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Farmers Markets : A massive rip-off?

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foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 06:11 AM

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. j
    Janet from Richmond RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 06:32 AM

    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
      flourgirl RE: Janet from Richmond Aug 19, 2008 05:36 AM

      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. MMRuth RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 06:36 AM

      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. s
        smartie RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 07:15 AM

        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
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          foreignmuck RE: smartie Aug 17, 2008 07:23 AM

          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
            MMRuth RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 07:39 AM

            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. x
          xanadude RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 07:43 AM

          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. ChefJune RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 08:00 AM

            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
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              Leonardo RE: ChefJune Aug 17, 2008 08:39 AM

              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
                Catskillgirl RE: Leonardo Aug 17, 2008 10:48 AM

                "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.

            2. greedygirl RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 08:32 AM

              Where did you go? Clapham?

              I don't bother much with farmer's markets these days. I get an organic veg box, and go to my local butcher/fishmonger/deli for most other things. I used to be a Borough market devotee, back in the day, but it's a tourist trap these days.

              I agree with MMR on this though - some things can be good value. Cheese, for example, and some vegetables. I also like artisan chutneys and mustards etc, which are produced in small quantities.

              3 Replies
              1. re: greedygirl
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                foreignmuck RE: greedygirl Aug 17, 2008 08:48 AM

                yes, Clapham.
                The stalls were very thin on the ground, but probably because its the summer and people are away.

                Borough market is more of a food theme park than a market these days to be honest...

                1. re: foreignmuck
                  greedygirl RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 09:05 AM

                  Go to Lidl instead - they're selling Iberico Chorizo at the moment for a fiver.

                2. re: greedygirl
                  MMRuth RE: greedygirl Aug 17, 2008 01:34 PM

                  Oh - I forgot about the cheese - there are several I love from two different producers.

                  Shushan Snow is a favorite of ours - a sheeps milk cheese similar to a camembert - and it's about $10 for a small round of it - my husband was mad at me for not buying two yesterday - I thought he was joking when he asked for two!

                  http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/th...
                  http://www.dairysheepfarm.com/cheese....

                  Last night I made a salad with thyme-roasted beets (from market), slices of the cheese, toasted walnuts and arugula. Divine. Then those potatoes with a steak, then the strawberries and whipped cream for dessert.

                3. c
                  cstr RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 08:54 AM

                  Spot On! I think most farmers markets are a licence for robbery. Most stands have the same vegies etc. that your local mega-mart has and are usually more expensive. I also thought the farmers markets were supposed to eliminate the middleman and give a better value. If by chance there are local baked things or native grown, I may purchase but, that's it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cstr
                    Vetter RE: cstr Aug 17, 2008 10:08 AM

                    Boy, some of us must be luckier than others. EVERYthing at my local farmer's market is locally baked or grown or made. And to me, the market is about buying things that weren't bred for conventional sale in the store. Heirloom tomatoes and raspberries picked that very morning. Green eggs. Broccoli raab half in flower. Whey fed pork. Etc etc etc.

                    And if I pay extra for the privilege of a pint of oh-so-delicate raspberries that would turn to mush if picked by machine, I'm fine with that! I'm paying for better tasting, more interesting, and organic stuff.

                  2. m
                    ML8000 RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 10:42 AM

                    I think the phrase is "like duh" ...but it depends on which FM you go to.

                    In SF and the Bay Areas there quite a few. Some like the Alemany FM in SF is very reasonable and actually sells many, many items for less then the supermarket. I go to one in Oakland that sells a half flat of strawberries for $8...about 50% less then the store.

                    The expensive FM are real however. The Ferry Plaza FM in SF usually gets tagged for being nuts. Here's something from the Chow Grinder, last installment: http://www.chow.com/grinder/tag/ferry...

                    "Petrini, who had been scheduled to sign copies of his recent book, Slow Food Nation, at the Ferry Building, was cut loose from the event when it was discovered that he had harshed on the Ferry Plaza’s considerable buzz.

                    From the piece:

                    Among other things, [Petrini] called the prices ‘astronomical … boutique-y,’ the market ‘extremely exclusive,’ the farmers ‘all well-to-do college graduates’ and the customers ‘either wealthy or very wealthy … most of whom seemed to be actresses’ who showed off their vegetables ‘like jewels, status symbols.’

                    One young farmer was singled out for confiding that he charged high prices so he could limit his attendance to twice a month, still support his family and spend hours surfing."

                    This caused a bit of a stir in SF but there's a lot of truth to the boutique-y and high prices.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: ML8000
                      rworange RE: ML8000 Aug 18, 2008 01:24 AM

                      Actually you are incorrect. I compared Alabertson's to Ferry Plaza in the same week Ferry Plaza was overall cheaper

                      Ferry Plaza vs. Albertson's (or any supermarket) prices
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/426354

                      Compare Ferry Plaza to Whole Foods and it becomes a downright bargain.

                      Factor into that at a supermarket produce has been hanging around so goes bad quicker. There's no savings if you are throwing rotted produce away.

                      Then there is the issue of how tasteless supermarket produce is.

                      Take a look at any supermarket and then in the same week look at Ferry Plaza. The prices will be lower.

                      There is sampling before you buy at FP and other farmers markets so you are not stuck with some dreck like at supermarkets.

                      Also the variety is so much better. Am I going to find paw paws or pink mushrooms or moon and stars watermelons, etc, etc at supermarkets?

                      At least in the US I just read something that said with farm subsidies that lettuce from the supermarket is really $3 - $4 a head. We just pay the difference in price in taxes.

                      Then there is the cost to the planet ... chemicals, exhausted farmland, farm workers health ... and probably our own health.

                      Hardly a massive ripoff.

                      I don't understand why people don't feel the same way abour restaurants as farmers markets. Why don't people compare a multi-starred Michelan restaurant to McDonalds and complain about being ripped off?

                      Just because a restaurant has lots of stars doesn't necesarily make it good ... there are good and bad restaurants in every price category. The same is true of farmers markets ... there are good ones and bad ones. You can't really generalize. Everyone has different tastes. Some people would like McDonald's more than the chi-chi restaurant. The same is true of farmers markets. Some people just don't care or can't recognize the difference in taste of quality products.

                      You didn't tell the whole Petrini story. Not only was he an out-of-towner who was pretty clueless about the local scene since he made a number of statements that were not factual, he later claimed he was misquoted

                      1. re: rworange
                        m
                        ML8000 RE: rworange Aug 18, 2008 10:46 PM

                        Okay Petrini is a clueless, whiney, non-local...and yet I think his observation that the FPFM is boutique-y and pricey is pretty fair if not spot on.

                        As for comparisons, mainstream supermarkets are a bad sample because they charge outrageous prices for terrible produce.

                        It would be much more interesting to see how FPFM compares to some place like Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, Rockridge or Old Oakland where the produce is in the same range.

                        1. re: ML8000
                          rworange RE: ML8000 Aug 19, 2008 09:38 AM

                          Well, I can tell you absolutely about some of the markets you mention. No price difference at all at Rockridge or Old Oakland. They are many of the same vendors. I can actually break it down vendor by vendor price-wise. Farmers markets are my interest.

                          For the same vendors and the same quality of fruit, the vendors at Ferry Plaza at even a lesser market like El Cerrito charge the same. There is only one exception, the Sunday Fruitvale farmers market. Catalán, I'm pretty sure it is that FP vendor, sells at lower prices ... however ... they sell seconds and fruit that didn't sell at other markets ... the quality is lower.

                          As to boutique-y, Peach Farm started selling at El Cerrito before Ferry Plaza picked them up. They charge the same at both places.

                          The only market that is shockingly lower with same quality, though not the same vendors, is Martinez which might extend to the other markets in Concord and the East Bay by that same group.

                          Um, use a store in SF that is competative with FP, not stores in Berkeley.

                          When gas and bridge tolls are factored in ... and as I've always been reminded about the parking situation ... FP is all about public transportation that is why it doesn't NEED decent parking ... are people expected to Bart then take buses to the two markets you mentioned.

                          That being said, apples, oranges, stone fruit are less at Berkeley Bowl. Melons, tomatoes, heirloom potatoes, many greens and berries are about the same price-wise.

                          BUT .. the fruit isn't the same quality or as fresh. Yes it is very good at BB, just not quite as good. There's a larger variety because it doesn't have to be local.

                          BB also sells Barini olive oil ... at a higher price than FP. Olive oils in the same class as Sciabica & Sons are competative price-wise. When BB was selling Masa Organics rice it was more expensive than at FP. I could tell you a story there but it isn;'t appropriate for a public forum. Acme is no cheaper at BB than at FP. Same prices for Aidell's, Saint Benoit yogurt, Marshall's honey. Even eggs are the same ... you heard me eggs ... when you compare FP's Petaluma Farms to BB's Uncle Eddies.

                          OK, BB has some of the same vendors as FP. For those vendors the prices are the same. So what is it that makes FP 'boutique-y' to you?

                          Is it just based on location? Is San Rafael which is comparable vendor-wise to FP not boutique-y because it is not in a location that tourists mingle with locals?

                          As I say over and over, the majority of people who have that opinon just are not regular shoppers at FP. They focus on the Frog Hollow's and overlook the Petuluma Farms and McGinnis and other like vendors. Over the years, long before FP was in its fancy new location I've gotten to know vendors, their children and even grandchildren, There's nothing boutique-y about these people.

                          I guess I'll christen this the 'Petrini Syndrome' ... making a judgement based on a superficial view.

                          I guess this will motivate me one of these days to visit Alemany, FP, Civic Center, and Berkeley Bowl on one weekend and post a price comparison just to have the figures down on paper, so to speak.

                      2. re: ML8000
                        Ruth Lafler RE: ML8000 Aug 18, 2008 04:25 PM

                        You know, that was a really stupid comment based on a really superficial look at the market. There are lots of farmers at these markets -- even Ferry Plaza -- who aren't "well-to-do college graduates" and lots of customers aren't "wealthy or very wealthy" (with the way the Euro is going, Petrini's probably a lot weathier than most customers at Ferry Plaza) and who don't look like actresses (maybe it's just a cultural thing of people being dressed and groomed differently than Italians). These Slow Food people come across as terrible reverse snobs, especially since they themselves tend to be upper middle class.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                          m
                          ML8000 RE: Ruth Lafler Aug 18, 2008 11:00 PM

                          I agree that many of the Slow Food people come across as reverse snobs and posers. From what I can tell, in many ways, they're probably an off-shoot of the well to do FPFM shopper with a sharper green edge, more money and a touch of new age and euro wannabes. Of course I could be wrong.

                          Despite this I think what they're doing is of value but they're a lot like the hardline Sierra Club members...they can afford to do it, they're a wad a bunch of snobbery involved and often insuffereable. .

                          Despite all of this and knowing little about Petrini...I still think his comment holds water. Compared to the humble, long standing and traditional FM's, like Alemany, FPFM is boutique-y and it's pricey. I mean look at the "presentation" at FPFM...linens, real woven baskets, etc. It's sure is nicer but it's also boutique-y.

                          1. re: ML8000
                            Ruth Lafler RE: ML8000 Aug 18, 2008 11:26 PM

                            I agree that it's boutique-y and pricey, although pricey is still relative when it comes to food: it's expensive compared to mass-produced industrial foodstuffs, but in comparison to other things people spend money on, it's still relatively little. Very few things at the farmer's market -- even Ferry Plaza -- cost as much as, for example, a movie ticket. Or a fancy cocktail. Why is it reasonable to pay $20 for a bottle of wine but pricey to spend that much on five pounds of ripe organic peaches?

                            I think there's a role for "boutique" farmer's markets. It's a place for people who want to put the effort into growing small-scale specialty crops, to experiment, and still make a living. It's also an incubator for trends that trickle down to other markets. Places like Ferry Plaza have shown that there's a market for organics, for heirloom varietals, etc., and that people are willing to pay the kind of prices that make it worthwhile for other, more conventional farmers to plant them, and to bring them to markets instead of selling their crops wholesale. I'd be very, very surprised if someone could prove to me that there aren't more varieties of produce and more organic produce overall at "long-standing, traditional FMs" since Ferry Plaza was established.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              Miss Needle RE: Ruth Lafler Aug 19, 2008 06:50 AM

                              You're very correct that pricey in terms of food is relative. From developed nations, Americans generally spend a smaller percentage of their income on food compared to other countries.

                              Personally, I probably do spend more of my income on groceries than most Americans do. But I also rarely go to movies (we have Netflix), don't have a car, don't buy a lot of clothes and shoes (I had to stop after 30 pairs), etc. I spend my money on my priorities, and groceries happen to be one of them.

                              1. re: Miss Needle
                                emmaroseeats RE: Miss Needle Aug 19, 2008 09:50 AM

                                Right on - Miss Needle! Groceries are one of my priorities as well.

                                1. re: emmaroseeats
                                  Miss Needle RE: emmaroseeats Aug 19, 2008 12:40 PM

                                  Yup. I'll bet that a lot of N. American posters on this board spend a lot more money on groceries and/or restaurant than other people. It was only about five years ago that I ordered basic cable (which seems to be considered a necessity by many).

                                  I know so many people who refuse to spend money on food because they view it as "intangible." I've heard, "Why spend X amount of dollars on a meal when you just poop it out a couple of days later? What a waste! If I spend the X dollars on a dress, then I get a dress out of it" so many times. Living in a small 650 square foot apartment with my husband, I'd rather spend my money on things that won't clutter up my space.

                              2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                m
                                ML8000 RE: Ruth Lafler Aug 19, 2008 09:22 AM

                                Well you got me on the movie ticket comparo. I'd rather spend money on something to eat. I mean how can you beat food as the ultimate multi-tasker...fun, interesting, enlighting, pleasure, cultural
                                and yet you have to eat or you die.

                                Any way, I agree that places like the FPFM and orgs like Slow Food are leading the way to a worthwhile and healthier way of growing and consuming but with that comes a bit of pretense that I don't relate to, although I certainly understand it within a consumption/changemaker context and theory (cutting edge, change agents, early adaptors, trend setters, marketing gurus, mainstream...) The FPFM probably does the best job on organics but then that's related to price and who's buying.

                        2. r
                          RicRios RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 12:17 PM

                          Your comments could apply almost verbatim to Southern California: the Beverly Hills Farmer's Market, Santa Monica FM are egregious examples.
                          However, there are some where not all is shameless robbery: the one on La Cienega Blvd and 18th Street (Los Angeles) , for example.
                          Unfortunately, the high price trendy snobbish wave is now spreading to the CSA ( Community Supported Agriculture) scene as well.

                          1. alanbarnes RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 12:49 PM

                            Can't speak to London, but living in Sacramento, California (the epicenter of the Land of Fruits and Nuts) the farmer's markets are a consistent source for the best, freshest, cheapest produce available. Corn picked yesterday evening. Big bunches of herbs. Squash, cucumbers, stone fruit. And the tomatoes--oh, my God, the tomatoes--yes, the heirloom varieties cost more than the supermarket softballs, but they taste and smell like real tomatoes. And even the commercial hybrids are vine-ripened and delicious.

                            Some things other than produce can also be pretty good. A local bakery brings bread and pastries that are very fresh. An olive grower from just south of here has a stand where he sells oil and humors those who are learning Italian. And there are those who sell cheese, eggs, pork, beef, and seafood. The prices for all these items are higher than what you'd pay for commodity products at the grocery, and typically the same as the full retail price (if the item is available at retail). So no bargain, there, but no rip-off, either.

                            1. c
                              chowmel RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 04:24 PM

                              I think the farmers markets in the Boston area are definately for the well heeled. I can't imagine anyone on a lower income being able to shop at the Arlington or Lexington markets. I go as a treat. Two years ago I joined a csa. Last years was a good deal. This years - again - a lot of money for what you get (and i am taking into account its been a tough year). Those with the money get the best, those without get the rest !

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: chowmel
                                Cheflambo RE: chowmel Aug 17, 2008 05:05 PM

                                I am still laughing at the notion that Beverly Hills has a Farmers Market.

                                Here in Houston we have several farmer's markets and cooperatives, although none (yet) on the magnitude of the Union Sqare or Ferry Building. I've been visiting them sporadically, only because they (a) have few vendors that I would otherwise patronize or (b) the selection was skimpy. I did visit Bayou City Farmers Market last weekend and bought quite a bit of stuff, including fresh produce (portobello mushrooms, microgreens, etc.) at the same price I would pay in my local supermarket. There are vendors in these markets that are NOT represented in local food stores, and it is those folks that I enjoy meeting, tasting and buying from. It was a pleasure to talk to the lady goat farmers who actually made the cheese I was buying, and Im happy to pay a little more than I would in the store to put the money directly into the hands of the people who worked so hard to bring it all to me in the big city. Regarding price, however, I also bought a dozen brown eggs for $4, about twice what I would pay for them in the supermarket. However, I enjoyed talking to the farmer whose chickens these came from, and I trust him when he tells me he gathered them that morning. With the price of gas being what it is, and knowing how far the guy drove to get there, and how early he had to get up to do this, again, I am happy to pay him what he thinks his eggs are worth. But then again, my grandfather was a poultry and egg farmer, and this guy had brought along his granddaughter, who was working in the booth. So sentimentality comes into play here too.

                                1. re: chowmel
                                  Sam Salmon RE: chowmel Aug 17, 2008 05:10 PM

                                  I live in Vancouver BC and here the answer is definitely Yes-over charging abounds.

                                  One quick example-in the past year the price of organically produced Garlic has risen 100% from $5/lb to $10-this is robbery plain and simple.

                                  I managed to find some for $8/lb from a vendor from a remote part of the Interior @ the Kitsilano market today-we'll see what their price is in 2 weeks when I've used up what I bought.

                                  BTW-I can buy organically produced Mexican Garlic for $5/lb @ Capers.

                                  1. re: chowmel
                                    t
                                    three of us RE: chowmel Aug 17, 2008 05:16 PM

                                    I fully agree! Living in the Bedford area, I have looked at the markets you mention plus Bedford. Unaffordable for a family budget! There is a Friday afternoon market in Lowell, a more working class town, so I was going to try it.

                                    The organic farm in Concord (wealthy town) is worth a guffaw or two. Outrageous prices but they sell to a high income crowd. There are some smaller farmstands that practice organic farming but do not get certified. I hit those up. Bought exquisite native peaches, red currants, corn, and yellow plums the other day.

                                    In general, though, no bargains are to be had at the outdoor markets. Forget bargains, there are no fair prices to be had.

                                    1. re: three of us
                                      c
                                      chowmel RE: three of us Aug 17, 2008 05:59 PM

                                      three of us , which stands did you get your fruit from ?

                                      1. re: chowmel
                                        t
                                        three of us RE: chowmel Aug 17, 2008 09:30 PM

                                        I posted about it on the Boston board:

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/548490

                                        Not sure I have the name (Gove Farm) correct. Directions are in my OP.
                                        I'm still thinking of the peaches. They were soooo juicy and fragrant.

                                  2. Sam Fujisaka RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 07:58 PM

                                    Funny how developed and developing countries differ. In the latter, super-marketization is taking place while traditional markets (similar to "farmers' markets" in the US) continue right along. In the Philippines I used to rely on both for very different products. My supermarket here in Colombia has such good produce and vegetables, I only get smoked shark in the traditional market. The other day in Chiclayo, Peru, I made a special trip to the traditional market to get some good dried chiles (none in Colombia) and cheeses from Cajamarca.

                                    1. purple goddess RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 10:03 PM

                                      I just posted a great big WHOOT to my local farmers market and the moofies ate it ;(.

                                      Basically, I get meat and veg from my local market for many $$ cheaper than I can in the supermarkets.

                                      I reviewed my local one here:

                                      http://solemama.freeforums.org//viewf...

                                      1. ipsedixit RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 10:12 PM

                                        Regardless of whether they are frauds, Farmers Markets are really becoming just an indulgence.

                                        It's sort of like buying a white t-shirt made by Zegna for $100, versus getting one from Banana Republic for $10. For 99% of the time, the one from Banana Republic will do just fine and no one will be the wiser that you saved $90.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                          nofunlatte RE: ipsedixit Aug 18, 2008 04:36 AM

                                          Wow, I've never seen anything for only $10 in Banana Republic!

                                          I am going to disagree with the statement that FMs are becoming indulgences. Seems that there is a geographic factor here. I live in Indiana and the produce prices at my local FM are quite reasonable (and the market is crowded with a mixed crowd of shoppers--young, old, wealthier, poorer, etc.). I regularly see folks shop here with food stamps. Never seen a $3/cucumber here (refering to an earlier post, not yours). I'm not saying that your FM experiences are "wrong", just different from mine (and I've had similar FM experiences in Iowa and Delaware). Meat prices are high compared to the supermarket, but the supermarket sells factory-farmed meats, whereas the market is selling more humanely/"greenly" raised meats. Plus, I rarely encounter bison meat at the supermarket that isn't ground, whereas the rancher who sells bison here at my markets offers steaks, stew meats, roasts, organ meat, and summer sausage. Plus, I can get varieties of apples that are probably too unusual or not sturdy enough for supermarkets.

                                          I believe that once you get out of more cosmopolitan urban areas, the markets might be more consistently reasonably priced, whereas in the urban locales the results might be mixed.

                                          1. re: nofunlatte
                                            Catskillgirl RE: nofunlatte Aug 22, 2008 09:17 AM

                                            That's a good observation. I live in the Catskill Mountains, about 2 hours NW of NYC. It's a very rural area (for instance I have no mail delivery to my house and no municipal trash pickup). But in the summer months our population probably quadruples with the summer people, mainly from the city. Many of them do have the discretionary income to pay the high prices at our Farmers Market. Someone must be paying full price or else the farmers wouldn't be there, right? I guess it's just the locals (with much lower incomes in general) who can't pay the higher prices.

                                            If I were to visit a FM further from NYC, towards western NY, I'd bet that the prices are more affordable.

                                            1. re: Catskillgirl
                                              c
                                              cimui RE: Catskillgirl Aug 22, 2008 10:58 AM

                                              catskillgirl, i'm from the city and guilty of being part of the mob that descends on the catskills every summer -- and to be honest, i can't really afford those prices, either. some places are utterly ludicrous given how much they charge for third-rate produce. (i'm not talking about misshapen kirby cucumbers that actaully taste better than their suspiciously uniform cousins in the supermarket; i'm talking about old, wizened veggies that have been sitting out for a while because turnover rates are so low.) i have a few stands right on the fringes of margaretville in mind...

                                              these places are definitely a far cry from the farmer's market i helped out at when i was growing up in kentucky, where the produce really was fresh and cheap and good!

                                              1. re: cimui
                                                Catskillgirl RE: cimui Aug 23, 2008 10:47 AM

                                                Guilty? LOL! I was a weekend resident for awhile before giving up the bright lights. Thanks for visiting our gorgeous region - we LOVE you summer people. Our FM truly does have wonderful produce, and I know a few of the farmers. The produce is local and wonderful, but lord the prices! And I think I remember the one near Margaretville - yucky overpriced stuff. The corn looks like it's been picked a month before selling, right? That's just abusing the whole notion of a Farmers' Market, and what it should be.

                                                1. re: Catskillgirl
                                                  s
                                                  small h RE: Catskillgirl Aug 23, 2008 11:04 AM

                                                  Where's the one near Margaretville? We've been going to the Round Barn up toward Roxbury, which is pretty good (and expensive - someone sells eggs for a dollar EACH). There's a woman who sells awesome trout, and the produce is generally fresh and attractive.

                                                  1. re: small h
                                                    c
                                                    cimui RE: small h Aug 24, 2008 09:20 PM

                                                    incidentally, i was just there this weekend and discovered that the really, really shoddy produce market has closed down shop. it used to be located on the intersection of 28 and Fair St. the same market now sells antique furniture (a step up from antique produce, imo).

                                                    there's another market a bit east of margaretville by a restaurant / bar called Arizona, with a flea market behind the stands on weekends. there, the produce is pretty good -- but a lot of it is not really locally produced at all, at least not in the catskills. (i remember them advertising "locally produced jersey blueberries" earlier this season and now they have jersey peaches!)

                                                    thanks so much for the roxbury market tip!! i've actually never ventured up that far up 30 (we do go the opposite direction to jump under the waterfall at "dry" creek). i would be thrilled to find a source for good local trout -- esp. given the rather sad displays of previously frozen farm raised tilapia that i mostly see at the grocery stores.

                                                    1. re: cimui
                                                      Catskillgirl RE: cimui Aug 25, 2008 11:08 AM

                                                      I'm happy to hear that the bad one has closed down! It's been a couple of years since I was up that way. Good riddance.

                                                      LOL at the "local" jersey blueberries! We just had our annual blueberry festival, and actually had to import about half of what we needed from Pennsylvania. Some local growers had a really bad year. :-(

                                                      1. re: cimui
                                                        s
                                                        small h RE: cimui Aug 25, 2008 11:14 AM

                                                        There are two other options for fish in the area: a fish market in Margaretville (in Binnekill Square, or whatever it's called), and the Maine Black Bear on 28 in Arkville. We often go to the Margaretville market on Saturday morning - as soon as they sell out, they close - and have gotten some good shrimp, scallops and tuna there. They do have local trout sometimes, but I've never gotten there in time. The Black Bear has swordfish and halibut and the like. Both options are much better than the grocery stores in the area. If you drive west on 28 from Kingston, try the Hurley Ridge Market; it's 1/4 mile north of 28 on 375. They also have decent fish.

                                                    2. re: Catskillgirl
                                                      c
                                                      cimui RE: Catskillgirl Aug 24, 2008 09:03 PM

                                                      hi catskillgirl, i wish i could follow your footsteps and live out my fantasy of living in the mountains with at least 20 doggies. i dearly love your area of the state.

                                                      whereabouts is this good farmer's market you speak of? i do know there's really good stuff around, since even the margaretville A&P has some high quality local tomatoes.

                                                      1. re: cimui
                                                        Catskillgirl RE: cimui Aug 25, 2008 11:05 AM

                                                        Ellenville FM. It's small, only 4 or 5 produce stalls most weeks, but it's good stuff. One farmer has lovely, unusual greens. There's an artisan bread vendor (gorgeous breads) as well. Not worth a long trip, but if you're not too far on a Sunday it's from 9:00 to 2:00 on Center Street. (Diagonally across the street from the bakery I manage, which is worth a visit anyway, LOL!) Also some good cheeses and sausages. Overpriced IMO, but really nice for someone with a fatter wallet than me.

                                                        And I only have 2 dogs, but a bunch of cats. Living here was our dream for so many years! It's lovely here, and to not have to lock your doors at night... priceless!

                                            2. h
                                              hahauuk RE: foreignmuck Aug 17, 2008 10:27 PM

                                              Hmmm, I wonder if this needs to be part of the broader debate on food miles, supermarkets and our unrealistic expectation about food prices and fuel - all of which are inextricably linked.

                                              I can't speak for London as I live in Australia but my observation is that for the most part genuine farmers markets represent good value on many levels, including supporting local producers, invigorating a local economy, supporting a local community. Some things may be more expensive but I would rather see my money going directly to the producer than propping up giant supermarket conglomerates who really do rip off farmers by dictating the price they will pay the farmer to produce that food. Farmers market produce should be lower - much lower - in food miles as the food should come from the surrounding area - not shipped, flown or otherwise transported thousands of km to you.

                                              Another observation is that food in general (and again, I'm speaking of Australia) is pretty cheap compared with other costs of living and in fact there is an unrealistic expectation that food will remain that way. This is clearly unsustainable as so much of our food relies on fossil fuel across it's whole production. Farmers Markets challenge that expectation as you are paying the real cost of what is takes to produce that food. You are also paying someone for their time - some of these people work all week on a farm then do 2 days at the markets.

                                              So I don't mind paying a bit more for fruit, meat and vegetable produced locally and sold at the farmers market - I love the atmosphere, I am injecting my money into a local economy, and it's great for the local community. And lastly, it depends on how you define rip off - personally I feel ripped off at the supermarket!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: hahauuk
                                                f
                                                foreignmuck RE: hahauuk Aug 18, 2008 02:12 AM

                                                I really approve of the ethos of the farmer's market and how its helping local farmers etc... I also think its fair enough that it costs more than mass produced fayre. Afterall, it is (or should be) produced without the economies of scale that the bigger producers enjoy.

                                                However, what i dont approve of is the extent of these mark ups. It seems that some suppliers take advantage of the 'foodie trend' and mark up thier prices beyond reason. The reason they are so high is because certain people are prepared to pay for it. All I am saying is that it's gone too far, and certain producers feel its OK to overcharge for their produce (however good it is).

                                                I'm sure there are many farmers markets around the world that do offer a great deal on good, local produce , but I was commenting on my local one, which I found to be a rip off.

                                                RE supermarkets - yes they can be a rip off too. I find the prices there high compared to my local ethnic market, where I try and source most of my ingredients.

                                                1. re: hahauuk
                                                  purple goddess RE: hahauuk Aug 18, 2008 03:21 PM

                                                  Melbournite here, and I totally agree with your sentiments!

                                                  My friend bought a King Island roast for $20 at the Farmers market I reviewed in the above thread, and it fed 6 adults! I bought a topside roast from Coldstream (we're in Glen Waverley.. so Coldstream is about 20 mins away).. it fed 5 adults for $15!

                                                  Way cheaper AND nicer that gas-packed crap at Slaveways!

                                                  The other products we bought.. cheese and baked goods, we comparable in price to a supermarket ($9 for 250g of artisan cheese) but INCOMPARABLE in flavour and texture!

                                                  The vegies were by far, cheaper and better quality than I can get at the local Coles, or Slaveways.

                                                  The most expensive thing? A ciabatta loaf from The Convent Bakery. $6 for the loaf. Pricey, yes.. I totally agree. But possibly the best tasting, textured wood-fired oven bread I have EVER had outside Tuscany.

                                                  It's a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul thing for me... I saved more than $6 on the rest of mu purchases, so my Convent Bakery loaf is pure indugence!

                                                2. Miss Needle RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 06:58 AM

                                                  I think it just really depends. Generally, my farmers market that I shop at is the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC. Prices are generally higher than most markets (including Whole Foods). But you can find bargains, especially when things are in peak season. And MMRuth is correct in that you can find items that Whole Foods, Citarella or other gourmet stores and supermarkets just won't carry. And I also dislike their baked goods. And just because something is at a farmers market doesn't necessarily mean that it tastes good. I've sometimes had better tasting stuff from Whole Foods over the USQ greenmarket.

                                                  But if you go into some rural areas, I find the prices for things to be much better than going to the market. I have relatives living in Central Connecticut. As kids, we used to visit them and stop by the farm stands (guess not exactly a market) and pick up the best fruits and vegetables for such a cheap price.

                                                  1. emmaroseeats RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 08:54 AM

                                                    I think that, like everything, it's in how you shop. Can you get totally taken advantage of on the foodie craze inflated prices at some stands, maybe... But I think that the cost for most of these smaller farmers is higher (in the US, most mass grown supermarket food is hugely supplemented by taxes). The question to me is whether or not you are interested in getting the high quality food - which sometimes you have to look for - at the peak of season, directly from the person who's hands have been in the dirt growing this produce. And maybe that last bit is more important to me than others because I grew up on a farm. (Waiters always tip well.)

                                                    I shop at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market in SF but I also shop at the much cheaper Civic Center Farmer's Market...the difference to me, is in what I'm able to find. Variety of tomatoes, fresh fish, deals on large flats of strawberries. And even though I now get most of my family's food at the Ferry Building on Saturday mornings (love GG Butcher Co.), my food budget has stayed the same as when I shopped in regular grocery stores. I shop in season for better prices and pay attention to which stands have the best quality produce at the best price. Again - I think it's all in how you shop, and ultimately, what makes you satisfied, both at a food level and at a consumer level.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: emmaroseeats
                                                      rworange RE: emmaroseeats Aug 18, 2008 11:04 AM

                                                      >>> - I think it's all in how you shop, and ultimately, what makes you satisfied, both at a food level and at a consumer level. <<<

                                                      One of the best statements in this thread. I agree to about looking for the best deal for the price. So many people are blinded by the star vendros at Ferry Plaza and elsewhere that they overlook the plain old hard-working value-priced vendors like McGinnis Ranch

                                                      1. re: rworange
                                                        emmaroseeats RE: rworange Aug 18, 2008 03:33 PM

                                                        Thanks! And I completely agree - McGinnis Ranch has fabulous stuff.

                                                        1. re: rworange
                                                          poptart RE: rworange Aug 19, 2008 06:37 PM

                                                          Agreed. It is true, in my experience, that IF you shop carefully you can get good deals from farmer's markets. You have to keep your eyes open though. One market I used to go to, I became friendly with a farmer, and noticed that the longer I knew him the lower my prices became. Just because he was a friendly guy and appreciated my business. He often gave me extra veggies at the end of the day as well, saying "if you don't take these I'll just be feeding them to my animals" tonight.

                                                          Certain things are bound to be more expensive, such as meat, which I rarely buy. However there are times when the deals even exist there, and to be honest I'd rather have good meat less frequently, knowing it tastes better and has not been irradiated, treated with hormones or antibiotics, etc and perhaps has less chance of being contaminated with e coli, etc.

                                                          Sure, I wish farmer's markets were a better deal but also don't want to begrudge small farmers to get paid decently for their hard work. That is not easy work and they can have very bad years should the weather not cooperate.
                                                          People who blatently overcharge and are unfair about it are ruining the business for the honest folks.

                                                      2. Sooeygun RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 09:04 AM

                                                        The farmer's markets I go to in the Toronto area are great. You see some of the same farmer's at different markets on different days of the week. I mostly go for the produce which usually is cheaper, though sometimes not than the grocery store. But then I don't care if it's a little more so that I can get a tomato that has been picked red, not green and then sprayed with chemicals to make it ripen in the truck on the way to the store.

                                                        If you can get good quality produce, etc at the store for less, than go ahead, but I believe the stores here tend to have contracts with growers in California and even in summer and fall you can't get local produce there.

                                                        1. s
                                                          swsidejim RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 09:09 AM

                                                          The Farmers markets, and farmstands I go to during the summer months are definitely not a rip off.

                                                          I am getting some of the best sweet corn in the country(Illinois sweet corn) right now for $3.50 per dozen. Like everythting else I buy(salad greens, carrots, green peppers, onions, tomatos, etc). It has typically been picked the same day, or at most the day before, and has not spent a week or so on a truck, or in a warehouse. The prices are lower than the supermarkets around, athe quality is better. I can also get seafood, and jellies at the farmers markets/farmstands I go to as well for a decent price.

                                                          I wouldnt buy meat at a farmers market since I already have a top notch local butcher that meets all my needs. I also have no use for the baked goods at the farmers markets, so I do not know how they compare.

                                                          1. thew RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 09:24 AM

                                                            the question is is price the only consideration or not

                                                            i say not

                                                            1. k
                                                              Kagey RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 10:03 AM

                                                              Living in Surrey, I feel your pain. We have several farmers' markets and farm shops that are ridiculously overpriced. I miss the open market in Leicester, where everything was so reasonable! My sense is that these markets and shops charge so much because enough rich people in Surrey will pay that much.

                                                              Hey, if you have a decent butcher, why buy your sausage anyplace else? I've pretty much given up on the farmers' market because there's perfectly good produce (including local and organic if I want it) at more reasonable prices at Waitrose and Sainsbury's.

                                                              1. Spends Rent on Food RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 10:06 AM

                                                                For the past four years we've been going to the previously mentioned Union Sq market on Wednesdays & Saturdays. When we first went, we were kids in a candy store, easily spending $100 on just a few days veggies & meats (think huge bags of heirloom tomatoes). We started treating it as an indulgence.

                                                                Then about two years ago we started a small trick where we left the apt with $20 each and forced ourselves to really evaluate the value/quality of what we were getting. We found we really could stretch $40 and get a ton of produce. And we were able to single out those family-run farms that really were worth it.

                                                                We now visit 6 vendors at Un Sq because we know them to have consistent quality at reasonable prices - and usually spend about $30/visit for fruit, veggies, cheese & meat. Since we visit often, it's become like buying from friends. Which, to me, speaks to the 'community' value of the Greenmarkets in the first place.

                                                                For Foreignmuck, I recommend spending more time (not less) getting to know who is running the stands and offering better quality. If after some digging you find your local market to be a wholesale ripoff, then try to locate a local farm where you can buy their produce directly.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Spends Rent on Food
                                                                  MMRuth RE: Spends Rent on Food Aug 18, 2008 10:09 AM

                                                                  I think that is a great approach - I still get suckered into that unbelievable expensive greens seller - but their baby/wild arugula is amazing, and it's the only place I ever see micro cress, which I just love on sandwiches. I do find that the cheese I buy easily eats up $30, but then I make sure not to buy cheese elsewhere that week.

                                                                  1. re: Spends Rent on Food
                                                                    c
                                                                    cimui RE: Spends Rent on Food Aug 18, 2008 10:37 AM

                                                                    SRoF, do you mind listing those six vendors? I can't ever get my SO to wander around with me long enough in the hot sun to figure out where the really well priced stuff is -- and i share OP's sentiments about most stands at the Union^2 greenmarket being something of a ripoff and not at all better than what you can buy at a regular grocery store.

                                                                    1. re: cimui
                                                                      MMRuth RE: cimui Aug 18, 2008 01:11 PM

                                                                      I started a thread on the Manhattan board:

                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549751

                                                                      1. re: cimui
                                                                        Spends Rent on Food RE: cimui Aug 18, 2008 08:11 PM

                                                                        cimui, I posted this on MMRuth's new thread on the manhattan board. Good luck.

                                                                        1. re: Spends Rent on Food
                                                                          c
                                                                          cimui RE: Spends Rent on Food Aug 20, 2008 02:39 PM

                                                                          hey, thanks to both you and mmruth. i'll go take a look.

                                                                    2. alanbarnes RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 11:01 AM

                                                                      Reading this thread again, thinking back on yesterday's trip to the farmers market, and wishing to avoid the work I should be doing at the moment, I've come up with the following observation. (Pontification warning...)

                                                                      Farmers markets can have two faces. They provide the kind of produce that's available at the grocery, fresher and cheaper than if the customer went through a middleman. And they provide exotic / specialty / artisanal items that aren't generally available elsewhere, in an environment where the customer can get information about the items directly from their producers.

                                                                      How these two aspects of the farmers market "experience" are balanced varies widely. Some markets are largely a source for things like really fresh corn on the cob at reasonable prices. Others tend to tilt more toward things like goat cheese with the name and picture of the particular goat that gave the milk on the label.

                                                                      It's my guess that the balance a market strikes will be dictated by its geographic location and the demographic profile of its customers. A market in an exclusive neighborhood of a large city that's far away from the nearest farmland will likely have more vendors selling exotic ingredients to the well-heeled. But if the market is within a few minutes drive of fertile rural areas and there are more Hondas and Fords on the street than Lexuses and BMWs, there are likely to be more vendors selling familiar produce at bargain prices.

                                                                      The best farmers markets provide both ordinary produce and exceptional foodstuffs, but IMHO the balance should tip toward the former. I'd be sad if the farmers markets I frequent stopped carrying expensive things like artisan cheeses and olive oil, but I'd be really angry if they stopped carrying seasonal vegetables.

                                                                      Fortunately for those of us in Northern California, there isn't a problem with available farmland. In fact, much of the traffic on the way home from the market yesterday morning was tractor-trailers hauling tomatoes to the Campbell's Soup factory. Something tells me we're going to continue to get fresh produce for a while yet.

                                                                      1. t
                                                                        torty RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 02:50 PM

                                                                        I live in the produce bounty that is the greater Los Angeles area. Yes, ethnic markets can have phenomenal produce at bargain basement prices, and I do indulge, but I have no idea where the stuff comes from. My local farmers market is very small, but when I ask questions, they seem to be shooting straight from the hip (and the field). When I see the same farmers and their kids every week, who are able to tell me their favorite prep for vegetables, and whose prices are sometimes better than supermarket and sometimes a bit more, but whose produce tastes better, I feel more connected to the vegetables and though it may sound odd, I treat them with more respect in the kitchen. I feel better buying a more expensive basket of strawberries picked that morning by an elderly Japanese lady farmer whose fingertips are stained red from the product than hearing my cost conscious step mother tell me about the gazillion chewy strawberries she got "for a bargain" at Costco. I am only referring to produce here, not baked goods or other such things which I don't bother with. I am also blessed with a local farm stand where you can see the fields of goodness in the background.

                                                                        1. s
                                                                          Sherri RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 02:51 PM

                                                                          A definition of terms is in order since "Farmers' Market" can connote different things in different places.

                                                                          For me, a true Farmers' Market involves farmers - the people who actually grow the product they sell. Not wholesalers who buy and re-sell cases of food, but people who get their hands muddy from planting seeds and harvesting fruit and vegetables. Raising animals comes under the same umbrella. My egg & milk lady gathers eggs from her hens every day; she milks her own goats. If we had a vendor selling meat, I would insist that he/she rear the animals and not purchase their product from wholesalers. I do not buy from anyone who does not grow/rear what they sell. If unsure, ask. Many good markets limit their vendors to farmers and do not allow the wholesalers.

                                                                          My second rule is to buy nothing that has been "made" i.e. salsa, baked goods, etc. When I want herbs, I buy fresh green leaves not desiccated "Gourmet Mix" tasting of dust. This is my own personal rule, based on what is for sale at my weekly market. If I had a good cheese purveyor who made his/her own cheese, I would likely buy the cheese. Since I bake much of our bread, there is no need to pay a lot of money for our daily loaf.

                                                                          There are all manners of Farmers' Markets selling products for all purses and tastes. They seem to be riding the wave's crest at the moment. When the fakes fall out - and they will - I hope we're left with affordable product that is fresh and local. Meantime, my rules won't work for everyone but they serve me well.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Sherri
                                                                            Ruth Lafler RE: Sherri Aug 18, 2008 03:45 PM

                                                                            Right. A lot of places call themselves "farmers markets" but that isn't the same as what in the US is called a "certified farmers market." At a "certified farmers market" everything that's sold is supposed to be direct from the producer (although I think you're allowed to sell for one other certified producer, i.e., you can sell stuff for your neighbor if he doesn't have enough to warrant a trip or his truck breaks down, but you can't sell stuff you buy in the produce district). Of course, then it becomes an issue of how well the folks who run the market police it. But in the markets I patronize, the stands all have their certified grower banners displayed prominently.

                                                                            The other issue I have is the notion that the purpose of the farmer's market is to provide good deals by cutting out the middle man. I don't believe that's the purpose of them at all. The purpose of a farmer's market is to support local agriculture, which includes paying enough for produce to cover the much higher land values and cost of living for local farmers, especially farmers who live near major urban centers. Yeah, a tomato grown in New Jersey by an American on a small to mid-sized farm is going to cost more than a tomato grown by some huge agribusiness "farm" in Mexico. And it should. If we want to have farmers in the U.S. then American farmers need to make a living wage. People get all misty-eyed about "the family farm" but not so much when it comes to actually paying a few cents more for their produce.

                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                              j
                                                                              jlafler RE: Ruth Lafler Aug 18, 2008 10:44 PM

                                                                              Another purpose of farmers' markets is to educate the public about what is grown and produced locally, how, and by whom. Also, how foods taste when they're fresh and picked ripe. All of which feeds back into the goal of supporting local agriculture.

                                                                            2. re: Sherri
                                                                              k
                                                                              kmcarr RE: Sherri Aug 19, 2008 09:20 AM

                                                                              At my local farmer's market they have three designations, "HG", "FD" and "WS". HG is "Home Grown" which means the person selling it is directly involved with the farm which produced it (i.e. owner, family or employee). FD means "Farm Direct"; this designates a vendor who has purchased his/her produce directly from the grower. This limits the "middle men" to a single step. It also means the vendor can tell you exactly which farm a bit of produce came from. The last designation, WS is for "WholeSale". These are vendors who purchase produce from the same wholesalers as major grocery stores, put on some overalls and a straw hat and sell to the farmer's market newbies at a premium.

                                                                              1. re: kmcarr
                                                                                s
                                                                                Sherri RE: kmcarr Aug 19, 2008 12:02 PM

                                                                                Would that every market adopted this system; what a great idea! Thanks for sharing it.

                                                                            3. Veggo RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 08:34 PM

                                                                              My farm market in Manatee County, Florida, 4 miles out on my daily bicycle ride, on which I have been reliant for every wonderful vegetable on my table for my 3 years here, has just been bulldozed down to make way for a huge Federal Express distribution center. I used to wipe sweat. Now I wipe tears.

                                                                              1. j
                                                                                jlafler RE: foreignmuck Aug 18, 2008 10:19 PM

                                                                                I have a few rules of thumb about farmers' markets.

                                                                                1) Stick to buying what's in season locally.
                                                                                2) Comparison shop. One of the great things about farmers' markets is that you can often taste the wares, especially the fruit. Go around, check out all the stalls before you buy.
                                                                                3) Avoid prepared foods that you could buy elsewhere. My biggest pet peeve about our local farmers' market is that almost a third of it is stalls selling prepared foods, including many that can't be sourced locally, e.g. coffee and chocolate. Not that I necessarily have anything against these products, I just don't think they belong at a farmers' market.
                                                                                4) Go early for best selection; go late for bargains.
                                                                                5) Talk to the vendors.

                                                                                1. BratleFoodie RE: foreignmuck Aug 19, 2008 10:02 AM

                                                                                  I feel so lucky. Our FM in Brattleboro, VT is fabulous for a town of 10,000. Yes, there are lots of stalls selling knitwear and pottery and prepared foods, but those foods are great value -- for example, two different African stalls selling very different cuisines for less than seven dollars a huge plate.

                                                                                  The farmers are all organic, save one. We have the family that raises all sorts of esoteric oriental greens, and they'll tell you what the heck you should do with them.

                                                                                  The biggest thing for me with a FM is that there is no middleman. So even if the price is the same as at my local coop, I know that the carbon footprint is smaller by definition and that our local struggling farmers are getting a few extra bucks to get them through the horrid winters we have here.

                                                                                  My mum, even with a broken foot and getting a new knee in a couple of weeks staggers down to the Union Sq market to get things that the local supermarket does not have. So yes, keep an eye out for being ripped off, but love the quality and keep trying to do the right thing!

                                                                                  1. Gooseberry RE: foreignmuck Aug 19, 2008 03:39 PM

                                                                                    supply and demand work hand in hand. The only reason that some farmer's markets get away with charging massive amounts is because there are plenty of people willing to pay those massive amounts.

                                                                                    Dappling in vegetable gardening at home has increased my tolerance of expensive produce. Aside from environmental factors as hidden costs, I think the biggest hidden cost is time and sweat. And having spent time waiting for tomatoes to mature, and sweating while digging and hefting and crouching, I have a lot more respect for farmers. If anything, I think a lot of fresh produce is underpriced, considering what goes into growing it.

                                                                                    1. clepro RE: foreignmuck Aug 19, 2008 06:22 PM

                                                                                      There's nothing fake or overpriced about our Farmers Market here in St. Paul, Minnesota. Everything is sold directly by the producer; the SP Growers' Association bylaws ensure that no middlemen are allowed. Most of the farmers/producers come from a 50 mile radius of the city, although some come from further out of Minnesota and into Western Wisconsin. Prices are great, both in comparision with local groceries and as standalone values in terms of freshness and quality. And it's a fabulous place to be on weekend mornings--piles of beautiful fruits and vegetables, cheese, meats, honey, jams and syrups, breads, the best damn chocolate sauce and hot butter whiskey sauce in the Twin Cities (River Chocolate), live music, stands of fresh cut bouquets, the bagel stand, crowds of people somehow perpetually happy, and the occasional pie baking contest.

                                                                                      I spent around $40 last weekend, $10 of that on a bouquet and another $17 on River Chocolate, and came home with fresh, just picked long beans, string beans, Japanese eggplants, green peppers, new red potatoes, a dozen ears of sweet corn, a couple of melons, a bunch of cilantro, a bunch of basil, and a couple of cucumbers.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: clepro
                                                                                        rworange RE: clepro Aug 19, 2008 07:24 PM

                                                                                        Mentioning River Chocolates ... don't they have a shop too? ... reminds me that it is a good opportunity for many to try out to see if they should go in business. So many vendors got their starts at farmers markets that might not have otherwise had a chance A few off the top of my head locally are Bakesale Betty's, Fatted Calf, Soley Vegan, Miette, Blue Bottle Coffee ... and for the most part we as consumers are better off for it.

                                                                                        And for those that don't make it ... well, failing at a farmers market is far less costly than failing at opening a storefront.

                                                                                        1. re: rworange
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                                                                                          Leonardo RE: rworange Aug 19, 2008 09:20 PM

                                                                                          Here in Portland we have a great Jewish Deli, three highly gifted artisan chocolatiers, a dessert place extraordinaire, wood-fired pizzeria, and even a N Carolina biscuit place that all started at our farmers' markets.

                                                                                          Farmland near large cities is disappearing fast to urban sprawl. People have come to accept as "edible" tasteless fiberglass tomatoes of generic variety, peaches, strawberries etc with a shelf-life of a month and 1000 miles behind them. No one shakes the hand of the person growing their food. Local economies suffer because of the unnecessary flight of shopping dollars. A handful of mega-agribusiness conglomerates controls Washington and food policy, and by extension the standards governing what is called "food". The small family farm is almost dead in some parts of the US. How to reverse these sad trends? Shop at a genuine farmers' market. You can make a profound impact not only on your own health and quality of life, but on your community.

                                                                                      2. farmersdaughter RE: foreignmuck Aug 20, 2008 01:01 PM

                                                                                        A couple people have touched on an issue which I think is important to bring out. True farmers' markets (leaving aside prepared foods, home made crafts, and the like) are places where farmers bring in fruit and vegetables (and meat and eggs) that they grow/raise on their farm and sell it to the public without a middle man. I can't speak for the U.K. but here in the U.S. we have gotten used to having really cheap food (up until this year, anyway) due to our government's food policies (subsidies, etc.). As a country we should start considering whether it's better to devote more of our incomes to supporting farmers who are truly farming and selling at farmers' markets at prices that may be not quite as cheap as your local mega mart (where you don't know where the stuff comes from). Just ask the farmers at your local farmers' market where the items they are selling are coming from, if they are growing it themselves, ask them about their growing practices, etc. and buy from them if you like the answers you hear. I am happy to pay more for local produce from a farmer I respect than going to Safeway to buy tomatoes in January that were raised god knows where. My husband who was raised on the east coast in a non farming family never gave this a second thought but now knows never to ask for blueberries or tomatoes in January and to expect lots of swiss chard and broccoli instead.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: farmersdaughter
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                                                                                          Leonardo RE: farmersdaughter Aug 20, 2008 02:23 PM

                                                                                          Well-put, FD.
                                                                                          Our market has ZERO crafts.
                                                                                          And prepared items must be made from local farm products.
                                                                                          Vendors accept various coupons such as food stamps and senior's coupons.
                                                                                          I see all kinds of people shopping there. Elitist? Hardly. Dozens of markets are scattered throughout the city, making quality fresh food available to anyone who cares.

                                                                                          We need to not only get used to, but learn how to savor and enjoy local seasonal food. We must get rid of these ridiculous subsidies that support unsustainable farming practices, unsound nutrition, and that stack the game against the little guy.

                                                                                        2. m
                                                                                          moh RE: foreignmuck Aug 21, 2008 08:25 AM

                                                                                          My favorite local farmers market is an odd mix of permanent shops and seasonal stalls sitting in the middle of a large urban center. You can see the effects of gentrification, and some of the prices have become ridiculously high. There is also a large contingent of retail shops disguised as farmers market stalls, they ship in produce from all over the world, and only occasionally tell you where the stuff came from. There are some shops that are clearly marketing the rich foodie sucker market (which in all honesty I must admit I am probably a part of, given that I am willing to spend so much money of food). Sometimes I get suckered into buying tasteless fruits and vegetables and overpriced spices and meats. It ain't perfect.

                                                                                          So why do I still go?

                                                                                          Because there are still enough wonderful food products that are worth every penny and make eating so much fun. Unusual varieties of vegetables, wild berries, fresh wild mushrooms, baby lettuces and vegetables, heirloom tomatoes and beets. Humanely raised sheep and pigs, artisanal cheeses, chocolate covered fresh blueberries every August, the garlic guy, real baby carrots. Even the retail shops have products that are higher in quality than most of the supermarkets, such as my beloved royal figs from Greece, luscious jewels that explode in the mouth. I've gotten to know where my best bets are, and I always scout out the market before making my purchases for the day. I still get ripped off occasionally, but most of the times I come back with a large amount of delicious food waiting to be turned into a fabulous summertime dinner - it is one of my favorite summer activities. We have a very long and ugly winter to deal with, so the farmers market is a summer indulgence I don't want to give up.

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: moh
                                                                                            Sam Fujisaka RE: moh Aug 21, 2008 09:10 AM

                                                                                            Bet some people would pay you good $$ to guide them through the market, at least for their first time.

                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
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                                                                                              Leonardo RE: Sam Fujisaka Aug 21, 2008 09:53 AM

                                                                                              Actually, a number of people whom I've taken through have told me I should go into business as a market guide for first-timers! The market size, abundant variety, and number of top vendors can make it a highly daunting experience for a newbie, resulting in their buying too much of what was not right for them. (Yes I know your comment wasn't directed at me.)

                                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                m
                                                                                                moh RE: Sam Fujisaka Aug 21, 2008 12:27 PM

                                                                                                Sam, markets are a labour of love, I'm not sure I would want to turn it into a job. If you get yourself up to Montreal, though, I'd be happy to show you around! Lots of good eats sir! I'm sure you'd enjoy the tour!

                                                                                            2. f
                                                                                              Fromageball RE: foreignmuck Aug 21, 2008 09:57 AM

                                                                                              i don't really buy prepared foods at the farmers market(unless it's some sort of bakery item that I've never had...like I recently had fantastic blackberry wine cake, but I only bought a small piece and then promptly worked out a recipe myself), but as far as produce goes, while i get superior product, i definitely do not save money by shopping there, but i would rather spend more on a carton of fantastic blueberries at the FM than $2.50 on sale at the grocery to get average

                                                                                              1. scubadoo97 RE: foreignmuck Aug 22, 2008 10:48 AM

                                                                                                My only beef with many farmer's markets in my area is that the vendors are not farmers but people that go to the local produce depot where everyone get's their produce including grocery stores. So you are not really buying local produce from the farmer.

                                                                                                The other thing is that they have diversified to add craft vendors selling candles and such as well as those selling other food item other than produce that are not that unique nor a good buy overall.

                                                                                                1. m
                                                                                                  maddogg280 RE: foreignmuck Aug 22, 2008 11:12 AM

                                                                                                  When I first started frequenting Farmer's Markets in the Baltimore area in the summer of 2000, I thought they were incredibly cheap and not very well attended. Now, however, the opposite is true. And, sadly, where the quality of the produce used to be MUCH BETTER, it is now spotty- sometimes great, sometimes tasteless or worse- worm-infested, partially rotten.
                                                                                                  My bottom line: Farmer's markets have gone down hill as the trend toward 'eat local' has increased. Sad but true.

                                                                                                  1. jacquelines RE: foreignmuck Aug 23, 2008 11:03 AM

                                                                                                    I live near Union Sq and I avoid it most of the time, but there is a market near the Staten Island Ferry (Gerardi's) that is wonderful.
                                                                                                    .79/lb Watermelon
                                                                                                    2/$3 Spanish Avocados
                                                                                                    $1.89/bunch Basil
                                                                                                    $1.29 for lb of Grape tomatoes
                                                                                                    Just to name a few, but the food and flowers are so fresh and so well priced.
                                                                                                    Not a big deal taking the trip especially in this economy.

                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: jacquelines
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                                                                                                      cstr RE: jacquelines Aug 24, 2008 04:31 PM

                                                                                                      So from what you posted, not one thing was grown locally and the prices look very similar, or more expensive, to the mega-mart and the farmers market probably got their goods from the same supplier as the mega-mart. That's why I only go to the farm, not the alledged farmers market, and will pay a premium to them for their home-grown produce.

                                                                                                      1. re: cstr
                                                                                                        LNG212 RE: cstr Aug 24, 2008 09:58 PM

                                                                                                        All NYC farmers markets have producer/grower-only and local only rules. So I think what jacquelines is saying is that she finds the Union Square greenmarket too expensive and so she shops at a "regular" market. Thus none of the items would presumably be local (esp. since avocados are not local to our area at all, for example). And, no, our farmers markets do *not* get their produce from some mega-mart or clearance warehouse. They are actually farmers (and their families and workers).

                                                                                                        1. re: LNG212
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                                                                                                          Produce Addict RE: LNG212 Aug 26, 2008 02:40 PM

                                                                                                          BTW watermelon is local to the NY area this time of year.

                                                                                                          1. re: Produce Addict
                                                                                                            LNG212 RE: Produce Addict Aug 26, 2008 03:03 PM

                                                                                                            Yes, I know. But I'm skeptical that corner delis, bodegas, marts, etc. are buying local watermelon. If that one is, then terrific. Basil and tomatoes are also local and in season right now. But again, I doubt a lot of it is local -- many stores's grape tomatoes (in those little containers), for example, are marked California.

                                                                                                    2. LNG212 RE: foreignmuck Aug 24, 2008 10:08 PM

                                                                                                      I think where one is located certainly makes a difference in both quality and price. Unlike what some others have posted, our greenmarkets (NYC) do not have "stuff" for sale other than locally produced/grown food (veggies, fruits, honey, flowers, etc.), artisan bakers, and locally grown wine (I'm sure I'm missing some category). I think Ruth Lafler pointed out that the definition of "farmers market" and the rules governing such would vary place to place.

                                                                                                      That said ... I find my local greenmarket to be a treasure (on W97th St. in Manhattan). The farmers are wonderful people who will answer questions, give tastes, talk about recipes, etc. They grow an assortment of stuff. There are a bunch of produce & fruit people, at least one flower person, usually 2 cheese people, the dairy farm, at least 2 meat people (I'm veg so don't really pay much attention there), eggs, one bakery. More or less, changing with the seasons.

                                                                                                      I find my market on 97th St, while much smaller than the Union Square greenmarket, to have better prices. Clearly we don't get all the varied items at USQ but I'm always reminded by what the Ronnybrook Dairy lady told me: Union Square is a "destination market" not a "neighborhood market". So I'll go down there for something special (ramps, e.g.) but shop instead regularly at my local greenmarket, every week.

                                                                                                      In addition, I've found that the greenmarket prices will vary even within one neighborhood. The best example of price disparity that I noticed this summer was a $2 difference per quart of strawberries -- $2 more at 66th St than at 97th St. I had to wonder if I would have popped over to 106th St if the price would drop even further. But these were from different farmers and though I bought the berries at each, my palate couldn't tell the difference.

                                                                                                      So, no, I don't think they are a rip-off. I couldn't live without my greenmarket.

                                                                                                      1. g
                                                                                                        gafferx RE: foreignmuck Aug 25, 2008 03:45 AM

                                                                                                        Some items are bargains at farmer's markets
                                                                                                        Many are just higher quality and you will pay for it
                                                                                                        My favorite fall item is Brussels sprouts on the stalk
                                                                                                        You pay more.... but was worth it for me

                                                                                                        Also it's fun and educational to talk to some of the sellers.
                                                                                                        You cannot forget the human element
                                                                                                        Also running into friends and the good feeling I always get at the farmer's markets

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: gafferx
                                                                                                          c
                                                                                                          cstr RE: gafferx Aug 25, 2008 05:16 AM

                                                                                                          Not where I'm from, most are taking lettuce etc. out of the same boxes you see at the super. At those FM's I only buy artisan cheeses and specialty things that 'are' made/produced by the local farmer. But let me tell you, it's not much.

                                                                                                        2. LNG212 RE: foreignmuck Aug 25, 2008 07:09 AM

                                                                                                          I just wanted to add one more thing about the greenmarket near where I live. All types of people shop there. Our market accepts ebt and I think that makes a difference; people up and down the income ladder are able to shop there.

                                                                                                          1. s
                                                                                                            Stillwater Girl RE: foreignmuck Aug 26, 2008 02:43 PM

                                                                                                            I live next door to the Downtown St. Paul Farmers Market and while I agree the prices are more than fair most of the time I wish I could just buy the amount I want instead of having to buy like, 8 tomatoes. I live by myself and I'm not home all that much so it would be great to be able to buy smaller quantities. Not a rip-off at all in terms of quantity for the price but maybe kind of a waste for people who can't eat 8 tomatoes before they go bad.

                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Stillwater Girl
                                                                                                              LNG212 RE: Stillwater Girl Aug 26, 2008 03:05 PM

                                                                                                              How is your farmers market run? I'm curious since I've never seen a "minimum" at one. Why couldn't you just buy one tomato?

                                                                                                              1. re: Stillwater Girl
                                                                                                                nofunlatte RE: Stillwater Girl Aug 26, 2008 03:13 PM

                                                                                                                swgirl, this is an interesting point. I'm fortunate enough to use a farmer's market that has many stands where I can buy just the amount I need for many--perhaps most--goods. That said, some vendors will box tomatoes or peaches and you can't get less than the amount in the box. Raspberries and strawberries are typically boxed by all vendors. Many vendors will have boxes or bags of produce (say peaches or apples), but will also offer those goods singly. That way someone who lives by themselves can avail themselves of the just the amount needed (and I don't like to waste food either).

                                                                                                                I'm in eastern Indiana and the prices at my market are more than fair--very god values for produce. And I'm finding this thread fascinating--what an eye-opener in terms of prices, varieties, etc. I must say that I LOVE my market! Got some wonderful tomatoes from the Ugly Heirloom guy (as he bills himself).

                                                                                                                1. re: nofunlatte
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                                                                                                                  Stillwater Girl RE: nofunlatte Aug 27, 2008 06:15 AM

                                                                                                                  They put 6-8 of whatever vegatable in little crates and sell them that way. Like $3 a crate or whatever. Definitely a deal compared to what you'd pay at the supermarket and they taste much fresher but I feel wasteful buying that many if I know I can't eat them all. Same with green beans, basil, green onions, whatever. It's all kind of bundled together. It's too bad they can't sell by weight. The answer I've come up with is to go with a friend and just split everything up.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Stillwater Girl
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                                                                                                                    soupkitten RE: Stillwater Girl Aug 27, 2008 06:31 AM

                                                                                                                    splitting everything with a friend is a good way to do it, SG-- but i go to that market as well, and many of the farmers don't have a problem with people giving them $1 for a couple of tomatoes or a handful of green beans-- they just refill the basket. you don't get the "any 3 trays $7" bargains, and probably pay a little more to make up for the small transaction-- but the farmers do understand that not everyone has a household of 10. ime it is no big deal--just make sure you take *less* than 1/3 of the basket contents, if it's a $3 basket, & if you take 1/2, pay $2. still cheaper than the grocery store, and the farmer sees you aren't ripping them off-- they won't mind.

                                                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten
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                                                                                                                      Stillwater Girl RE: soupkitten Aug 28, 2008 09:01 AM

                                                                                                                      Oh awesome! Thank you so much for the hint! I wasn't sure if that was something I could ask them to do but I suppose as long as they're still making a profit it wouldn't be a big deal. DO you know offhand if they're going to have the market open this weekend with the RNC coming to town?

                                                                                                              2. l
                                                                                                                LJS RE: foreignmuck Aug 28, 2008 11:56 AM

                                                                                                                Because I live in two very different parts of Canada at different times of the year, I have had the opportunity to see diverse approaches to Farmer's Markets. I would hold up the one in Halifax as an example of an excellent market: local produce, fish, meats, flowers and "prepared foods"-for the most part ALL sold by the folks that grow/make them.

                                                                                                                The same is true of the truly local makets, some with as few as 4 participants further away from town throughout the small towns of Nova Scotia.

                                                                                                                In Toronto, the St. Lawrence Market is the grand old lady of markets and it is a mixed bag-only when the North market is open is it truly a farmer's market.Moslty it is just retailers with a good sense of marketing.

                                                                                                                There is for the first time this year in Toronto, so much competition with Farmer's Markets springing up all over the city, that I am not sure whether the goods are truly being sold by those who grow them, by recognized 'agents' or by out-an-out hucksters.(I truly 'got' the story about the lady 'farmer' who replenished her rustic basket of broccoli from a box of California agri-business green stuff from under the counter!)

                                                                                                                And for those who might think that the 'old countries' of Europe are some sort of honest farmer's market heaven, we got to know the cheats who bought produce at Oasis ( a supermercato) in the evening to sell at the Farmer's Market in the piazza in the morning at twice the price!

                                                                                                                At markets, as at all retail, it remains caveat emptor.

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