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May 22, 2006 11:57 AM

Farmer's Markets, Rip off or Worth it?

  • d

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 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
                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.


                  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.