that here. Maybe one day.

                                                                                1. My Farmers Market in Baltimore is well worth it.

                                                                                  But those numbers seem REALLY high.

                                                                                  1. In Santa Monica, that would cost me about $60 (I assumed $25 for the flowers, but I don't really know what irises cost).

                                                                                    1. Come to my booth next year during asparagus season...one pound will only cost you $20. You got taken. That assortment should not have cost more than $25.

                                                                                      1. When I go produce shopping at a farmer's market I make it the SF Civic Center market - there I am supporting local smallish farmers but I am not usually buying organic. If I wanted to pay the scary premium for organic I would buy at the SF Ferry Building farmer's market. The difference is that at the non-organic one the prices are often about a quarter of what I'd pay at a supermarket, up to maybe 75 percent of supermarket prices - with at least as good, if not significantly better quality. The Ferry Building organic produce will be several times more expensive than the supermarket. When I shop at the non-organic farmer's market I spend about $30 for all I can carry home on foot and public transportation - about 35 pounds: backpack and 2 shopping bags full. It comes out to about a week and a half's produce for 2 people. If I shopped at the Ferry Building organic stands I bet that much food would cost me a couple of hundred dollars. As my 80 something mom says, "If regular food hasn't killed me yet, it never will."