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Farmers Markets : A massive rip-off?

I've just come home reeling from my local farmer's market in South London.. I don't usually go but I suddenly had an urge to get a pork pie so I went down on my bike.

Now this market (as many are) is in a pretty gentrified part of town, meaning the prices are ridiculous. I thought the famers market movement was meant to cut out the middle man, delivering high quality fresh produce direct to the public.

For example, I bought a couple of sausasges (admittedly fairly big ones), but costing £2.73 - Thats almost $6 for 2 sasuages! I kind of handed over the money without really thinking but afterwards thought - "what sort of mug pays that price for a couple of sausages?" They weren't anything special, and you can buy decent (if not better) quality sausages for half the price in a supermarket or butchers.

The afformentioned pork pie cost £3.50 ($7!) for a small, 150 gram pie. The equivalent premium product in a supermarket cost £1. Now im not doubting that the artisan product in the market is superior to the supermarket version, but is it really worth such a mark up?

My feeling is that there are too many "foodie" suckers out there who are willing to succumb to daylight robbery in order to satisfy their food snob egos..

Anyone else feel the same?

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  1. The short answer is yes. I find the biggest rip-off to be baked goods. They are often so beautiful but when you get them home are average at best. One FM in Blacksburg, VA does have some great salsa and pasta sauces, but they are very much the exception in my experience. I think it's easy to get caught up in the spirit of the Farmer's Market.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Janet from Richmond

      I find this to be generally true as well. I usually avoid the prepared foods. But the one exception I make is the bread I have been getting at a little farmer's market in Flemington NJ. I believe the company is called Sunrise and the bread is really good. Not cheap, but very good.

    2. The one at Union Square in Manhattan is expensive for some things, not for others. Herbs and beautiful tomatoes right now are cheaper than in the stores I usually frequent. However, it is a source of things that I can't find elsewhere - for example, yesterday I bought the most aromatic, sweet, overflowing pint of tiny strawberries for $4.00, as well as tiny new potatoes that I scraped, boiled and tossed with butter and mint a la Simon Hopkinson for dinner. Both were amazing, and worth the price. I also buy fresh eggs, which make the most perfect poached eggs, etc. There is also a vendor that makes a golden raspberry jam the color of a great rose champagne - $7.00 for a smallish jar, but a lovely treat. I agree w/ the other poster about baked goods generally - I've not had much luck with my couple of tries of those.

      1. our local Farmers' Market in Delray Beach is supposed to be organic and all the stores advertise it as such. However, a few weeks ago I saw the stallholder top his rustic basket on his table with broccoli from a box hidden underneath which was just regular California broccoli. And I do not believe he was just using the box for storage! It was too much of a coincidence.

        2 Replies
        1. re: smartie

          yep, so called 'food fraud' has become a big problem here in the UK, ever since organic food became trendy. Not only in farmers markets, but also in the more "reputable" retailers.

          1. re: foreignmuck

            Some vendors have gotten kicked out of the market I referred to above for selling things they didn't produce, etc.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/30/din...

        2. I'll refrain from passing any value judgment on London itself.

          "I thought the famers market movement was meant to cut out the middle man, delivering high quality fresh produce direct to the public."

          It is--if you buy fresh produce, not processed meat nor baked goods--you'll generally find prices more reasonable. As you mentioned, you could also go to one in a less gentrified area, where prices will be lower.

          And the beauty of a farmers market, for me, is the variety of vendors. Some of them are overpriced, and some of them sell crappy products--I don't buy from them.

          1. It's important to check to make sure the seller is also the producer of the goods you are buying. Some Farmers markets allow sales of "regular" grocery store produce. That's not what I go to the Greenmarket for!

            The baked goods I have bought at Greenmarket are generally high quality and tasty, but I don't buy more than a cookie or a scone, because I make my own baked goods.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ChefJune

              Here in Portland Oregon our market was rated as among the top five such in the nation by Eating Well magazine. So I've no complaints. For a little bit more than I would pay in the supermarket (and usually for less than Whole Foods) I get far far superior produce by freshness, quality, selection, and varieties I'll never see at a supermarket. http://www.portlandfarmersmarket.org/
              Sure there are vendors who aren't so great. I have come to reply upon and trust the good ones, as with any business relationship anywhere.

              No one would survive selling CA broccoli for example. Not only would no one buy it, but the vendors would be promptly kicked out by market management. They may sell a small amount of a fellow farmers' product but there are strict limits and they must disclose it, and it too must be local and farm-direct.

              Our leading bakers, cheesemakers, etc, sell product too, and charge exactly what they do in their own shops. No ripoffs in my opinion. I get what I pay for.

              1. re: Leonardo

                "Our leading bakers, cheesemakers, etc, sell product too, and charge exactly what they do in their own shops. No ripoffs in my opinion. I get what I pay for."

                My bakery has been part of our local Farmers' Market for the two years it's been in existence. We are not allowed to charge more than we do in the store (which is diagonally across the street, conveniently), nor are we allowed to sell for lower prices than in the store. Market management is always on the lookout for anything like "sale" prices or mark-ups, which are strictly not allowed. Having said that, I find the prices for the gorgeous produce to be exorbitant. I have no doubt that it's all organic and local (and beautiful!) but so, so expensive. I try to buy a little something each week for a treat, but there's no way I could do my weekly produce shopping at the market. For people with big food budgets I'm sure it's a good thing, but $3.00 for a cucumber? Come on. A little too pricey for me.