HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >


Fair price and better quality products in Farmer's Market - Not neccessarily!!

Once in a while, I would like to pay the farmers market outside of Hillcrest Mall's a visit. Somehow, I always thought I might get fresher, cheaper and better selection local Ontario products there. Man! Am I wrong!!
Today, whilst shopping at Michael Angelo's on Woodbine/Hwy 7, I was stunned to notice two 'in-season' Ontario products ( complete with Ontario labels ) that were WAY CHEAPER than those I bought at the aforementioned market!! For the SAME QUANTITY and QUALITY, Fresh Ontario Wild Blueberries were $5.99 a container whilst the Farmers market stalls were charging a whopping $7,50!! Same applies to Ontario grown Strawberries. MA price is $4.99 vs $5.99 sold at the market!. Thank God I did not get conned into buying Ontario peaches at the market!!
Buyer's beware!!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Not really surprising. Vendors don't have the buying power of larger stores/supermarkets and they incur costs to set up shop at the farmers markets.

    1. I have also visited this market and suspect some of the vendors are re-sellers. We have bought tomatoes that were more tasteless than supermarket tomatoes if that's possible. I have also found the prices to be rather high. I was not impressed.

      Wish the Village Market at Waldorf school had better hours.

      1. As a regular at the Hillcrest Mall Farmers' Market, I feel that your post sounds a little harsh. The same sensibility applies whether you're shopping at grocery stores or farmers' markets. You need to know your prices to spot out the deals. Generally speaking, the better deals at this particular market come from purchasing larger quantities. At this week's market day, a 3L basket of roma tomatoes were selling for $4 and Ontario peaches for $6. A few weeks ago at the height of wild blueberries season, I came home with a 3L basket for $20. So yes, I agree buyers beware.

        6 Replies
        1. re: ComeUndone

          Harsh?! I'm just presenting the facts as I see them. Besides, I go shopping for produce that I want and expecting to pay a fair price for them and not 'bargain hunting' for just anything! So, to get a little bit angry over such huge price discrepancies for the same products is only natural. BTW, I don't think a lot of us orientals 'bulk buy' roma tomatoes?!

          1. re: Charles Yu

            Would you rather buy produce direct from the farmer that was picked that day (or the day before) or from the supermarket that was picked several days before and has gone through their "distribution chain"? Would you rather support your local small producer who has pride in his crop or the bulk producer who supplies the big chains? The farmers markets allow you to get to know your farmer first hand and learn about the products and get the freshest produce and by getting to know them & them knowing you you will know that the price listed is not always the price that they will sell it for. .

            Many supermarkets use fresh Ontario produce to lure people into the stores sometimes pricing it below cost because they know you will not just buy the peaches but other stuff as well. Especially with the influx of Farmers markets in the city over the past three years I am sure they see the effect on the bottom line and are trying to undercut the farmers. A supermarket can afford to do this a farmer cannot.

            And BTW I know a lot of "you Orientals" that do buy bulk roma tomatoes & bulk peaches etc. I do not know why your race affects anything... But as alway no one can disagree with Chuck.

            1. re: RogerDoger

              This has been discussed at length already:


              Some of the vendors at these places are just resellers, not actual farmers.

              "I am sure they see the effect on the bottom line and are trying to undercut the farmers."

              OK, if Loblaws or Metro or Sobeys is selling Ontario peaches, using your example... they had to have bought those peaches from the farmer. How is that "undercutting" the farmer -- they had to pay his price to get that product, and he got to sell a lot more peaches than he would have from the side of the road or in a little stand at a market. I doubt the grocery chains send people to sneak into the orchards under cover of darkness and steal the fruits....

              Are you suggesting the peach farmers should collude and refuse to sell to the chains, or collude on uniformly higher prices? (oh yeah, the dairy and poultry farmers already do this....)

              1. re: TexSquared

                No that is not what I a saying, by default the lablaws and Sobeys buy from the big producers who can ship the quantity that the supermaret requires. These are not the small farmers that attend farmers markets. The big growers get a contract with the supermarkets and because they are selling high volume (usually they will take the entire crop from the farmer) they get them at a deeply discounted price. (economics 101).

                And like I said you are paying for intangibles as well like fresher produce, and is some cases better quality. Now I cannot speak for all farmers or all markets but if like you said they are fake farmers at the market I would not shop there just like if I knew a store was dishonest as to where it products come from. There are many reputable markets that you can shop at. Markets where they actually vet the farmers to make sure they are real farmers.

                Growing up I worked on a vegatble farm outside of hamilton for 6 years and I can tell you that the best and freshest produce went to their stall at the Hamilton market and the rest was on a truck to the Ontario Food terminal.

              2. re: RogerDoger

                Fellow chowhounder ComeUndone was trying to use 'bulk quantity Roma Tomatoes' as an illustrative example of 'better deals from purchasing quanities'. Since unlike say, Italians' who uses a lot of tomatoes. being of Oriental background', I'm not used to buying such huge volume of tomatoes and hence am not familiar with what constitute a bargain price for the products. As I eluded to previously, I can only make my remarks based on what I saw of the same products in supermarkets vs Farmers market. May be fellow chowhounders RogerDoger and atomeyes should be more 'tolerant' towards chowhounders like myself whose mother tongue is obviously not English!!!
                In farmers market like those found in San Francisco, for example, which I am familiar with. Farmers market means stalls are really operated by nearby farmers selling their own local ( and mostly organic ) products. Here, without signage in most stalls, there's no way one could differentiate real farmers with 're-sellers'! If I have a choice of purchasing the same 're-sale' produce from either super-market or farmers market then why should I pay a lot more to get them from the latter??!! Here I am referring back to my wild Ontario blueberries example!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  Toronto farmer markets are rather 'sad' state.
                  As has been pointed out by other fellows Ch - some vendors are resellers. Some have limited knowledge about the produce they're selling. These vendors are simply people trying to make a living. I found the same vendors at Hillcrest and Fairview. In real farm life, a farmer cannot come to town/city 3-4 days/week. Who's tending the farm (guest workers? - too costly). However, there are two that I personally believe source their products from Ontario lands and I am privileged to be able to support our local farmers.

                  My way to identify whether the produce is from local farm and not from food terminal is by looking closely at the size, colour & freshness of the products. If the size & colour aren't uniformed I consider this as local. If the lettuce is slightly wilted - yes, they did not receive 'mass produced treatment/packaging/refrigration'. Watch also its cleanliness, say if the peapds or stringbeans have more dirt/soil - it's likely local.
                  Knowing our local season also helps. For example I saw peaches in July - well - that's just like No Frill's bins across the road.

                  If you only come to market occasionally you will feel like you've been had like fellow Charles.

                  Though I beg to differ about who are buying bushels of harvest. English isn't my mother tongue, white isn't my colour but I love making jams, preserves, tomato sauce & pickles. They taste so much better than store bought.

                  I wish GTA officers would come to their senses. I have witnessed in Germany that anyone who have extra fruits / vegetables from their gardens can sell their extra in the local market. Yes they need permission and contribute a percentage of their sale to the market authority. This allows others to buy local, organic without going through the rigmarole of red-tapes. It also encourages people to grow fruit trees.


          2. It is always more expensive at Farmer's Market. But I find the taste of some produce is better than the store bought ontario grown if you buy from the farmer not reseller.

            1. Go to Waldorf, less worry about vendors reselling product they procured from the food terminal.


              1. Try going to a "my market " farmers market , where the vendors must sell their own farm grown goods. Many other markets sell food terminal food. I was once at a market where mennonites were selling peppers with the stickers on them, go figure. Store bought things may be cheaper but we really have to support farmers whenever possible, and the only way to do that is to buy directly from them.

                1. I have spoken to some of the farmers at a couple of my favourite markets. There are other reasons why they can be more expensive. The big one is overhead. The cost of physically getting to the market/cost of having the booth and manning it. As a result, their profit margin overall is slimmer. Do some farmers markets sometimes charge more than the stores. Yes. However, a person's choice to go to a farmers market is a very personal decision. I like the atmosphere, I like that I get to ask questions and with my current market I have a few vendors who have become personal friends (which I love!).

                  One small disturbing thing for me with some grocery stores is that the location of the produce is not always what is stated on the board. At one point I went to purchase peppers that read as Ontario but when I checked the tag it clearly stated Mexico. Caveat Emptor really.

                  Did the blueberries from the store say Ontario or Canada? I know that PEI sells a good chunk of the Canadian blueberries and I have found amazing deals with blueberries from there. True Ontario wild blueberries are small and can be expensive just because they have to be hand picked. Even when you go past the road vendors in Northern Ontario I find the blueberries can be pretty expensive.

                  Again, everything goes down to personal choice. Insulting one side over the other is not effective.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Otonabee

                    Both wild blueberries and strawberries containers have ' Foodland Ontario' labels on them!

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      It is upsetting to buy what one believed to be fresher/better produce from a "farmer" in a farmers market only to find out that one have inadvertently purchased produce from a reseller regardless of the purchase price. There should be some type of regulation that mandate the resellers to identify themselves so that the consumers are not misled.

                      Don't let this experience deter you from buying fresh vegetables/fruits from farmers markets. Consider it education. There are many farmers who sell fresher and reasonably priced (albeit more expensive than supermakets) vegetables/fruits. You also get the opportunity to try different produce that you may not normally see in supermarkets.

                      Tomatoes are actually good examples. What you get from the "right" farmers at the farmers markets are so much fresher and better tasting than the ones from supermarkets. If you ever have the time, try the Wychwood Organic Farmers Market (Bathurst & St. Clair) on Saturday Mornings.

                      On the subject of price, does anyone find the prices some farmers charge on some produce just a bit too much? Two weeks ago, I bought some great tasting, fresh heirloom tomatoes from one vendor at the Brickworks for $6.00/lb. I thought about it afterwards, that was really more than what I would normally comfortably pay. Sometimes, I almost feel some farmers are taking advantage of the eat local/fresh/organic movement and charge more than what really is reasonable. It could just be the Brickworks. After my last trip there, I decided to stop going there for a while. Prices at some vendors and parking are making it almost an unenjoyable shopping experience.

                  2. Charles isn't offside here in any regard. So-called "farmers" markets around the GTA are full of resellers pushing food terminal merch. Some take more care concealing it than others but reselling,whether from the terminal or local growers, is rife. I see fewer "Farm" license plates at markets around the western GTA every year and more rented vans.

                    Places like Highland Farms buy locally but I tend to doubt they're screwing farmers--just resellers.

                    Highland Farms
                    850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                    1. If I recall Charles drives everywhere, why not just make the 5-10 min drive a little further north and buy directly from a few of the farms in the Aurora/Stoufville area? You are guaranteed to be from the farm since you are on the farm :)

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          And if you want to make a day of it, you can drive up to the Peterborough Farmer's Market on Saturdays. This is a really good market with a great variety of honest-to-dirt growers of all sorts of different things. Although I suspect that 2 or 3 of the vendors are not actually selling things they have grown themselves, most of them are the genuine article and at this time of year the market is really large. There are a couple of Niagara fruit vendors who charge a bit more for their peaches etc. than what you'd pay at Loblaws but the quality is far superior. You buy a basket of peaches and it actually ripens and has flavour - as opposed to a basket I bought in desperation at Foodland last week that went rotten before they ripened. If there are strawberries there at this time of year, they would be the everbearing type - which produce all summer. Like any other shopping venue, you have to be a bit picky and if something sounds fishy just skip it. But in general, this is a good market with local products.

                      1. I am quite sure that many of these stalls are run by "farmers" who are getting their produce from the Ontario Food Terminal rather than growing it themselves.
                        There's nothing there that you can't get at Highland Farms and for cheaper than at the market.
                        I went there a couple of times, and realized that the produce that I bought wasn't any different in taste, quality and freshness, and I was paying more for it.

                        Highland Farms
                        850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                        1. The Hillcrest "Farmers" Market is not a member of Farmer Markets Ontario. A search on their website shows nothing in Richmond Hill. However the Village Market in Thornhill is a member.


                          Further, as mentioned earlier, "My Markets" consist entirely of vendors that sell their own produce. There appear to be only a handful of them though and none of them are uptown.


                          At markets that also allow resellers, there is another program that appears to be useful called "My PicK". Only farmers that sell their own produce and nothing else qualify for the "My Pick" certification.


                          There does not appear to be any sort of regulation governing the use of the term "Farmers Market". A group of vendors can get together and decide to call themselves a farmers market, even though they are not selling their own produce. This is what appears to have happened at Hillcrest. Probably with the full consent and knowledge of the mall owners.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ManAbout

                            Thanks for the info! It's sad (and criminal) that consumers are being duped like this. There should definitely be regulations but I doubt that will ever happen. The old adage "buyer beware" still applies.

                            1. re: mrsleny

                              If you go to an established market, like, for example, the Weston Farmers' Market, you can easily tell who is a farmer and who is a reseller. The farmers have their trucks pulled up to the stalls and you can read their addresses on the sides of the trucks. Weston is in the city of Toronto, it's not far away.
                              Every Saturday for the last 30 or so years it's been there on John Street, just East of Weston Road, north of Lawrence. It also has the best back-bacon-on-a-bun in the city. You can talk to the farmer.