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Jun 15, 2012 03:56 PM

Last straw - giving up on my farmer's market

First farmer's market vent of the season that I've seen on CH - I'll keep it short (not easy to do with a rant). . . .

I'm over my farmer's market and giving up on it. I live in OHIO (not from OH originally, just live here now) - which means that I am surrounded by farm land (granted mostly corn but still - FARM country) . . . . We have a neighborhood farmer's market where virtually everything comes from small farms within about 30 miles from Columbus. It should be great right . . . .

but the other weekend asparagus was $6/lb. $6/lb in the HEIGHT of season. Seriously. Whole "Paycheck" had asparagus for $3.49/lb.

I'm all for supporting my locals and eating in season but when the farmer's market is almost 2x the cost of Whole Foods someone has gotten the whole point backwards.

So disappointed :( I know so many people will post of their great farmer's markets and it will just make me sad. I should have access to amazing produce where I live and I just don't.

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  1. I'm sure that this post will generate a lot of responses from the slow foods and locavore folks. Personally I agree with you. I try as hard as I can to buy local (I live in Kansas, so I am in the same boat as you), but the prices often mean I have to choose one or two premium items to base a meal around and go with grocery store items to supplement.

    1. i am in boston, mass. with a seriously short growing season here, i too want to support my local farmers and buy local food.

      last summer, my bf came home from his farmers' market in lowell with a heritage, hormone-antibiotic-stress-free-hippy-happy-etc.-etc. chicken. it was under 3 pounds and cost $27. :O even with a mound of veggies we were starving after we ate it. seriously? the birds grub and graze and get no meds and cost 9-10 times more than a conventional bird with more flesh and flavor?

      i still hold out for local fruits -- berries soon, peaches, nectarines, tomatoes and corn later in the summer, but really?

      just this afternoon i bought a forest of basil, a mountain of mint and a huge pile of pea greens all for less than a buck each at my local asian market.

      4 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        With you on the chicken. I was so thrilled when a local poultry farmer started participating in our farmers' market, but with chickens at $12/pound and eggs at $6/dozen - and the chickens frozen at at that - could not bring myself to spend the money, though I had to give the eggs a try. The eggs weren't any better tasting or any different than my supermarket eggs at less than 1/3 the cost, and in fact I think they were less fresh given the appearance of the egg once cracked onto a plate. I'm all for supporting local farmers and growers, but I can't/won't pay two and three times more for my food for the privilege.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          I've often been to the FM in Lowell, though I've never bought anything other than produce. It only has 6 or so vendors, mostly produce, and most of that is well-priced. A typical large purple eggplant, for example, was $2 a couple of years ago. That was comparable to Market Basket, but just-picked. For me, the main attraction of that market is the unusual (compared to MB, Shaws, etc.) produce from the Asian and Latino growers. Last year I stuck with the offerings at two farmstands that are both less than 5 miles from me. Some of the prices ran a little higher than supermarkets, some ran lower. Last week I got rhubarb there for $2 a pound, I have not seen it at MB yet this year - last year it was $2.69, and other area supermarkets had it for almost $3.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            I prefer SoWa in the South End on Sundays. We go every weekend. Got delicious whole bean coffee, carrots, potatoes, eggplant, herbs, and some great bacon for about $20.00-$30.00. Also, they usually some great food trucks there, too.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              But the chickens do require land, rather than being raised in one of Frank Perdue's concentration camps. One the things you pay for is giving your food a less-cruel life.

            2. You do need to factor in the freshness and higher quality into the cost. I only buy produce at grocerie when I have not had time to buy at the farmers market. $6 does sound like a lot for a bundle of asparagus. That's what I pay for sweet purple asparagus, which is a much better than the regular.

              I do find that at the market, you either pay the price for what you want or shop around and buy what is in season and priced to your liking. I am very happy to pay $2.50 a box for the freshest boysenberries and $3 for the freshest yen yen peaches.

              1. I tend to agree... I find it increasingly hard to buy stuff at the Farmers' Markets around me. I just...can' out the kind of money the folks there charge for stuff, not with wild abandon and unconcern for the effect on my wallet, anyway. I try to support the local farmers but nowadays end up buying only selected stuff (like really fresh shiitake mushrooms, certain types of greens, fresh eggs) and token items here and there. Or else I wait for certain stuff to gain "full flight" and the price/amount ratio drops a bit. OK, asparagus around here is more in the $3-4/lb range and is good, so I buy that; but $2 for ONE onion?? Or $3 for one SMALL head of bok choy or $4 for a small baggie of baby kale?? No thanks.

                Another poster mentioned getting fistfuls of stuff from his/her local "Asian" market. So true. That same $3 would buy me a vast amount of bok choy, baby or not, by comparison. 3 bunches of green onions for a buck. 3 enormous bunches of cilantro for a buck too. Etc etc. So what if they're not organic, nor hormone/fertilizer/whatnot-free. Not hung up on that aspect.

                8 Replies
                1. re: huiray

                  i would love to buy pesticide-free stuff but when a GIANT bunch of herbs is a buck vs. a small clump for $3.. my choice is obvious.

                  1. re: huiray

                    Hmm. Here in Berkeley, I only pay a buck for any bunch of Chinese greens: Ch mustard, gai lan, several kind of bok choy, choy sum, nappa cabbage, you name it.

                    Maybe this is a geographic issue because very seldom do I pass on anything because of the price. When I do pay a premium I feel like I am getting the best of the best, so that doesn't bother me. In the larger scheme of things, produce costs are very minor.

                    1. re: chocolatetartguy

                      In many areas of the United States, produce costs are not **minor**. We who live on the West Coast are extraordinarily lucky to have access to modestly priced produce. Our 'premium price' is most likely others' "outrageous price." And we do not pay a premium price often. We are very, very lucky.

                      I lived on the East Coast for 20 years. I've lived on the W.C. for 40. And I am thankful every day for the good produce available to me here.

                      And $6 for asparagus is nuts. I am so sorry that this happened.

                      1. re: chocolatetartguy

                        Definitely a regional thing. When an avocado costs $2 and lemons are .$79 (supermarket costs), I certainly think before I plan on making guacamole or lemonade for a crowd. I swear, one of my favorite things to do when visiting California is to marvel at cheap produce prices.

                        1. re: LeoLioness

                          Years ago, when I was getting ready to move to LA from the midwest, I went to a party. And one guy, upon hearing that I was moving to California (without meaning to honor "The Graduate") said one word, very significantly. "Produce."

                          He was right.

                          I KNOW how spoiled we are on the west coast and I am very very grateful for it. It is indeed a regional thing.

                          1. re: LeoLioness

                            Organic avocados are about $1 here and conventional ones are often on sale 4/$1. Lemons are often on sale 10/$1. Limes 20/$1. I'm in southern NM.

                            1. re: Jackie007

                              Wow! That might be worth flying down there!

                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                LOL...I love living down here. The cost of living is very low, but unfortunately, so are the wages.

                      2. Are prices for other items reasonable? How many vendors sell asparagus, and how long have they been growing it? I ask because asparagus isn't really a good product to gauge the value of the market as a whole. It's takes longer to establish and become productive. Years ago, my local market only had one vendor selling asparagus. It was wildly popular, and usually sold out within an hour or two of the market opening. The vendor priced it accordingly, but all of her other products were competitively priced. Other farmers saw how popular it was, and started planting asparagus. It took a couple of years, but others have started selling it, and the priced dropped dramatically.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: mpjmph

                          That is what I was wondering. I thought most asparagus came from cnetral California, and the season here ( in N Cal) is in April or there abouts.

                          Last week I asked what kind of tomato a market stand was selling and the lady said "local!".

                          1. re: mpjmph

                            You may be getting it from Mexico- I asked about the abundance of asparagus in Rocky Point, Mexico (where nothing grows and I've never, ever seen a wild land animal, and Sam Fujisaka told me that Mexico is (I think) the third largest grower of commercial asparagus in the word. I was gobsmacked, but it sure explains a lot.

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              Here our local asparagus came and went in May. It was good, cheap and amazing. Southern NM grown organically (although not certified). It was like $4/lb, if I remember for green or purple.