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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't...shell 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.

                          2. I live in Chicago where our farmers' markets' produce comes from Michigan, Indiana, and downstate Illinois. I guess it's due to the cost of gas but prices have doubled and in some cases have tripled. With few exceptions, shopping at the farmers' markets has become a luxury. Is the quality that much better? Not necessarily. Last week I bought Bing cherries for $2.88 lb at Mariano's (a market here) so fresh that they snap when you bite into them. Also, at Aldi's (El Cheapo down -market market) I got big fat gorgeous sweet blueberries for $1.29 a pint---when they show up at the farmers' markets both are $5 or $6 a pint.

                            1. I don't blame you. I've become quite jaded with our supposedly "local" farmers market as well. Just found out that vendors can sell anything they've grown or "bought" within a 75-mile radius. Sorry - to me that's not local. I registered a complaint when I personally watched a supposedly "local" vendor removing strawberries from cardboard cartons clearly marked grown a state away & putting them into her own little berry boxes. Needless to say, I was kowtowed to by the market manager & told that nothing untoward was going on. Yeah, right.

                              So when I visit our local farmers market, I just buy from the vendors that I KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, are local. Everyone else can go to h*ll in a handbasket for cheating.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Bacardi1

                                I registered a complaint when I personally watched a supposedly "local" vendor removing strawberries from cardboard cartons clearly marked grown a state away & putting them into her own little berry boxes.

                                Very similar things happen at my town's farmer's market too. I have seen, more than once, people buying produce at Aldi's and other grocery stores on Friday and seeing them selling the same stuff the next day. After the market is over, they go door to door selling the produce.

                                I only buy from the people I know own their own produce.

                                1. re: cleobeach

                                  You really have to know who governs the markets to know what they allow. There are markets by me that allow imported produce alongside producers who truly grow and raise their own. I pretty much know who are the "real deal" and go right on by the tables with corn in May!
                                  Some producer/vendors grow some, and resell some.
                                  I'm a purist at heart but don't begrudge people making a living. The problem is, many folks don't know that they're buying what anyone can get in a supermarket and sometimes are paying more.

                                  1. re: monavano

                                    One of the markets in my area allows resellers also but requires all produce for sale to be clearly labeled as:

                                    HG (Homegrown) - The vendor is the grower (or employee of the grower).
                                    FD (Farm direct) - The vendor purchased the product directly from the grower.
                                    WS (Wholesale) - The vendor could have gone to the grocery store across the street, bought a case of strawberries and is now reselling them.

                                    But unfortunately they don't always rigorously enforce the labeling.

                                    1. re: kmcarr

                                      I give them points for transparency. Most sellers won't tell unless you ask.
                                      I just couldn't help myself a couple weeks ago and bought corn. I love corn...so, so much... and, I'm back.
                                      OK, so I figured it wasn't local (knee high by 4th of July and all that) so I asked, knowing I'd still buy it. Indeed, the corn from this VA farm was from SC. In a few weeks, I'll get the real local stuff ;-)

                              2. I don't blame you. When the local and organic and sustainable folks charge more than my modest budget can afford, I head straight to ShopRite for whatever they have instead. I want to buy from farmers markets, but I'm not going to blow my budget and miss a mortgage or electric payment to do so.

                                1. I disagree that the "whole point" of farmers' markets is about price. Supermarkets will always have economies of scale on their side. They can keep costs down by selling varieties which have the best yield and shelf life, but not necessarily the best flavor. A farmers' market can compete by selling varieties not available in any supermarket, and which are perhaps fresher and tastier, but cannot compete on price.

                                  But I agree that a factor of two is hard to swallow.

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: GH1618

                                    Agree wholeheartedly on your first paragraph. A farmer's market never has been about price and anyone who thinks so is the one getting the point backward. So Whole Foods can sell asparagus cheaper--so what? It's not the same experience and it's not the same support to a local farmer in your very neighborhood. Is the farmer's direct product organic and is WF grown in fecal matter? That factors into it as well. Does the store overcharge on some items to subsidize others? Is the product you buy in the store from a corporation that receives tax payer susidies?

                                    For those complaining about chicken prices--pasture raised chicken has a season too. Think fresh pastured chicken is an option in Ohio in February? Obviously not. Someone said the eggs purchased from a local farmer weren't all that special. Did you know what you were buying? Were they eggs from chickens raised on pasture. . .or eggs from a local chicken? The former are much more nutritous and will be vibrate orange yellow the latter will look like grocery store eggs because they've been fed on grain/not raised on pasture--just like the grocery store.

                                    I think some people get turned off by farmer's markets because they don't want to be bothered to educate themselves about what is best to buy there and they don't want to ask questions. In the Cleveland area I look forward to our farm markets (along with our CSA) and the vendors are always happy to chat and answer questions. I think they are wonderful! But not everything there is a good buy.

                                    1. re: gourmanda

                                      We now have 'spring chickens' year around.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        If your point is that you can buy chicken year round in a grocery--of course you can. And of course it proves my point about people not educating themselves in regards to buying local. You can not, however, get a fresh locally pasture-raised chicken in Ohio from late Fall through Spring.

                                        1. re: gourmanda

                                          "During the earliest days of poultry farming, it was impossible to raise chicks during the cold winter months, so a chicken brought to market in the spring was prized for its youth and fresher flavor."

                                      2. re: gourmanda

                                        "Is the farmer's direct product organic and is WF grown in fecal matter?"

                                        Fecal matter? Oh, you mean organic fertilizer.

                                        1. re: FrankJBN

                                          No, I meant the literal crap that was the cause of a not too long ago spinach recall, green onion recall and probably many others. But don't worry, it's probably on your supermarket meat as well.

                                          1. re: gourmanda

                                            Did that have anything to do with the fact that some growers do no supply adequate bathrooms/breaks for those people who are harvesting the crop?

                                            1. re: escondido123

                                              I'm not sure if that is fact or myth but if it's fact then that proves my point about knowing what you pay for and why paying more at a farmer's market is necessarily a bad thing.

                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                No. The spinach contamination came either from cattle or from feral pigs.

                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                  Look up "honey pot" if you want to understand why you shouldn't buy imported produce. It isn't just an absence of bathrooms. It is intentional.

                                                  And although truthfully, human waste can be safely composted to use as a fertilizer, only weird hippies living off the land are doing it. The rest is just raw sewage.

                                        2. I think it might be all relative.

                                          I know many who pay 3 to 4 bucks for a "mocha- whatever- latte" daily, they pay for the convenience to eat lunch out for 5 to 6 bucks (easy), they easily pay 10 bucks for a spiffy "mango martini" at happy hour and pay 5 bucks for a small wedge of "real" aged parm.

                                          Why not pay more for wonderful produce? If the produce is not significantly better- then I understand that. At my farmers market, the produce is worth it - if you value it when putting together your dinner. I just paid an enormous amount for baby turnips ( as I am not growing them myself this year). They were worth every penny as they were the star of my dinner the other night. No way could you find small, fresh, bright white, perfect turnips like that in the grocery store.

                                          I think it kind of depends on your values -and what you eat each day.

                                          26 Replies
                                          1. re: sedimental

                                            Or maybe it depends on your BUDGET. Not being able to spend double and triple the price on food at the farmers market doesn't mean that a person doesn't value fresh and local food.

                                            Maybe they just value paying their bills more? Hmmm?

                                            1. re: Njchicaa

                                              I agree with this. I would LOVE to have the luxury of spending more money on the beautiful produce at my local farmers' markets, but not only does my frugal soul cringe at paying $5 a pound for tomatoes in July, for cripe's sake, but I just straight up do not have the money for it. I value paying my mortgage, therefore I cannot value paying six bucks a pound for asparagus or some nonsense.

                                              I get frustrated with farmers' markets that clearly cater to the yuppie slacktivist crowd, not because I begrudge them their profits, but because it turns local farming into a pet issue for the Prius-driving NPR set (and I say this as a Prius-driving NPR-listener) rather than an issue of health, equality, and fairness for every citizen.

                                              1. re: Njchicaa

                                                Yes, if you have to make a choice between paying your bills and food. My point was that many people EASILY pay for other things (see my post) like coffee, drinks, good cheese, and a convenient lunch - routinely. It is a matter of priority.

                                                If you can't pay your power bill, then you shouldn't shop for produce at a farmers market, because it certainly will not be the "cheapest" around.

                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                  I suspect that this might be a factor in a different direction. If farmer's markets become more trendy, and attract the kind of customer that can pay premium prices for food and is willing to do so, then the prices can skyrocket while the market still attracts customers. If they prices go up and nobody pays them and shops elsewhere, then the prices go down.

                                                  So the farmer's market becomes the green-gourmet-food equivalent of the kind of shop where you spend tons of money for imported aged balsamic vinegar, or truffles, or flown in daily from Japan sushi grade fish. Or, for that matter, expensive brand-name fashion. If enough people are willing to pay premium prices, they don't have to be affordable to the masses.

                                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                    I think you hit the nail on the head with your observation, TastesGood!

                                                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                      This is a good observation, and it winds up being true in some cases. Just keep in mind that not all farmers markets attract wealthy, trendy types or even charge particularly high prices. My local farmers market (in southwestern PA) barely charges more than our local grocery store (Giant Eagle), and generally offers much better food (though a smaller selection).

                                                      I suspect it doesn't get more business because (among other reasons) a lot of the locals are biased against farmers markets - considering them snobby or something - despite very similar prices for better quality. My town doesn't really have many wealthy, trendy types.

                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        I agree, cowboyardee. I'm from SW PA, Pittsburgh, and after reading all of these posts I'm so thankful for my farmers market. I can spend less than $20 and end up with two big bags of produce.

                                                      2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                        Tastes Good,

                                                        Market forces are certainly one of the inputs determining prices, but other things affect price too; for most actual Farmers who sell direct at farmer's markets, there is a baseline that they cannot go below and make it worth growing the damn veggies in the first place!

                                                        Labor, seed, their utilities... all the costs of producing the veg must be added up and then some kind of profit made in order to continue to even make planting growing and selling worth it.

                                                        A great book to read to understand all this better (and a good read for any CH'er, is Kurt Timmermeister's The Growing of a Farmer, explaining the development of his small farm on Vashon Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle. He found that their was no economic equasion that could allow him to charge enough for veggies after a couple of years of trying to make it worth it as a retail crop (this was for his size of farm, of course, not true for larger farms, obviously).

                                                        Trendyness and what the market will bear may be at the high end of things, but there is a minimum baseline that is reasonable for a Farmer to charge, or they simply can't afford to show up!

                                                  2. re: sedimental

                                                    i earn significantly less than the median income for my area and live in an expensive city. i live in an urban condo, so cannot garden. i am not buying lattes, getting pedicures or driving a nice car.

                                                    i do take my food, cooking and health very seriously. i cannot, at this point, reconcile farmers' market prices for my regular produce purchases. i will suck it up for local fruits and corn, but that's about all i can afford. and i don't buy that stuff in supermarkets because it always sux.

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      I understand that. Especially for east coasters apparently. I am not sure why the prices are so high for certain items....and a shorter growing season doesn't really explain the price differences.
                                                      I don't think most people expect that a FM will be the least expensive place to shop though. I am not sure why it is such a surprise to some people that it costs more to shop there, than in a regular grocery store.

                                                      1. re: sedimental

                                                        i don't expect it to be the cheapest place for food, and i comprehend economy of scale as far as big markets go.

                                                        that being said, should only yoga moms driving beemers be able to afford to shop there?

                                                        people wonder why urban poor don't have access to fresh and affordable produce?

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          I agree that the urban poor have a very bad deal in terms of food ( and many other things). Farmers markets in urban environments are not something I know much about in terms of their economics. Is it solely the responsibility of farmers to correct this wrong? Here in Western MA, many markets take food stamps , have a range of prices, and clearly serve a cross section of the populace. And hardly anyone even drives a beemer.

                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                            I guess I am wondering about the use of the word "should" here. Should we have great income disparity? That's a hot political debate at the moment. If we deem that all people "should" be able to afford to buy all their groceries at market, how do we resolve that? Reducing income disparity across the board, raising the minimum wage etc could be solutions. I can tell you that the solution is not to ask the farmers to drop their prices because they "should." Whether their prices are accurate reflections of their expenses or whether they are setting the price high because they can -- that is the farmer's prerogative. Farmers are capitalists too. Should farmers lower their profit margins, and their total income, because all people "should" be able to afford their product? What other industries are subject to that expectation?

                                                            One approach that I like is the food stamp doubling program: http://wholesomewave.org/dvcp/ It basically doubles the value of your food stamps if you spend them on farmers market produce. This program increases the purchasing power of lower income families without asking the farmer to eat the cost of fixing the world.

                                                            1. re: yellowstone

                                                              that doubling program is a great idea! in macro-terms, i bet it costs pennies per person. i don't want to deny farmers fair profit for their efforts. perhaps some pie in the sky program to help family farms instead of the billions going to big ag for stoopid things like ethanol?

                                                              here in boston the farmers' markets are mostly located outside major subway stations, one would think with an eye towards lots of foot traffic and great accessibility for urban dwellers who can't drive out to farms and orchards. but much of the stuff is beyond the price point of reasonability for the average charlie-card holder. like me.

                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                I don't live in Boston because I can't afford to live the way I want to there, or anywhere near there, my profession being poorly paid. And I don't have TV because it is a ridiculous expense. But I buy the freshest produce, meat and dairy I can find and I enjoy keeping land near my home in farmland instead of subdivisions, which requires buying from local farmers. I want them here and I am willing pay for the privilege of having small farms survive.

                                                                These are not the choices others may make, and certainly there are many many people who don't have much choice at all. That is capitalism.

                                                            2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                              Well, if you want to see what FM *can* be to urban areas, Seattle and Portland are good examples of urban markets that serve a wide range of people. In my PNW town, our markets are certainly not just for yoga moms in beemers. But the produce is more certainly more expensive than at a grocery store. People are choosing to shop at the market as much as they can. I think the culture of the area might have just as much to do with it as prices.

                                                              At my market, there is a loooooong row of bicycles - not beemers:)

                                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                                SNAP/WIC can be used at farmer's markets in my city via wooden tokens. You use $10 of your SNAP/WIC benefits and you get a wooden token to spend worth $20. Not sure of the actual logistics. I know vendors sign up to accept them, so I guess they then go and get reimbursed by the state.

                                                                1. re: Jackie007

                                                                  Our farmers' market has a program like that, too. They will match your SNAP dollar for dollar. It really helped us out two summers ago. (I think it is somehow funded by a local senior care program. I'm a little fuzzy on the logistics, myself.)

                                                                  However, I didn't find the prices at our market to be particularly outrageous in the first place. (Honey excepted. Good God.) I'm in Virginia, right next to the Shenandoah Valley. I know the prices skyrocket as you head towards DC, and likely as you get closer to the coast, as well.

                                                              2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                Farmer's markets don't really have much to do with the urban poor, imo... what they need is access to any grocery store that stocks fresh veggies at reasonable prices. Farmer's markets are clearly not it.

                                                                1. re: AriaDream

                                                                  Immigrant communities have dealt with this with produce stands, and in some case weekly markets, supply their own types of vegetables and basic groceries.

                                                                  In a Seattle suburb there are several produce stands/markets owned by Vietnamese and Indians, but catering to many recent immigrant groups (S Asian, SE Asian, African, Hispanic, E Euoropean), some are just down the road from a new WF.

                                                                  Bizarre Foods America visited Hmong market in Mpls, and a Vietnamese one in New Orleans.

                                                                  These markets don't require that the carrots be local organic free range. Nor are things laid out as neatly as at WF, nor are they as pristine. I've learned to pick and choose my produce with care. But I get sticker shock when visiting a regular grocery.

                                                                  1. re: AriaDream

                                                                    I disagree, with caveats. There are several programs in my city that allow urban families to use their WIC checks, EBT/food stamps, and government surplus vouchers at farmers' markets. Programs like this only work if the prices are right, but the ones in my city are incentivized by various nonprofits to help make up the price difference between the vouchers/checks/EBT and what the farmers need to make a living.

                                                                    1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                      My farmers market takes SNAP - what happens is they trade part of their SNAP for $1 wooden tokens. I accept SNAP tokens at face value, and turn them in and get reimbursed by the market manager. I do not get a lot of SNAP $$s, but probably $20 a month or so (like 4 transactions for me)....

                                                                      1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                        That's how it works at my local market, plus they have a grant (sponsored by the hospital/medical school in town) that allows SNAP participants to receive more market money than the face value of their SNAP funds. The same infrstructure supports the use of debit and credit cards - I can use my debit card to buy the wooden tokens if I don't have enough cash that morning.

                                                                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                    In King County, in which Seattle is, there is a special program giving special vouchers to people on food stamps (or who can prove low income, tho have not gone on food stamps) specifically provided for them to shop at farmer's markets so that locally raised veggies, etc. are not only the province of the rich.

                                                                    Hope this idea spreads to other cities and states!

                                                                    1. re: gingershelley

                                                                      definitely. EBT (California's term for food stamps) is accepted at the Farmer's Market here in Merced, CA. Given our town's low median income, small overall population, and unemployment rate heading DOWN to about 18%, I doubt if the FM would be a viable enterprise if it did not accept EBT.

                                                                      1. re: gingershelley

                                                                        We have this in Massachusetts, too. And it was featured in the documentary, The Apple Pushers, which is about NYC's program to get "greencarts" - street vendors with produce carts - into the neighborhoods with the highest rates of diabetes and obesity (which are also the "food deserts"). It is being shown again on PBS this week.

                                                              3. You're not alone. Since moving to the East Coast a couple years ago, I, too, have given up on local farmer's markets. Why? Mostly because I can get a better selection (more varieties, etc) of tastier produce, at lower prices, at Whole Foods ( which should really say something, since we all know WF is no bargain for produce). My WF sells a lot of its seasonal produce from small local family farms, too, so what's the benefit to shopping in the farmers market anymore? Plus, its easier to make sure what I'm getting is organic (I realized last year that a lot of the produce at one of the local markets I went to was Not actually organic).

                                                                Also since we are just a family of two, having to buy my produce in one shot on a weekend often results in me throwing some produce away because I bought too much or because it went bad faster than I could use it up. This problem is also solved by shopping at a store, where I can pop in and buy produce as-needed.

                                                                I do feel sort of guilty that I'm no longer a farmer's market fan ( and if I lived elsewhere, I still,might be one - my parents live in Green Bay and they have a fabulous market up there!). But I've finally just had to acknowledge to myself that, for me, choosing the market over Whole Foods yields very few benefits, and it costs a heck of a lot more.

                                                                1. It appears that a lot of the pricing agony depends on where you live, and how many markets there are. Here in Los Angeles County there's a Certified FM program in place with a huge number of weekly markets on the roster. I live in Pasadena and now have four markets within this smallish city alone, plus a new and very good one up in Altadena and another fine one down in South Pasadena. There are also four or five others within reasonable driving distance throughout the week. Thus it is that some of the best organic navel oranges I've ever seen are $1.50/lb, purple asparagus is $3/bunch or two for $5, heirloom tomatoes $4/lb, or about what WF charges and a lot less than Gelson's. I remember very well the beginnings of some farmer's markets, with stuff that fifty years before would have been sold off a roadside stand for less than Kroger would charge suddenly becoming rare and precious gems. A good range of competitors and plenty of them works on farmer's markets as well as it does anywhere else. And the folks I buy the oranges and the greens and the stone fruits have no complaints, because they're selling a damn good harvest by the ton.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                                    Is it fair to compare local produce offerings in Los Angeles with those in Ohio - in the middle of June?

                                                                    I wonder if anyone has done a study comparing the farms supplying markets in different parts of the country. I'm wondering about things like number of acres, number of employees, use of irrigation, number markets sold at per week, number of weeks per year, etc.

                                                                    My nearest market (Seattle suburb) operates 4 mths of the year, for 5 hrs Friday afternoon. Since the 2-3 produce vendors come from Yakima 150 miles away, I imagine they can only make a living if they also sell at a Saturday, and maybe a Sunday market.

                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                      Paulj, I agree with you - SoCal pricing certainly is no comparison to other areas of the country.

                                                                      I am also in a SEA suburb. The Thursday FM in Burien - a lower income area than it's big city neighbor to the north - West Seattle has such reasonable prices for it's produce - not cheap, but less by FAR than the Sunday market in West Seattle.

                                                                      On having delved a bit into it, they are each part ofdifferent FM systems, and the Burien one only charges vendors $25 a day to be there; prices on nearly everything is at least a $1 less per bunch or pound. West Seattle's market is highly regulated and stalls are in the $100's per week.
                                                                      The farmers who indeed must come from Eastern WA do indeed also have to get certain baseline inputs for pricing to make the trip worth it. The few truck farms in Kent and Puyallup (closer in) have less travel cost, but I bet their taxes are much higher than farms in Easter WA.

                                                                      I like to keep in mind the hard work of the farmer, and all thier costs which make it much easier to bear paying FM prices. I certainly go to Burien market more than West Seattle tho!

                                                                      Eggs at Burien are $4 a dozen, West Seattle they are $7... case in point. And the Burien egg lady says she charges $5 in Issaquah Highlands (Rich suburb) because she can, and at Burien, she doesn't think she should.

                                                                    2. re: Will Owen

                                                                      I agree with Will. Of course, pricing compared to Whole Foods isn't an issue I'd even consider where I live, as the closest WF is more than fifty miles away from my town (Merced, CA). That said, prices at my local Farmer's Market tend to be lower than the neighborhood grocery store (Raley's) and for that I get organic fruits and veggies. Prices at the non-organic neighborhood farm stand (for fruit and veggies grown literally three or four blocks from me) are even lower yet. (though asparagus season here is long past).

                                                                      I guess that is one benefit of living in the great Central Valley of California, where much of the produce eaten elsewhere is grown (certainly, a lot of the stone fruit, almonds and sweet potatoes, three of our big local crops, are grown within fifty miles of here). In that regard, paulj's comment about whether it is fair to compare pricing on local produce in LA in June with pricing on produce in Ohio in June: no, of course, not, they aren't comparable. But I wouldn't blame that price difference on the Farmer's Market either! It is much more a function of where the FM happens to be located, than on any inherent pricing policy at the FM. Indeed, I've noticed that when specific fruits and veggies come into season locally, the prices go down at the Raley's, presumably because the Raley's manager knows that they must lower those prices to match the many local farms and to be able to compete. (we have a lot of farms, both big and small, in the immediate vicinity of my town, so there are many options) Raley's also buys locally at that point, which helps.

                                                                      Again, we benefit from living where the food is grown (both in quality and in quantity). By comparison, a farmers' market in an area without a lot of farms is not going to be able to be competitive with a WF that is able to buy its asparagus in greater bulk from wherever, and then ship it in. Nor can the FM compete with a WF marketing decision to use something like asparagus as a loss leader, when the FM only has a few options. Here in farm country, WF probably would choose something other than a locally grown and very available fruit or vegetable as its loss leader. That doesn't mean the FM is overpriced, it means that the WF is competing on an un-level playing field.

                                                                      The one item that is much more expensive at my FM (and as part of my CSA box, which is also a viable option here where I live), is a dozen eggs. And yes, I pay the much higher prices for pastured organic eggs. I *can* tell the difference in taste and freshness and now that I have tasted that difference, I just can't go back to the supermarket version.

                                                                    3. I tend to agree with the OP. I live in an urban metro area and have access to a number of farmers markets (usually on the fringe of the area). Some are regulated by the National Association of Farmers Markets, others are not. The ones that are are guaranteed local producers; the ones that are not may not be genuine producers (but may still have great produce).

                                                                      I find that, with both types of market, you have to exercise the usual care about buying and judge whether you are getting what you hope to get. For example, I can easily buy organic eggs at any supermarket, but I will always buy them from a particular producer at one market. It's because the price is right, she details what breed of chicken they are from and it's just supporting a local producer. In between the monthly markets, I'm happy to buy at the supermarket.

                                                                      1. I've done work that has brought me to a lot of local farms over the years. Let me tell you how HARD these people work. Let me tell you how many of them go broke. And Whole Foods is famous for really screwing small farmers and manufacturers. They place lots of big orders, for a season or two. The producers expand their operations on the expectation that the orders will continue, and THEN Whole Foods demands discounts so deep that they put these people out of business in short order.

                                                                        Give up on my local farmers? Not a chance. Give up on Whole Foods? I already have. I can't talk my mom out of the place, so I have been known to pick up a jar of Marmite or so when I am there. But you'll never catch me heading to that place on my own.

                                                                        Small farmers are up against EVERYTHING. The laws and the culture support big ag.

                                                                        Most people won't pay for the local produce. So there is not a whole lot of local produce. They are used to super cheap factory farm food. And feel insulted when food is anything but crazy cheap.

                                                                        It's your choice to not buy it, but that you are sad about it, as if the local growers were exploiting you, is because you haven't enough information to see it clearly.

                                                                        It is your choice to buy local produce or not. Lots of us are struggling these days. But we pay much less per day on food than most people in most parts of the world do. And I see people who describe themselves as struggling spending money on things that make me sad: lawns, manicures, fancy cars and labridoodles.

                                                                        Food, however, is important. I can't afford to do all my shopping at farmer's markets or local farm stands because my circumstances won't permit it. But I buy what I can there. And the food is fresher and better than what I can get at any Whole Foods or supermarket.

                                                                        I'm just grateful that I live in one of the few states where the number of family farms is increasing. My sister lives in Chicagoland and her only options are the big chains and the produce is often disgusting.

                                                                        I can walk half a mile and buy eggs from backyard chickens. Are they organic? I have no idea. But I can see the birds and they are happy and clean. Are the eggs more expensive than the ones at the supermarket? They are. They are. But there is no comparison. You should see the yolks. And you should taste cakes and waffles made with them.


                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                            In what way is Pipenta being ENTITLED? I thought Pipenta's comments showed a) some of the Farmers perspective b) that he/she also cannot afford to get all produce there, but makes the effort to support local producers when possible and c) makes a GREAT case for good local eggs.

                                                                            What's entitled about that?

                                                                          2. What is really needed is a 6-7 day a week permanent produce market. These are seen in foreign countries on a regular basis. These provide an economy of scale, and a wide variety. As all of the retailers and restaurant trade would also be buying from this location, it will help keep supply, demand and inventory balanced. Yes, there will be imported produce, but it will also provide a sales venue for the locally produced items.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: NVJims

                                                                              This is a good idea in theory, but almost impossible to put into action - at least in my area - unless your vendors are farming on a large if not commercial basis. Except for a few of the non-local "cheaters" at our farmers market, all of the other vendors (whether selling produce or home-raised meats/eggs) are smallholders - doing all of the farm work & market sales themselves. Some also have part or full-time jobs outside of the market. These folks simply don't have the time or resources to attend a 6-7-day market, or pay the raised dues & fees that would most likely result.

                                                                              Might work in a larger town/city with a larger population, but not in smaller enclaves.

                                                                              1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                This is VERY common in the South....small (or sometimes large) produce stands are everywhere. Of course we have weekly farmers markets as well but the produce stands still thrive.

                                                                            2. You should try this experiment; put in an asparagus bed in your yard, carefully track your expenses and labor for a period of several years. Also, record your asparagus yield. After about five years compute your cost per pound.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: kengk

                                                                                Yes - asparagus is definitely a crop that requires long-term dedication. Two uncles of mine were commercial farmers who grew & sold it to the local supermarkets (this was way back before the interstate produce trucking industry was rampant), & my father grew it for us in his home garden.

                                                                                First off, since asparagus is a perennial, it needs a space in the garden where it will never be disturbed. Well-cared-for asparagus beds can produce for 20-50 years. After planting the rootstock, you need to wait pretty much 3 solid years before you can start to harvest, & even then you need to start out sporadically so that the plants can build up energy reserves. And if you decided to start asparagus from seed, well you can add another 3 years to the timeline used for rootstock. It's not a quick crop. And if you plan to sell all or part of your crop, you'll have to plant quite a bit of it to have enough to make it worth it.

                                                                              2. I just came back form my local market. everything I bought was organic or no pesticide/no herbicide. I spent $20 and got a huge bunch of very large radishes with greens, another of hakurei turnips, also with greens, a quart of strawberries, 4 oz of locally produced chocolate chevre, a dozen at least extra large eggs, a fresh scone, a bunch of asian greens I don't know the name of and .5 pounds of broccoli. I talked with the farmers who grew the food, the cheesemaker who produced it from goats she raised and milked, talked with people I hadn't seen for awhile. well worth it, I'd say.

                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                1. re: magiesmom

                                                                                  You're lucky. The same haul at my local farmer's market would easily cost more than twice that. A dozen eggs goes for $8, quart of strawberries is $5, small log of chevre is $5-8...

                                                                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                    Where are you? I did pay $4 for a quart of organic strawberries, but eggs at $12? wow!

                                                                                    1. re: magiesmom

                                                                                      Oh wait! I just asked my partner and I was wrong, they were $8, not $12. I will edit my post accordingly. I'm in Cambridge, MA.

                                                                                      1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                        So where is the farm where the eggs came from, do you think?

                                                                                        1. re: magiesmom

                                                                                          Regional differences are amazing. I raise chicken for eggs and for fun. Mine are free range, organic diet...and...wait for it....live in a chicken coop painted with Martha Stewart pastel colors! They have names like..."egg ness", "Hen rietta", etc. and follow me around the yard like pets.

                                                                                          I sell their huge brown specked eggs for 5 bucks a 12 pack.

                                                                                          1. re: magiesmom

                                                                                            Hardwick, MA, which is about 75 miles away.

                                                                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                              schlepping eggs 75 miles is more expensive than selling them locally. All are markets here are quite near peoples' farms. So eggs here are 3.50 to 5 at markets. But you know, even at 8 you have the excellent protein basis for 6 meals.

                                                                                              1. re: magiesmom

                                                                                                Here too (Cleveland) $3.50 per dozen of the best, yellowest pasture-raised eggs that are raise about 1 hour away. Their chickens are more than the grocery store, and I only buy chicken about 4 times a year anyway, but they are more juicy then the best I can get at the grocery store.

                                                                                  2. Whether or not higher costs are worth it depends entirely on your reason for shopping at a farmers market.

                                                                                    Food quality:
                                                                                    - Depends on the ingredient. $6/lb for asparagus vs $3/lb for asparagus that looks and tastes the same makes it an easy call as to where to shop. But $4/lb for delicious tomatoes vs $1/lb for tasteless hydroponic tomatoes is a similarly easy decision - tasteless tomatoes are a waste of money at any price (there are better ways to make your food red). The point being... shop around. Just because you go to a farmers market doesn't mean you have to buy everything there, and just because some of the ingredients there are overpriced doesn't mean they offer nothing worthwhile.

                                                                                    - Support local producers
                                                                                    Some people don't care about this. And some farmers markets don't actually feature food from local producers. So look into it. Personally, I think big agriculture is often a bad thing for this country, so I'm willing to pay a little more for producers that go the harder, independent route (which is not necessarily all local producers). I'm not going to make a big argument here, but anyone who is interested on my stance on big ag protectionism and monopolistic practices or Monsanto, Cargill, and others specifically is welcome to read my posting history.

                                                                                    - Animal raising practices
                                                                                    Yes, you can buy a dozen eggs at extraordinarily cheap prices at most grocery stores. There's a reason those eggs are so cheap. Read up on it. Is $3 or $4/dozen eggs an outrageous price? No, that's just what eggs that harvested from humanely raised chicken cost in order to be sustainable (varies by locale, btw). Again, not all meat products at your local farmers market are necessarily raised well (and not all meat products at your supermarket are necessarily raised badly). So look into it.

                                                                                    In the end, a farmers market is no guaranty of quality or locality or humane practices. BUT it does typically provide a venue for alternatives to what you can buy at a grocery store, and in providing that venue, it makes it more likely that high quality, local, and/or humanely raised ingredients are available to you. And by supporting alternatives to mainstream, big ag-produced food, there's the added benefit that you help to build inroads for it in the local economy, which can potentially help lower prices over time.

                                                                                    If you can't afford to buy all your food from a farmers market but you're sympathetic to the above concerns - simply buy what you can with the above principles in mind, and compromise when you have to. No shame in that. I fail to see why this should be an 'all or nothing' proposition.

                                                                                    If you don't care about the above concerns... okay, but why would you go to a farmers market in the first place then?

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                      Well said. I agree that I also "fail to see why this should be an 'all or nothing' proposition." I live in an urban area, and I have to make due on a graduate student's stipend. I try to save money where I can, but I don't mind paying a little extra at the farmers market. Sure, I can't feed myself exactly the way I want to all the time, because I can't afford it. But, my $20 or $30 a week goes towards something I care about, and I don't feel quite as bad if I need to buy the occasional factory chicken. It's not all or nothing, it's about doing what fits with your budget and your priorities. I fail to see why someone would need to be done with farmers markets because a single item was expensive.

                                                                                    2. I go to the Farmers' Market down the street from me every Tuesday afternoon. Do I buy all my produce there? No, but there are certain items that I do buy when available because the price is reasonable for the quality and freshness. On my list right now is nice, small zucchini, cauliflower and cabbage small to extra large, broccoli often the tender side shoots, stone fruit, and avocados. When they are in season, I also always get my apples there because the taste is so much better than the cheaper ones at the grocery store. (Lately there have been asparagus and artichokes, but the cost is too high for quality not necessarily comparable to the grocery store.)

                                                                                      1. As a farmer who sometimes sells at Farmer's market and a consumer who often shops at them, the deal should be that the farmer is able to make more (or enough) money on what they sell and stay competitive with other food sources by eliminating the middle men. I assure you that no wholesaler will pay retail where direct farmer to consumer sales will. The only excuse I can see for $6 asparagus is a farmer who bought their product at Whole Foods and then marked it up for the Farmer's market.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: susanl143

                                                                                          +1 I'm all for supporting my local farmers and have tried hard to do so. But going to "the source" and paying 2x retail just isn't working for me.

                                                                                          i was raised going to farmers markets my whole life. Historically (in my experience), farmers markets were a win-win. The farmers could get more for their crops than they would from the wholesalers and the shoppers would get great produce for less than they would at the grocery. That dynamic has clearly changed in my farmers market - and I again I live 10 minutes from hard core farm country in every direction.

                                                                                          I guess I'm happy for the farmers who can get those prices but sad for my own loss. I'm sure I'll go back once the peaches start coming into the market, they taste great and were a reasonable price last year. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

                                                                                        2. We see the same out and out gouging here in Vancouver-I complained about it on the local Chowhound forum the other day and was roundly chastised by local pollyannas.

                                                                                          Not only do local farmers here charge too much-Yes even more than WF- they use volunteer labour to Staff their booths on market day!

                                                                                          I'm all for people making a buck but when I see the same farmers vacationing in Zihuatanejo @ hotels I couldn't afford in my dreams it sticks in my craw that they cry poor and complain about long hours-I work long hours too.

                                                                                          1. One thing to keep in mind is that the spring growing season east of the Mississippi this year was really screwy- very warm March followed by cold snaps in April and later. About 80% of the American tart cherry crop this year got wiped out,and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of other crops are a lot smaller now than they usually are, leading to higher prices for what did make it.

                                                                                            1. I guess what this thread is teaching me is how different farmers markets are across the country. If I could bag the same amount of food at my neighborhood market as the poster who,got all that food for $20, I would be a dedicated market shopper, too! That's not the case where I live, unfortunately.

                                                                                              I think what annoys me about some of the reactions to the original post, though, is this straw man argument some people create, throwing out arguments like, "well, if you don't care about sustainable farming, then go buy the $2 a dozen eggs at your local Wal-mart." I think the whole point of this issue is that we all DO care about these issues! But why should I pay $7 for a dozen eggs at a market, just so I can say hi to the farmer face-to-face, when I can get organic, cage free, high quality eggs at a store for $4.50?? I don't mean this as a rhetorical question, I would actually be interested in peoples answers. Am I missing something?

                                                                                              13 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: anakalia

                                                                                                well, two reasons:

                                                                                                1. as my post above implies, there are those of us who live where there are more farms than high end stores. I *can't* get high quality cage free organic eggs in any store within 50 miles of here for as little as 4.50 a doz. High end stores really don't exist around here. Farms do. And anyway, the ones I get in the CSA (which are also sold at the Farmer's Market) are pastured, which is better than cage free. If I could get cage free but not pastured for 4.50 I'd still pick pastured for $7. I know, it is an indulgence, but it is so worth it.

                                                                                                2. If I were to go to the closest Whole Foods or similar place (driving 50 plus miles to get there), not only would I be spending the money on my own gas, I would be supporting a business that might have imported that cheap asparagus from Chile, or somewhere else that isn't local and isn't of relatively low carbon footprint. I'd rather pay more to support local and not to increase my carbon footprint, particularly since I will save most of the additional $ I spend by buying three blocks away instead of 60 minutes by car. Indeed, I am so adverse to driving long distances to shop that I hardly ever go across town even if it will save money. Even when I lived in the City (San Francisco) which has more than its share of stores in all price ranges, I preferred to buy the food that was grown locally, because it meant I wasn't contributing to air pollution and carbon footprint when the food was shipped from elsewhere, or paying for the cost of shipping it, and because it meant I was supporting my local economy. This is the same reason I bought my new car in Merced rather than driving sixty miles to Fresno, even though it is possible I could have save a little money (not much) by doing so. Unemployment in my area is approaching 20% I feel good when buy from my neighbors, whether literal (as is the case here in my new home town) or more figurative (as when I lived in SF and bought food grown in towns in neighboring counties)...

                                                                                                As for farmers who can vacation in fancy resorts in Mexico: if that is true in Vancouver Canada must be really different than here. No small farmer I've ever met (and living in a farm town, I do meet them) can even really afford to take the kids to Disneyland! Big Agri-business sure. But they aren't selling at our Farmer's Markets, they are shipping to wherever...

                                                                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                  The few farmers I know could afford an OK vacation every few years, but they don't have time! Farming is 24/7/365 - I can't imagine any of my farmer friends having the time to leave the state, much less the country. They are all saving their unused vacation pennies to retire comfortably.

                                                                                                  1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                    Good point: I suppose the same might be theoretically true of the farmers I know, but the problem is that one bad weather year can wipe out a crop (my CSA farm, for example, basically lost almost all of their strawberries this year thanks to a very late season hail storm), which means that some of those savings go to pay bills... and the past few years it seems that unpredictable weather has been the norm.

                                                                                                    Around here it isn't uncommon for one spouse/partner of a farming couple to work in a non-farming job to help with a steady source of income for the less productive years.

                                                                                                  2. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                    I guess I'm lucky. Here in central Indiana (definitely farm country, though mostly feed grain/corn for ethanol these days) I can get free range eggs (a mix of large and extra-large) for $2.50-3.50, depending on how prolifically the hens are laying. This same couple sells cockerels for $2.89/lb and they usually run 2-3 lbs or so).

                                                                                                    As for vacations, the wife of the aforementioned couple told me about how difficult it was to arrange to go to the next state to visit family for a day at Thanksgiving--you have to find a chicken sitter! So, I agree with comment about farming being 24/7/365. That said, if a farmer can afford a fancy vacation, surely he or she is entitled to it. It's very hard work! Are only bankers, physicians, businesspeople, etc. entitled to vacations?

                                                                                                    1. re: nofunlatte

                                                                                                      you raise a good point. of course a farmer should get a vacation. It may well be that agribusiness policy and practices in this country have led to us underpaying for food, and as in any other business, when we buy something made or produced abroad (where labor charges and regulations are presumably lower) we may be getting it for a lower cost, but that doesn't mean it is necessarily a better value when the *full* cost (including the cost to our society) is taken into account. Full true cost should include a decent living wage for those producing the produce (aka farming it), and yes, a decent living wage includes a decent vacation, in my view.

                                                                                                      I've never crunched the numbers or taken a lot of time to read the research (though I know it is out there) but common sense tells me I am benefiting my community when I buy from local producers. This is yet one more reason why I'd be inclined to buy farmed good locally even if I could get it cheaper elsewhere. Of course, as I've said, I am very fortunate to live in an agricultural region. If I didn't, it would admittedly be tougher. I'd try to address that by buying local produce when possible, at peak season, when its quality will be highest. Sure, I might buy something not grown locally at the WF or wherever (tropical fruit comes to mind), but I would consider it a treat and be thrilled if I could get it cheaper at the big store (since I wouldn't be able to get it from my local farmer anyway).

                                                                                                      This is part of the answer to Anakalia's question above: why would you pay more for produce from the local farmer? Well, if you can afford to pay the higher price, it may be worth doing so, not only because quality is likely to be higher on something purchased locally in season, but also because you likely are also paying the *real* price.

                                                                                                      I find it hard to believe that there are really many true small farmers out there that are 'gouging' people by intentionally charging much more than the cost of the same produce from nearby big stores, unless of course they have no choice but to charge more because their price reflects the real cost of growing said produce. (indeed, the very term 'gouging' implies to me an intentional effort to take advantage of the consumer or circumstances, by raising prices beyond an amount that would simply reflect a reasonable profit.) Assuming price gouging is not going on, wouldn't it make sense to pay a bit more to have the access to that which is local? And if we don't, will the small farm go the way of many small businesses who can't compete with the big stores down the street? If so, are our communities better off? Buying locally may not be an effective strategy to address all of these concerns, but it does make me feel better, which is definitely worth a bit of extra cash. The fact that I can do both in my town (buy food locally AND pay less) is icing on the cake. Sure, it is a no brainer for me, but even if I had to think about it, I'd probably do the same thing.

                                                                                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                        Who gets to decide how much profit is reasonable?
                                                                                                        There is a big difference between charging what the market will bear and price gouging.

                                                                                                        1. re: kengk

                                                                                                          "Gouging" only works when the seller has a monopoly. There is a lot of competition in the food markets.

                                                                                                          1. re: kengk

                                                                                                            Actually, not to be cheeky, but "gouging" is exactly "charging what the market will bear." The term gouging is typically used when, for some reason, that which the market will bear has gone significantly higher than underlying cost, as for example if there were a temporary water shortage and stores with bottled water raised the price to take advantage -- OTOH, that is simply the price mechanism at work. If they didn't raise the price, they would quickly sell out because early buyers would often "stock up" and there would be none left for those who happened to arrive late, at least until more supply could be shipped in. Is that fair? Which is better? Remember, if the price goes up, then at least the early buyers are discouraged from hoarding, thus giving others a chance to at least get some.

                                                                                                            To answer your question, no one decides. The market does what it does. Government can step in with controls, but that raises a host of new problems, as your professor from Econ 101 explained.

                                                                                                            1. re: johnb

                                                                                                              Charging what the market will bear is only "gouging" when there is a monopoly or shortage caused by emergency which limits the buyer's option to shop elsewhere.


                                                                                                              When the buyer has options and there is no collusion among sellers, a seller may ask any price without it being "gouging."

                                                                                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                                                                                I think I wasn't clear in making my point. We don't disagree. Gouging is a subset of charging what the market will bear. If you gouge, you are certainly charging (some approximation of) what the market will bear, which was my point. But that is not to say the reverse is true. Charging what the market will bear seldom rises to the level of gouging, and in fact is fairly normal price behavior in the imperfect markets that exist.

                                                                                                                That said, the conditions you state are not often observed in the real world. Aside from atomistic markets, there is always some level of communication among sellers, and buyers rarely have more than a limited range of options.

                                                                                                      2. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                        Susanc, You raise some good points. I momentarily forgot that not everyone has an organic grocery or a WF (if that is their preference) near them. And I certainly see your point about proximity being n issue. I don't like driving either, and probably the reason I'm amWF shopper is that it is right outside my metro stop. The market, unfortunately, is not.

                                                                                                        I also see your point about Chilean asparagus etc.although I guess I was doing my comparison above considering that the products were more or less the same (e.g. Comparing farmers market local tomatoes with a WF local tomato).

                                                                                                        Seems that it is hard to make generalizations here, given everyone's wildly different experiences with local stores, markets and prices!

                                                                                                      3. re: anakalia

                                                                                                        we buy all of our milk and cream, in glass bottles, at an organic dairy farm a few miles away. the cows live right across the street from the shop. if you haven't tasted this sort of cream it makes supermarket cream taste like gloppy paste. i can never go back to that stuff.

                                                                                                        it's slightly more than supermarket dairy, but some of the price is the deposit on the bottles. however the quality is SOOOOOOO superior, it's like night and day.

                                                                                                        recently they started carrying pastured, natural eggs, from a farm about 30 miles away. they are charging $3.69, which is about what i pay for cage-free at my grocers. from now on, i will get eggs here, with my milk.

                                                                                                        now i am supporting 2 local farms.

                                                                                                        tell me again why eggs at the farmer's market are $7-$8?

                                                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                          We have a local dairy that sells milk products in most areagrocery stores. Thier prices are about 10 cents more than the store brand, and much less than national organic brands. It's a no brainer! Of course, they have a very successful icecream business that subsidizes the milk sales. The icecream is pretty amazing too, and comparable in price to other premium brands.

                                                                                                      4. Yes, I usually go to my FM to buy whatever fruit I can sample first, as I'm willing to pay a little extra for a melon or a basket of strawberries that I KNOW are good, and I do get leafy greens as they are usually decently priced. I used to spring for fresh herbs, but my DH planted me an herb garden so I don't have to buy cilantro, parsley, mint, rosemary, or basil anymore.
                                                                                                        I think the trick is to not limit yourself to JUST the FM, or JUST the megamart, or Whole Foods, or Trader Joe's. Pick and choose according to your budget, your area, your seasonal local produce, your schedule, and how important 'organic' or whatever is to you.
                                                                                                        I do try to support the local farmers, but I personally can't afford some of the prices that some of them charge, so either I don't buy whatever it is there, or go without.
                                                                                                        ......but I can't find onion sprouts anywhere else, and they just make the most incredible avocado sandwich!

                                                                                                        1. I worked at a kitchen store where people came in regularly demanding "Made in America" products. So then I show them the MiA product and they say, $48 for that?" So then I show them the made in XXXX (not America) product that's $25. Their response? "Gee that price is better but I saw it online for $18."

                                                                                                          1. I live in the Boston area, and I don't mind paying a bit extra at the farmer's market for many of the reasons cited here (though to be honest, I now do most of my produce shopping at Russo's). The problem in my current area, from my perspective, is what I see as a sort of fetishization of high end, unique produce in which I have no interest due to price. Sure, that is one gorgeous tomato there, but I can't justify paying $5 for it just because it is descended from a long lost line of tomatoes, can rarely be found in the U.S. and you hired a team of garden gnomes to lovingly raise it to its current glory. I understand that they produce it because they are uniquely interested in heirloom items, and because the mark-up they can charge on it in my area, where there is a sense that individual exceptionalism can be purchased, is huge. But it holds no allure for me. I'll buy the basics at farmer's markets because they fit my budget (and the eggs are very fairly priced and freaking amazing), but each year they seem fewer and farther between.

                                                                                                            1. Have a farmer's market close by that's open year round. They have an area solely for produce. Decent stuff at decent prices, but kinda in bulk. Now the other little roadside places are starting to open up. Went past one yesterday that had signs up for Jersey corn, tomatoes, peaches?!? NOT possible yet!! Corn fields I pass.... MAYBE 8-10" tall so far. And if you're very lucky, you'll have a ripe tomato by the end of July??

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: kseiverd

                                                                                                                Well, Delaware corn and peaches are both certainly here already this year, quite early, but here and yummy. I literally picked them myself at a you-pick farm, so I know they are not faking it ;) But this was in Camden, DE, so depending on where you are in Jersey it could be up to 200 miles south.

                                                                                                                Tomatoes, though . . . the green ones have already appeared in backyard gardens, so they will be ripe before the end of July, but they aren't yet.

                                                                                                              2. I haven't read this whole thread, so I'm not sure if someone already said this....

                                                                                                                I have two points to make. I also live in Ohio, in the greater Cincinnati area near King's Island. The first commnt is about all of the comparisons to Whole Foods I read about in the thread. My opinion, based on my local WF, is that their produce is of mediocre quality at best, and consistently overpriced. Which leads to my second comment that I find I do better shopping the fruit & veggie "stands" during the season - some of which are almost always or always in operation. I love, love, love Pipkin's which is open year round, but find I don't visit as much in the summer when the temporary stands are open. You have to be selective about the stands - some of their produce looks like it came straight from Kroger - but my favorite is the place by the Morrow winery where you can literally see the family's kids picking during the peak summer season. By the way, I haven't bought produce at a supermarket for about 8 years, unless it's a dire emergency and what I need is minor - like maybe some fresh parsley or something.

                                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: nojunk

                                                                                                                  "By the way, I haven't bought produce at a supermarket for about 8 years..."
                                                                                                                  Really? Please share - where do you get your fresh vegetables from in January or February?

                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                    I'm not in Ohio, but there are many small farms that produce food throughout the winter. The Eliot Coleman books detail the most common technique (mini covered hoops inside unheated high tunnels). This approach can be used to grow veggies through the winter just about anywhere. I used to work for a farm in Colorado that ran a winter CSA, 16 weeks from December through March. Shares included salad greens, cooking greens (kale/chard/collards/mustards/asian greens), spinach, roots (radishes/turnips/carrots/parsnips), herbs, and storage crops including potatoes, garlic, onions, and winter squash. Many of our members did say they never bought veggies at the grocery since they could get fresh food year round.

                                                                                                                    1. re: yellowstone

                                                                                                                      Yes, in Indy there are also Winter Farmers' Markets with fresh produce as well. But I'll be darned if I pay $3 for a tiny head of weak-stemmed lettuce. The ONLY thing that excites me is winter spinach, which might be available from maybe February on, when it is stout, squat, crunchy and sweet - that, if available, I buy lots of. Otherwise, the Chinese grocery or the supermarket is the way to go for me.

                                                                                                                      nojunk's statement: "I haven't bought produce at a supermarket for about 8 years, unless it's a dire emergency" - raised my eyebrows.

                                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                        Nojunk stated in his/her post that Pipkin's (presumably a farmer's market) is open year-round...

                                                                                                                        1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                          I wouldn't call Pipkin's a seasonal or typical Farmer's Market stand. It seems like a grocery *store*, even if they get stuff from local growers. http://www.pipkinsmarket.com/produce-... Isn't that - in principle - what places like WF is also about, at least in part?

                                                                                                                          But then we may be beginning to get into semantical differences of *what* a "store" or "grocery" is.

                                                                                                                    2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                      I haven't bought fresh vegetables from a supermarket in years either, save for a few things when they are on sale. I live in the Tampa area and Publix can't come close to the freshness and/or price of our farmers markets. Almost everything is local and nothing is waxed, gassed, etc. We have absolutely delicious produce even in January and February! I am very fortunate to live here.

                                                                                                                    3. re: nojunk

                                                                                                                      Do you just never consume citrus or pineapple or other products not grown in your region?

                                                                                                                      1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                        Perhaps nojunk does not count small health food stores and/or produce markets under the "supermarket" label. Just a guess.

                                                                                                                    4. I adore farmers markets and I really hear what you're saying. Fortunately, in season, I have a lot of markets to choose from and know who has what and everyone's prices. Believe me, I walk right past the $6 a pound for asparagus too!
                                                                                                                      I know that there's a lot that goes in to growing food the right way. I get it. I recently went to a screening of "In Organic We trust". http://www.inorganicwetrust.org/
                                                                                                                      and I appreciate those hard working farmers and producers that are so committed.
                                                                                                                      Funny story that I'll never forget-- I was at a DC farmers market and a woman was buying tomatoes from a producer. She paid, held the bag up with 2 tomatoes in it and said, shocked and in disbelief, to her husband, "I just spent $5!".
                                                                                                                      Yup, I know the feeling.

                                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                        Yes, and those big heirloom tomatoes? When you're talking $5.50/lb (as some of my local farmers' markets have them priced), you can easily spend five bucks on just one. Five dollars! For one tomato! SMH.

                                                                                                                        1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                                                          I once spent $8 on a tomato! It was a gorgeous, striped 'mater and I just got it home and stared at it, not wanting to slice it and ruin it. The thing is, it really wasn't "all that" taste-wise.
                                                                                                                          This summer, I'm once again trying to grow my own tomatoes and hoping for the best because I hate that the going rate at my farmers markets is about $4/lb.
                                                                                                                          Fortunately, some producers sell seconds that are perfectly fine for me, especially at $1/lb.

                                                                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                            Jealous. The "seconds" at my market are still $2.50/lb.

                                                                                                                        2. re: monavano

                                                                                                                          Let me guess, the Dupont Circle market? It's a great market, but the certainly charge what the market will bear.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Mer_Made

                                                                                                                            Bingo! I love the Dupont market, even with its steep prices at times. The market does bear higher prices there. I buy produce etc from VA markets on Sat. from the same vendors who sell it for more on Sunday.

                                                                                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                              I feel like I should do some sort of dance about being right. I'm actually not surprised that vendors are raising their prices for Dupont. If people are willing to pay their prices, then people are willing to pay. I am not one of those people, and will happily stick with the cheaper vendors and markets in MD.

                                                                                                                        3. The word "Produce" can be replaced with just about any "Made in the USA" product from other areas of our lives. High labor markets and high overhead costs drive breakeven costs north of what larger producers who rely on scale experience. This isn't new.

                                                                                                                          That being said, the localvore and slow food movement has inserted food into this "value" argument.

                                                                                                                          I love the local farms and support them when it makes sense to me. I draw the line at paying $5.99+/lb for "organic free range chicken" etc. or the $6 asparagas example. Heck, I'm a hunter so I get my "organic free range" fix myself but I'll be damned if I pay $18-25 for a small roasting chicken.

                                                                                                                          The costs are obviously higher for my friends with small farms producing the same commodity produce that is available in the grocery store. Is their produce better on average? Probably. However in many cases (and they will admit this behind closed doors) the extra cost to the consumer for that commodity produce does not match the increase in quality and freshness.

                                                                                                                          The ones that have begun to thrive have found other ways to add value at a rate commensurate with the additional costs. That is sometimes by carrying varieties of produce or meat not found elsewhere as well as turning their high quality raw goods into oustanding finished products with some scale. They make varieties of outstanding tomato sauces, pestos, sausages, cured meats, high end cheeses and spreads etc. Those allow them to add vlaue at every stage of the production cycle and then provide a better value proposition to the consumer at a market.

                                                                                                                          Is it cheap eating from an East coast farmers market? Heck no, which why we don't do it. We selectively buy from farm stands and directly from farms (ie. we go there and buy) where they have low overhead and no additional fees associated with their selling space.

                                                                                                                          1. I too am in Ohio and sympathize with the OP. It's sad to realize that our "farm country" is really two things now, primarily: CAFO feedlots and GMO corn farms.

                                                                                                                            I committed to buying eggs from a local farm and I can tell you, at $4 a dozen, we are eating less eggs. $4 is nothing compared to the $8 mentioned elsewhere, but everything is relative - you can get a dozen "store" brand eggs here for under a buck still, when on sale, so that's four times as much. My Mom, on a fixed income, quit going to farmers markets for just this type of reason - $26 whole chickens and $4 a dozen eggs.

                                                                                                                            We have combatted it two ways - trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to eat a lot less food and adding other food that's cheap as filler - potatoes, or sides of bread like my grandmother did during the depression. I don't know if this is the answer and always feel bad eating bread and butter with a meal as filler, but if I don't, I'm raiding the fridge 2 hours after dinner.

                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                              Yeah ... $8 for asparagus is ridiculous - since I dont care for it, that doesn't bother me. And I am glad that others have pointed out, it is expensive and time consuming to grow, which is why no one has a little patch of asparagus out back next to their tomatoes and zucchini.

                                                                                                                              Here in Houston, we have several once-a-week Farmer's Markets that I try to patronize as often as I can, and I think everyone's pricing is, well, fair. I don't visit every booth, but I do know that you can buy a pound of coffee for $10, a single macaron for $2, and a dozen eggs laid the day before for $4-$5. I dont think anyone is "gouging" on their prices -- they are fair, considering the hard work that goes into raising, picking, packing and trucking it all to the Big City to sell it to us yuppies. One vendor in particular sells amazing goat cheese for $10/8 oz. package. Yes, I can buy the same sized package of goat cheese for $5.99 @ Kroger or WF, but I buy this woman's cheese every time I see her, because I know how hard she and her husband work to care for these goats (I've visited the farm) and the effort and time she puts into making this fabulous cheese within the constraints of rules and regulations imposed by the state and the market. Most of all I especially like putting the money directly into the hands that did the work.

                                                                                                                              As for those above who question the fact that fruit was showing up at the market in crates and flats marked with out-of-state farms, don't be so sure they traveled that far. Many of these farmers can barely make ends meet -- they dont have excess profit to invest in their own specially marked containers. They use whatever is around. If you have any doubt how far the fruits and veg traveled to get to you, just ask the people in the booth. If they can't tell you exactly where their wares were picked, and this is a problem for you, move along to another vendor.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                                                We have a little patch of asparagus out back, as do most of our neighbors.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                                                  I agree with this - our local place where we buy eggs re-uses cartons from wherever they can get them. They are a small, family owned farm. Just ask if you're not sure. The more questions you ask, the more you'll be able to tell if they are lying.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                                    Yes, thank you for bringing up the reused containers. I work at restaurants in the winter and I save EVERYTHING to reuse. You can definitely see me bringing local organic tomatoes to market in a Sysco box.

                                                                                                                              2. I go just for the free samples.

                                                                                                                                It's like Costco without the membership fee.

                                                                                                                                [just joking folks]

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                  Hey, some producers are very generous-- nothing wrong with grazing!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                    There is one cheese/egg lady at our nearby FM that is so generous with our cheese-crazed son that I always buy from her. That her cheeses and eggs are great and prices in the fair range helps!

                                                                                                                                2. I guess my history with farmer's markets is maybe tainting my view of the "price" aspect of farmer's markets. I also just want to put out there a little bit about supply chain economics (which I'm sure most of you know but it helps me articulate my view).

                                                                                                                                  Farmer's markets should never be more expensive than full retail.

                                                                                                                                  Let's assume only one middle man and assume only a 2x mark-up (which is low), and let's just make it a generic vegetable (as unusual - impossible to find vegetables are easily argued differently).

                                                                                                                                  Farmer sells vegetable to wholesaler for $1/lb
                                                                                                                                  Wholesaler sells to grocery for $2/lb
                                                                                                                                  Grocery sells to consumer for $4/lb

                                                                                                                                  That is a very real world supply chain dynamic. So going directly to the farmer and buying the same vegetable for full retail ($4/lb) is already paying the farmer 4x what they would get selling the same vegetable to their wholesaler. That is why farmers markets used to always be a win-win. The buyer could save some money and the farmer could make considerably more than they do through wholesalers. Paying MORE than full retail for commodity vegetables (especially WF retail which I think most people agree is a higher market than other chains) is just crazy to me.

                                                                                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: thimes

                                                                                                                                    I don't think so. You are assuming the same farmer who is set up to grow vast quantities of hothouse tomatoes which he ships out in 18-wheelers to large buyers could also send a small truck to a farmers' market for the same cost. That's impossible.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: thimes

                                                                                                                                      This is assuming that the farmer at the farmers' market is the same farmer that sells to a wholesaler. Part of the appeal, for many people, of a market is that they can buy produce from a small scale, diversified farm (often less than five acres). The type of growing these farms do (which is often with no tractors and no immigrant or migrant labor) cannot support middlemen in the first place. It is not even an option. They might do a CSA, or they might go to a market or two and maybe wholesale the leftovers to a restaurant (which can pay more than a grocery store, even with no middleman), but they are not involved in the larger supply chain at all.

                                                                                                                                      The win-win situation you describe above does work for larger scale farms. At one of my markets, we have a few of the large-scale local conventional farms that come and sell using the model you describe. They sell to grocery distributors and buy and sell with other large farms. The produce they bring to market is the exact same as you find in the grocery store (literally, since they provide to grocery stores) and it is partially from their farm, partially from other similar farms. Produce is cheaper there since you are buying the same product from them directly. It saves them money in contrast to their typical business model.

                                                                                                                                      Contrast that with the small organic farms at the same market. We are all between one and five acres, we all sell exclusively at market or directly to restaurants. Without colluding on price, we typically end up charging pretty close to the same prices since we have very similar expenses and similar profit needs. This is the entirety of our business model, not a substitute for feeding into the wholesale system.

                                                                                                                                      In general, I do not find that we compete with the large scale conventional farms. There are separate crowds of customers at market -- the tourists, just hanging out; the local foodie crowd who only buy from the small organic farms; the bargain shoppers who only buy from the discount produce vendors. I think its fine for both types of vendors to be selling at market, but it is a mistake to compare the two business models so I think as a customer you just need to know what type of food you want to buy and judge the price against that standard, not against each other.

                                                                                                                                      As an aside, I find it disgusting that a grocery would NET $2/lb for a product that a farmer would GROSS $1/lb.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: yellowstone

                                                                                                                                        I see your point (and I have to agree that I find supply chain dynamics upsetting, also why my parents raised us going to farmers markets). I also see your view on the two different business models.

                                                                                                                                        I guess my last trip to my local farmer's market just really made me have to re-think a few things.

                                                                                                                                        If I can buy organic produce from what is generally considered a very expensive chain (even given the supply chain economics of things) for what in the original example was about 1/2 the cost of buying it locally . . . I"m not sure which business model camp I'm entrenched in anymore.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: thimes

                                                                                                                                          One quick question? Do you consider all produce labeled "organic" to be equal? The large agribusinesses have set up organic farms with lawyers on staff to ensue that the letter of the law is followed, while using every technique and chemical that is not specifically banned. These are the organically that show up in WF, S&S, etc, since they can provide the amounts many stores need.

                                                                                                                                          On the other hand, there are farmers who lack the five grand to get their certification, but use little to no pesticides, and will talk your ear off if you ask them what they use.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: thinks too much

                                                                                                                                            And then the larger local producer who does drop the five grand for organic certification will start putting up signs around their booth at the market "warning" customers away from non-certified farms that claim organic practices.

                                                                                                                                            Oh. Just my farmers' market then? :\

                                                                                                                                            1. re: thinks too much

                                                                                                                                              Either way I'm victim of a fast talker :)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: thinks too much

                                                                                                                                                Some people just have to find a conspiracy everywhere, it seems. A lot of people these days want "organic" food, whatever that means. So regulations are written defining what that means. Naturally large food producers want a piece of that business, and naturally they have staff lawyers looking at conformance with the regulations, because they have always had staff lawyers looking at all the other regulations which food producers must follow. I don't find anything wrong with this at all. If they follow the regulations which apply to their product, that's all a customer has the right to expect.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                                                                                                                  I'm not finding a conspiracy. I was just asking wherein people apply their standards.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: thimes

                                                                                                                                            Sorry, thimes - you are WAY off. Grocers only wish they could apply a 100% markup on their stuff. If you do your homework, you will discover that the profit margin at even the biggest chains is <10%

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                                                              "...the profit margin at even the biggest chains is <10%"
                                                                                                                                              Is that gross or net? That is, is the *markup* <10%; or is it higher than that (like the 100% stated) so that after overhead (which may also include bond/debt servicing etc etc) and employee/pension (if any) benefits and payroll etc the *net* left over is "<10%" ?

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                                                                When I worked in receiving at a grocery store chain, one of our produce suppliers in the summer/fall months was a semi-local orchard (about 45 min away, which is not far at all in this part of the state). I know the exact markup we had because part of my job was entering the invoices into the system. For produce we just multiplied what they charged us by 1.78... and voila! you got our price.

                                                                                                                                            2. I understand your frustration! the farm market my mother goes to has great prices and local produce. Unfortunately, I think farm markets like that are a dying breed as more and more seem to cater to the organic and "designer" veggies. I've given up on my local farm markets - partly because of the prices, but also because I can never seem to get there... ya know, cause 8-12 on a Tuesday is SO convenient... but that's a whole 'nother rant.

                                                                                                                                              Fortunately for me, there's a lovely farm just a couple miles down the road that sells their own locally grown produce - or produce from nearby NJ. It does cost a little more right now that the grocery store, but the quality is much better, and as their yield increases, the prices drop. heck, even now, cukes are 3/$1 or $.50 each. At my local market cukes are $1/each.

                                                                                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                                I miss being able to drive down a country road and get my produce from a unmanned stand and put my money in a "honor" box!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                  Me, too. We moved away from an area like that in November. There was a farm that sold eggs and milk--you'd just walk into the barn, open the fridge, take what you needed, and put your money in the box. Another place had a PYO system. You'd pick your stuff, weigh it, and pay for it, all on the honor system.

                                                                                                                                                  In our new community, we've got a very expensive local farmstand (open year round, although they get most of their stuff from somewhere else in the off season) and a really, really expensive farmer's market that has everything from wine to local produce to pies. I try to shop there, though,because their stuff is really good, but I know I'm getting ripped off when I see the same local producers' stuff at WF for 20% less.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                    those were the days! this is a much more sophisticated set up - they sell their own home made baked and canned goods. I love it in the summer when the front loader comes up, full of bushel baskets of corn that's still warm from the sun! yummmm

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                      There's still one of those in my hometown! Sweetcorn, picked that morning and dropped off under the little hut. Moneybox in the middle of a card table, clipboard, paper and pen with instructions: "Four ears for a dollar. Please sign your name below along with how many ears you took. Walmart sacks in the cooler if you didn't bring your own."

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                                      jujuthomas, I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head re: a move to the "designer" produce at Farmer's markets. And, I guess, who can blame them? If that's where the money is... but still, it prices many of us out of the market all together. Thankfully, the market where my parents live in Green Bay is still a traditional farmer's market, and you see all types shopping there on Saturday mornings. The Hmong immigrant families are actually selling home-grown "designer" produce -- things people around here (in DC) would pay a lot for, like fresh lemongrass, purple basil and leafy greens I don't even recognize -- but since that kind of market isn't there in GB, they sell them quite cheap (but, yes, I'm sure they are still making a profit). I'm not trying to keep growers from making money -- i just don't have tons of money to pay for this kind of stuff... if other people do, then good for them.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: anakalia

                                                                                                                                                        Hmong produce is cheap because the main customers are other Hmong.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                          That is simply not true in Merced, CA. Most of the other customers I see when I go to my local produce stand, owned by a Hmong family, are Hispanic and white. The customer base reflects the demographics of the City; per the 2010 census the racial makeup of Merced was: 57.4% White, 6.3% African American, 1.3% Native American, 12.4% Asian (mostly Hmong), 0.2% Pacific Islander, 23.2% from other races (I suspect that includes those of South Asian/ Punjab descent) , and 5.2% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos (of any race) were 26.4% of the population.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                            Who's buying their lemongrass and purple basil? My comment was meant to apply to specifically to the 'designer' produce that Anakalia mentioned, not everything that a Hmong farmer might raise.

                                                                                                                                                            I shop a Vietnamese owned produce stand and multi-ethnic market. It has a dozen different herbs in unlabeled plastic bags. I don't recognize most of them, but someone must. Various groups must buy their cilantro (labeled). Some hispanics use lemongrass as a drink, but few cook with it. On the other hand, (probably) few of the SE Asian customers will buy the dried hibiscus. I browse all sections, but I suspect most other customers focus on the familiar items.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                              well, I buy purple basil when they have it, but I've only rarely seen local lemongrass. The Hmong can be skilled farmers, and they grow what grows well, and sells well, around here. The radishes, tomatoes, strawberries, squash, lettuce, onions, cucumbers, and melons they grow and sell are popular with lots of folks from lots of backgrounds, and their prices are some of the lowest in town. In these parts and from my perspective, if it is sold at a Hmong-owned stand and grown by local Hmong farmers, it is Hmong produce.

                                                                                                                                                    3. Went to the Farmers' Market today. Bought cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, yellow beans and sweet/flavorful heirloom tomatoes (Cherokee). Spent about $20 and felt I got great, fresh produce. (Someone was buying zucchini at the one stand and asked if it was picked today...he said no I'm sorry yesterday, we only pick that every other day. Was impressed with the honesty.)

                                                                                                                                                      1. Our local farmers market has a policy of not allowing any selling until the bell rings at 8 am. However, they don't care if people line up ahead of time at their favorite stalls. So, if you want peaches from one of the few vendors that sells them, you better be prepared to show up way early and wait. As much as I love fresh local summer peaches, I usually just give up and buy them at the supermarket rather than wait an hour in line. I refuse to get that competitive over a peach.

                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Jambie

                                                                                                                                                          That's a shame peaches are not abundant at your market. I used to line up before the bell and HOLD a dozen eggs from a dairy producer to ensure I got one of the handful of dozens she had! I've since found eggs that are that good and orange from 2 other producers, but yeah, I lined up for sure.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                            Not something I'm eager to do.

                                                                                                                                                            There's a related phenomenon called "kiasu" - have a look at this thread for an idea of what it is: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/851423 :-)

                                                                                                                                                            Once at a farmers' market in my area a new stall that sold heirloom tomatoes was sold out out of their Black Krim tomatoes when I went by about 15 minutes after the market "opened". It seems that a woman had grabbed all of them - and had paid for them and walked away with them - at 7 a.m., one hour before the market was supposed to "open" and financial transactions officially allowed. I asked the market organizers if the "open for business at the bell at 8 am" rule was still in effect, was told it was, and I suggested that it might be useful to remind vendors, old and new, of the rule.

                                                                                                                                                        2. I hear ya. Although there are some good prices at the local farmer's market around here, probably because nothing is organic. I feel that way about organic foods at the local Planet Organic. The prices are obscene, and for what exactly? Personally, I save my money for grass fed beef and really unusual stuff like these DELICIOUS spicy sunflower seeds I found...

                                                                                                                                                          1. I hear 'ya. I live in the middle of NIAGARA, The Golden Horseshoe, best farmland IN THE COUNTRY. At our market, like yours, produce is waaaaaaaaay more expensive than even the most expensive store. Pathetic.

                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: dianne0712

                                                                                                                                                              Most farms in the Niagara area have road side stands that sell "seconds" when it comes to fruit. These peaches, plums, pears etc. might have a blemish or two, but are so delicious and at a fraction of the cost of grocery stores and farmer's markets. I drive down just to stock up for the year.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: earthygoat

                                                                                                                                                                Do you have any particular favourite farms to share? I live about 45 minutes away but amazing fresh cherries, peaches, or apricot direct from the farm would be wonderful.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Nevy

                                                                                                                                                                  I honestly do not remember the farm names. I just drive north south on roads like Jordan Road, 7 Street, Victoria Avenue and ones in between and look for little self service booths. Those are the seconds booths where they trust you to pay the right amount. In my experience, if there is a market booth with an employee, you will pay tourist prices. The self service booths often have the farm in the back where they are sorting the fruit and if you go back there, we've were given even more and fresher seconds, or fruit that had run out.

                                                                                                                                                                  There is a place that sells "thirds" just north of the Upper Canada Cheese Company (yum!) on South Service Road that runs parallel to the QEW and any money they get for that fruit goes to charity. By thirds, I mean this fruit is ripe and must be used that day or next at the latest, but for canning, it's great.

                                                                                                                                                                  Unfortunately, it looks like this year we might not have much fruit at all, due to the late damaging frosts. I'm crossing my fingers that there will be at least some unsightly fruit available, but even that might be more expensive.

                                                                                                                                                            2. Did you shop at the Clintonville FM? I find their pricies high, I go to the Worthington market and yes pay a premium for my in season fruit and tomatoes but they are better in value to me than Clintonville's. I also find the products I buy at them are better than at the grocery store. As a result I eat tomatoes with almost every meal and the blueberries I got this past weekend were a better treat for me than a pastry.

                                                                                                                                                              If you are looking for no-nonsense pricing at a FM here in Columbus, you have to go to Grove City's FM. It's a bit of a distance from downtown and they may not always have things like kale or garlic scrapes, but they will have the best prices for melon, corn (when it comes out) and tomatoes.

                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Crockett67

                                                                                                                                                                Oddly enough, yes, it was the Clintonville market. Thanks for the other suggestions. I will definitely check them out as I'd like to keep shopping at FMs!

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: thimes

                                                                                                                                                                  Cool! I totally feel ya about Clintonville's. Once they were offering rainbow swiss chard for like $3 a bunch. Then they lifted the "bunch" up and it was literally 5 stalks... Didn't go back.

                                                                                                                                                              2. I agree with you. I'm just a little east of you in Pittsburgh, and experienced a similar situtation this week at a farmer's market. While I want to support our local farmers, and I don't mind paying a bit of a preminum, but that preminum should be 10 or 20%...Not double.


                                                                                                                                                                1. Well, I spent almost $60 at my local Farmers' Market this morning. I was annoyed at myself and depressed at how much flew out from my wallet.

                                                                                                                                                                  Kale - 2 types (=2 bunches): $6
                                                                                                                                                                  Tomatoes - small sized (I intend to make soup) - a basket: $5 (a good deal)
                                                                                                                                                                  Tomatoes - 2 large ones (for slicing) @ $3,25/lb: $5.50 (and they're not heirloom types either)
                                                                                                                                                                  "Artisanal" sausages - 1 pack each of Andouille & Duck/Port/Pear: $15.42
                                                                                                                                                                  Chioggia beets (1 bunch), 2 bunches basil, 2 patty pans: $10.50
                                                                                                                                                                  Green beans @$2.75/lb: $5.25
                                                                                                                                                                  Fresh spaghettini (2 nests), fresh mozzarella (1 container of 2 balls): $9.00

                                                                                                                                                                  Total = $56.67. Not including time, gas, wear-n-tear on the car.

                                                                                                                                                                  25 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                    The sausage guy at the farmer's market I go to just charges so much more than I can afford. I feel bad that I stopped buying. He does everything singlehandedly from piglet to casing, and every sausage is SO tasty, and he will go on and on about how much he loves his animals and how he was inspired for each flavor and the best ways to cook everything. For all I know he might genuinely need to charge the prices he does to make a living, but I simply cannot afford it.

                                                                                                                                                                    What cost so much in the beets/basil/squash purchase?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Rilke

                                                                                                                                                                      ! bunch beets: $3
                                                                                                                                                                      2 bunches basil @$3: $6
                                                                                                                                                                      2 patty pans @$2/lb: $1.50

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                        Two weeks ago I bought six button mushrooms and three shallots from one vendor and it cost me 5 dollars.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Justpaula

                                                                                                                                                                          If you felt that was too much, why did you buy it? I skip vendors that are selling products that are overpriced.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                                                            I usually buy eggs from that vendor, so I guess I never realized the price of the other stuff that I may pick up from him. I still love the FM and will continue to shop there every Sunday that I can, but it has definitely become a bit of a trial and error learning experience. And even when it is not trial and error, like the 'shrooms and shallots, there are some items that I would LOVE to buy weekly, but can't afford - like $14 for the two small pork chops that have ruined me for any *other* pork chops, but I still can't afford those weekly. It definitely should be appreciated that in some areas of the country, FM goods are FAR more expensive than other regions AND it should also be noted that FM shopping can be a more gratifying and valuable experience if you decide on a few things that you can afford and ARE worth the difference vs. supermarket. Like others have said...it shouldn't be an all or nothing proposition.

                                                                                                                                                                            But, seriously?!!/? FIVE BUCKS for six mushrooms and three shallots? This is what happens to a lot of people at Farmers Markets that turns them off.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Justpaula

                                                                                                                                                                              I look at it this way. When I go to the regular grocery store to buy--let's say mushrooms--if there is not a price on display I will ask the price. I also always have a vague idea of both what things cost and what I'm willing to pay for it. So if that falls out of my comfort zone, then I won't take them to the checkout, be shocked at the price but still buy them. In my "mature" years I am no longer uncomfortable saying "Oh, gee, I just can't afford that."

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                                                                IME, when you're chatting with the proprietor/ess about their love of the animals/land/work it's just plain embarrassing to walk away empty-handed or haggle over the price they've set. I feel like a shrew. A cheap one.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                                                                  That's assuming you've had a chat. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Not all the proprietors are friendly folks who want to have a chat....and I like to chat.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                                                                    I am a chatter and this vendor is a very nice and friendly one to boot..and yes, I felt like a cheap shrew handing back the brown paper bag with the handful of mushrooms and shallots for $5, so I carried them away with me, learned my lesson, and later cooked with them. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                    The seafood vendor typically gives me a dozen "plus a few extra for ya" delicious Little Neck clams for the same $5. He gets my business every single week without fail.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                      Huiray: definitely higher prices than I am paying at my farm stand and Farmer's Market. Much higher. There must be regional differences at play, though I wonder, how do those prices compare with supermarket prices?

                                                                                                                                                                      Prices at my local stand this am (in Merced, CA):
                                                                                                                                                                      Kale: $1.50 for a large bunch.

                                                                                                                                                                      Tomatoes: heirlooms were $1.99 a lb. Every other type of tomato, including local cherry tomatoes (five varieties in yellow, purple and red), and large but not heirloom, was $1.50 a lb.

                                                                                                                                                                      Beets (I've seen Chioggia and other varieties): $1.50 for a bunch of five or so.

                                                                                                                                                                      Basil: $1.50 a *huge* bunch

                                                                                                                                                                      Squash (including zuchinni, yellow crook neck, and patty pan): sold by the bag, at $1.50 a bag, most bags have about ten to twelve of whatever variety it is (they had all three this morning, but I got so much squash in my CSA last week that I still have several pounds I will probably grate and freeze).

                                                                                                                                                                      Green beans: $1.50 a pound

                                                                                                                                                                      Fresh spaghettini: not something you see around here much, at least the truly fresh type as opposed to the 'fresh' (ie not dry) type you can buy in the grocery.

                                                                                                                                                                      Fresh mozarella: when I have seen it in stores here, which is very rarely, it would be at least $9, maybe more for two balls.

                                                                                                                                                                      This morning I bought: one cantaloupe; several pounds assorted tomatoes; one heaping basket each of cherries, blackberries, and strawberries; string beans; two red onions; a bag of about five cucumbers; green onions; and cilantro; all grown on site. Cost: $17. Wouldn't trade those types of prices for the availability of cheese, though I often complain about the lack of availability of decent cheese, I must admit.

                                                                                                                                                                      Sausages: You've got me there. You can't really buy 'artisanal' sausages in Merced. Closest place to get really good sausage is in the town of Gustine, 30 miles away, where there is a butcher that makes their own. Really high quality, a package of six (they do make Andouille) IIRC is around six to eight dollars (can't remember for certain, and their website doesn't list prices. They don't sell in stores in Merced.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                        "...how do those prices compare with supermarket prices?"
                                                                                                                                                                        It depends. Basil (and other herbs) are more expensive in supermarkets, because they usually come in those little plastic flat boxes/packages (around $2 ?) for maybe a couple of branches or so. I don't think I've ever bought those except on a few rare occasions in the past. Leafy greens generally are cheaper, and on occasion are pretty cheap. The "Organic sections" are as expensive as the FMs, and sometimes even more in some fancy supermarkets like Fresh Market especially when the produce is in "full flight" in the FMs.

                                                                                                                                                                        But as I mentioned elsewhere above, (Chinese) greens are much cheaper in the local Chinese grocery I go to, including stuff "common" to both East/SE Asian and Western cuisines.

                                                                                                                                                                        Those "artisanal" sausages I got were from a local establishment (Smoking Goose) that processes locally-sourced meats & etc (i.e. not a farmer who raises his/her animals and processes them themselves) and which supplies local restaurants and its "sister shop" (Goose the Market) which functions as its retail outlet. They set up a stall at the FM on market day.

                                                                                                                                                                        The fresh spaghettini (and other pastas) and fresh mozzarella comes from a local place run by a local couple (Tony & Rosa Hanslits) who at one time ran a beloved Italian restaurant (Tavola di Tosa; under Tony) and also Tosa Euro Cafe (under Rosa). Alas, R.I.P. (some years back). Rosa had the *bestest* mozzarella. They went on to do other things. Tony is currently at The Chef's Academy in Indy while Rosa (but Tony is also involved) runs a shop selling their freshly made pasta and sauces and that mozzarella, plus other stuff. They both sell their inhouse-made stuff at two FMs on Saturdays. For a couple of years I was reluctant to eat Caprese salad because I missed their mozz so much; then when they first started selling their pastas I (and I must assume others as well) begged Rosa to make her mozz again...and I started making and eating Insalata Caprese again. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                          Well, the season really should be in full swing now...but...

                                                                                                                                                                          Today's damage:
                                                                                                                                                                          1 doz eggs : $4.50
                                                                                                                                                                          Tomatoes - 6 red zebras + 2 med sized pink cherokees - @$4.00/lb : $11.00
                                                                                                                                                                          Tomatoes - 3 plum-shaped "Black Krim" [so he claims** - we'll see] : $3.00
                                                                                                                                                                          1 box peaches = 6 peaches : $4.00
                                                                                                                                                                          6 baby zucchini @$2.00/lb + ~1/2 lb Swedish Peanut fingerlings @$4.00/lb : $3.40
                                                                                                                                                                          2 large bunches basil : $6.00 (This is now good & decent)
                                                                                                                                                                          Fresh mozzarella (2 balls) + 2 nests fresh spaghettini : $9.00
                                                                                                                                                                          Green beans @ $3.75/lb : $5.25
                                                                                                                                                                          Fingerling potatoes (Red Thumb & Ruby Crescent) @$4.00/lb : $5.40

                                                                                                                                                                          The prices are still nowhere as low as what they are in your area. :-(

                                                                                                                                                                          How much are fingerlings over by you? (other folks - in CA or elsewhere - how much are they where you are?)

                                                                                                                                                                          ** The vendor claims that his Black Krim plants, grown alongside Roma plants, generate plum-shaped fruits which he 'prefers' due to what he says is increased yield... If so they would definitely be hybrids now. I got a few out of curiosity and to check what they really looked like inside and what they tasted like. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                            I find at some FM's, that the vendors produce can look a bit tired at times. Also, not sure some vendors are really ' working the ground' or just visiting the large produce suppliers and re-packaging to make it look like their own stuff. As for prices, IMO, if it appears to be fair and a legit grower/raiser, I'm OK with that. As always it's my personal choice, no one is forcing me to buy anything.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cstr

                                                                                                                                                                              I agree. While I do feel sorry for some of the smaller vendors who never seem to sell anything, they have no one to blame but themselves. In this heat they arrive with NO ice, NO coolers, NO spray bottles, NO nothing. Of course the produce is going to look tired within a very short amount of time. And sorry or not, I'm definitely not going to pay anything for a head of wilted lettuce, root crops with wilted leaves, wilted herbs, etc., etc. It's a shameful waste, & doesn't take much time or energy to remedy.

                                                                                                                                                                              My favorite local organic guy has the most beautiful greens (of all types) that I've ever seen - even in 100-degree heat. Why? Because he treats them with the respect they deserve. They're picked, rinsed, & chilled asap; then kept in coolers with ice at the market with only a couple of bunches &/or a few bags on display at a time, which he replaces as they're sold. His stand is always mobbed, & his prices are the highest of all the vendors there. And people pay his prices, because the produce is worth it.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                                                                                                                Depending on what it is, I don't mind slightly wilted (to an extent) produce from a FM - if it is discounted, at the end of the market's selling "day". Besides, even if I had bought them fresh-as-a-daisy they'd get wilted in my fridge anyway as the week wears on. In the past I would sometimes get wilted kale free from one vendor (via his charming daughter at the stand) because her father's policy was that wilted kale could not be sold (as the day wore on).

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                  Ahh, but treated properly, that doesn't have to be the case.

                                                                                                                                                                                  My organic guy's greens stay as fresh as the day I buy them for a good 2-3 weeks! His bagged baby lettuce mix ALWAYS lasts 3 weeks. I've never had to discard even one leaf! His method of picking, hydrating, & chilling prior to sale is superb. And he's a dedicated "certified-organic" farmer - would rather eat worms & die than treat his vegetables with anything.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                                                                                                                    Oh sure, I have greens - whether from the FM or from my Chinese grocery - stay "fresh"/unwilted/green etc for quite a while too, especially if I put them into the veggie drawer/crisper. However, I don't have room for all my greens there and usually put the larger/bulkier stuff (like bunches of kale - they're space hogs) in a plastic bag on one of the (more spacious) shelves in my fridge. By the end of the week they're at least semi-wilted. But - so long as they were fresh to start with - they all are nicely rejuvenated by a simple soak in cold water in a tub.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                              Tomatoes rarely cross pollinate on their own, and if they did, the results won't show until the next generation is grown the following year. This is why you can save seeds from heirloom tomatoes and be almost 100% sure that you will get what you collected. Collecting seeds from hybrids is a different story. I grow Black Plum heirloom tomatoes, similar to Black Krim, but plum shaped. Maybe that's what your vendor has?

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: earthygoat

                                                                                                                                                                                Very possibly. I'm waiting for these tomatoes I got from him to ripen a bit more before cutting into them to see what the inside looks like and what it tastes like, but you are very probably correct.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                  I had one today. Very probably Black Plum.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                I got to my near Sacto market late today, so the tags where gone when I bought, but we generally dont have "named" fingerling potatoes or "named" heirloom tomatoes at my market .Generic beefsteak type heirlooms were $3/ pound when my market

                                                                                                                                                                                I also bought okra for about $3/pound, some very small vidalias (I thought they were cipolini),some strawberry agua freska,and some pakora ? ( Indian patties stuffed with potato) for $2/each.5 OR 6 for $10, but I didnt want 6 so I got one.....

                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                "There must be regional differences at play"

                                                                                                                                                                                Susan, I think it's more than just region, though that may be a factor. You live right in farm country, and even if it's the farmers' market rather than the on-site farm stand, the vendors don't have to truck their goods far to get to market. At urban markets, time and fuel for bringing produce in are necessarily factored into pricing. There's also the question of what the market will bear, and in urban areas with a higher cost of living, that's usually more. I know you likely paid more for some things when you were actually Susan in SF.

                                                                                                                                                                                Incidentally, two weeks later, here is what I bought today at the Berkeley farmers' market:

                                                                                                                                                                                basket of strawberries, $3.50
                                                                                                                                                                                big bunch of chard, $1.75
                                                                                                                                                                                2 medium zucchini, 2 cucumbers, $3.50
                                                                                                                                                                                head of garlic, 50 cents
                                                                                                                                                                                3 big Valencia oranges, $2.75
                                                                                                                                                                                3 Chinese eggplant, $1.95
                                                                                                                                                                                4 baby bok choy, $1
                                                                                                                                                                                huge bunch of mint, $1
                                                                                                                                                                                dozen pastured eggs, $5
                                                                                                                                                                                19 oz. fresh firm tofu, $5

                                                                                                                                                                                All but the eggplant, bok choy, mint, eggs is certified organic; the other vendors use the same methods but aren't certified.

                                                                                                                                                                              4. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                Today's damage - better, because the FM (and the produce) is now in full swing, with price/amount ratios now in the good range. I also bought no eggs or meat products.

                                                                                                                                                                                From FM#1:
                                                                                                                                                                                Curly kale, 1 bunch: $3.00
                                                                                                                                                                                Basil, 1 good-sized bunch: $3.00
                                                                                                                                                                                Bicolor corn, 6 ears: $3.00 (I believe it's cheaper in CA and elsewhere?)
                                                                                                                                                                                Fresh mozzarella (1 tub, 2 balls) + fresh fettucine (1 nest): $7.50

                                                                                                                                                                                From FM#2:
                                                                                                                                                                                Zucchini (6 med size): $2.00 (good deal, for here)
                                                                                                                                                                                Cantaloupe (1): $3.00
                                                                                                                                                                                Tomatoes (4 mid-sized, "ordinary" type) @$3/lb: $5.75

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                  And now, 1 month later, here's what I got for a bit under $60 (cf earlier in the season):

                                                                                                                                                                                  @ FM #1:
                                                                                                                                                                                  2/3 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms (selected for stuffability) – $6.80
                                                                                                                                                                                  1 big bunch rainbow chard – $3.00
                                                                                                                                                                                  1 two-foot-long Chinese Okra (Luffa acutangula) – $1.75
                                                                                                                                                                                  2 small Chinese bittergourds + 1 qt Lady's Fingers – $2.85
                                                                                                                                                                                  3 med-lg zucchini – $2.00
                                                                                                                                                                                  12 sm-med sweet colored banana peppers – $4.00
                                                                                                                                                                                  2 med Purple Cherokee tomatoes + 3 elongated pointy Green Zebra-like tomatoes – $4.50
                                                                                                                                                                                  2 med Amazon Chocolate + 1 med Solar Flare + 1 sm Green Lantern Light tomatoes – $4.60
                                                                                                                                                                                  1 qt (= 4 biggish ones) peaches + 1 bonus peach – $4.00

                                                                                                                                                                                  @ FM #2:
                                                                                                                                                                                  1 big bunch basil – $3.00
                                                                                                                                                                                  1 pack (5 oz) very special goat cheese – $5.00
                                                                                                                                                                                  6 med zucchini – $2.00
                                                                                                                                                                                  10 Shishito peppers – $2.00
                                                                                                                                                                                  Green beans @ $2.99/lb – ~$4 ?
                                                                                                                                                                                  1 med-lg cucumber – $1.00
                                                                                                                                                                                  1 med fresh-baked apple pie – $6.00

                                                                                                                                                                                  Moral of the tale: "height of season" (notwithstanding the severe drought here which seriously affects stuff, especially availability of greens) is usually good value-for-money. Of course, the same stuff in CA around the Bay Area for example would still probably cost less - yes?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                    This is an educated guess, from the farthest reaches of what might be called the bay area; more like central valley sensibilities;

                                                                                                                                                                                    No mushrooms and no chard right now.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Might be less for specialty tomatoes, but it's by the pound. Not sure how that translates to small,, medium and large. I do know I get about the tomatoes you describe in my CSA box, and with what I grow, I am not shopping for tomatoes at this time of year.

                                                                                                                                                                                    The basil seems a bit high, but again, I grow mine, so I'm not sure, as does the zucchini and cucumbers No pie, goat cheese, shishito peppers, or goat cheese at my market. There are green beans, but they usually look ...not great right now. Growing those too, to see if I can do any better in this dry heat.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Not sure what's happening with various peaches this week, but pluots and plums are popular. I get mailings about peach varieties at local farms as they brome available.

                                                                                                                                                                              5. Another reason I like my FM produce is because it lasts. Bought a big bag of green beans which then got "lost" in the frig and I didn't find them until they'd been there more than a week. Still had a snap when I bent them....sometimes the ones in the supermarket barely have that when they're sold.

                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                                                                  I have to agree with that also. Most of the stuff I buy is from just one vendor - a local certified organic farmer. While all of his produce lasts unbelievably long in the fridge, the most amazing are his bags of mixed baby lettuces. I buy 2 bags at a time (@ a whopping $4/bag ($1 up from last year)), & they literally last up to THREE WEEKS kept in their original clear plastic bags, open at the top. I've never even had the lettuce I grow myself last that long in the fridge.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                                                                    Well, one of the vendors at the FM which I visited yesterday had the cheapest green beans there - at $2/lb - but they were pretty sad, sort-of both "wet" and "dried out" in parts, and actually MOLDY in spots!!! Needless to say I got my green beans from another vendor, one whom I've patronized for years. (There were other vendors selling the same kind of (common) green beans at varying prices - one had them at $4/open-top "box" which I visually estimated to hold about a pound's worth.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. For me it's simple, Farmers Markets are for the rich.

                                                                                                                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: treb

                                                                                                                                                                                      Given the prices called out by some I might agree. I sure wish I could sell my produce for what some are paying. I have composted a whole lot of vegetables that I've grown because I couldn't give it away.

                                                                                                                                                                                      My policy this summer has been that if you are an egg customer, buy a dozen eggs for $2 every so often, I'll give you my excess produce.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: treb

                                                                                                                                                                                        Wow, that's a broad statement. I realize I'm lucky and live in a community with a wealth of small, diversified farms, but my local market is definitely not "for the rich." I'd estimate about 15% of the shoppers there every week are graduate students, 5-10% recent immigrants from Latin American and SE Asia, and another 15-20% retirees. Just yesterday, I went to the market and purchased 2 pounds of green beans, 2 pounds of slicing tomatoes, a pint of sun gold tomatoes for $14. Price wise, that's comparable to the grocery store, but light years better in terms of quality.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                                                                                                          you are fortunate to live in the midst of farms. I also feel for kengk, I'd gladly buy a dozen farm fresh eggs for $2.00 but where I am they're $6.00 + a dozen. My farmers market also has a lot of side show food vendors. My main concern is seeing say tomatoes for $5 to 7.00 per pound and chickens for $12. pp. For individuals on a budget, that's a show stopper.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: treb

                                                                                                                                                                                            Farm fresh eggs for $2 just isn't a reasonable request when factory eggs sell for that amount.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                                                                              And organic factory eggs sell for $4 at the grocery!

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: treb

                                                                                                                                                                                              I too feel intuitively that $12/lb is very high for chicken (making most pasture raised chickens $35-$50 each?). However I am not privy to all the expenses and hardships of raising chickens correctly. I do know that all of the chicken ranchers in my area were charging around $4/lb for pasture raised chickens, and selling them like crazy -- but they all told me that they were losing money on the chickens and gave up raising them. So now people here can't get chickens at any price. This makes me believe that the high prices on chicken are not due to price gouging but that chickens are actually very expensive to raise properly.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: yellowstone

                                                                                                                                                                                                I think some of the problem is that people are trying to make a profit in the first year or two of production and then, when they don't, they decide it's not worth it. Even large scale CAFO-type operations don't, AFAIK, typically get out of the red in the first couple of years. Their advantage is a big corporation bankrolling those early losses, whereas a small chicken producer (rancher? grower? raiser? ;) doesn't typically have the luxury of taking a loss for three or four years until they've made back their initial outlay. So you end up with whole chickens at $6/lb and people saying they still can't afford to raise them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: yellowstone

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I think chicken at my market might go for $10-$12/lb for boneless/skinless breasts. Whole chickens are closer to $5-$6/lb. We also have a few chicken CSA deals - pay up front and get 1-2 whole chickens per week in season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: treb

                                                                                                                                                                                                  But you shouldn't take off your shrewd shopper's cap just because you are at a farmer's market. Don't buy the stuff that's over priced.

                                                                                                                                                                                            3. Have read through this entire thead and would like to comment that a lot of people seem to assume the superiority of FM produce, possibly because it is so expensive, price being seen as a guarantee of quality. I know two people who personally observed a FM vendor they recognized buy a large quantity of blueberries at Aldi's (Chicago's cheapest food chain) and transfer the produce in Aldi's parking lot to her own boxes for sale at the FM at a markup.

                                                                                                                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                                                I disagree that a lot of people HERE think it's superior, which I take it you mean local if not produced by the seller. Now, non-foodies might assume that.
                                                                                                                                                                                                But yes, many farmers markets are merely outdoor stores.
                                                                                                                                                                                                I think CH'ers are generally more informed when it comes to their farmers markets.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I assume the superiority of FM produce because it is fresher, tastes better and lasts longer.....here it is not so expensive so price would be no "guarantee of quality."

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Querencia writes: "I know two people who personally observed a FM vendor they recognized buy a large quantity of blueberries at Aldi's (Chicago's cheapest food chain) and transfer the produce in Aldi's parking lot to her own boxes for sale at the FM at a markup."

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Now THAT'S really underhanded! Hard times bring out the worst in some folks and the best in others.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I saw similar tactics at West Side Market in Cleveland. When you walk behind the vegetable section you see all the dole, chiquita, sunkiss boxes. Sure they look great but, but I only bought what I wanted to eat then and not my weekly shopping.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Now our farmer markets here in C-bus, that's not the case. The farmers or hired help are selling their produce and there are no dole cartons anywhere. Trust me, it's them. Again I may not buy all my fruits and vegetables at the FM, but there really is a difference in the tomatoes, berries, and melons I buy three vs Meijers or even Whole Foods.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Crockett67

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Crockett, the West Side Market vendors buy from the food terminal--same as grocery stores. It's always been this way and they don't puport to be selling food from their own farms. Not sure where you got the idea, but the WSM vendors aren't trying to deceive anyone about where the food comes from.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: gourmanda

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yes, West Side Market
                                                                                                                                                                                                          is a Public Market, not a 'farmers market'. Pike Place in Seattle and Faneuil Hall in Boston are other examples of this type of market, many of which date back to the 19th c. It was a common retail establishment in pre super market days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Northern Ohio Food Terminal was (still is) the wholesale component of that traditional food distribution system.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          A Farmers Market where a farmer is picking his own crops one day, and selling it the next 50 miles away to consumers has a romantic quality to it, but is rarely an efficient way of growing and selling produce to a large population. Why shouldn't there be a distribution of labor, with one person focusing on growing crops, another on transporting and selling them at wholesale, and still others handling the retail aspect?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          There's a division of labor on this Chow board. You and I are the consumers, Chow staff runs the web site, and your internet provider the distributor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                            faneuil hall hasn't been a food market in many, many decades.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            a stone's throw away though, we do have haymarket, which is a public market, only open on fridays and saturdays. produce is dirt cheap and they more often do have organics available there now, although rarely is it local stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I think the local movement and the emphasis that the chefs on TV make on using the best ingredients have helped to push the prices up. Of course those who produce the food incur price hikes in the production and that also affects the price.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Maybe we will have to grow our own gardens but even flats of plants are now pricey.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think that in the US for a long time the concept of what percentage of one's budget should be spent on food has long been much lower than what many people in the rest of the world pay. The price of meat in the US is dramatically cheaper than the price of meat in a multitude of overseas locales. The upswing to the corporate food industry is that it makes produce, meats, and other groceries far far cheaper. I live in Jerusalem, and the food industry in Israel is essentially controled by 3/4 companies - something that is reflected in pretty high food consumer costs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't know nearly enough about food economy in the US to know whether or not commitment to farmers markets and those prices is the way to achieve better practice in the American grocery context - but I do know from my experience grocery shopping for years in Jerusalem that my overall food here costs me way more than the US and takes up a larger part of my budget. Which in turn means that I buy far far less meat and fresh seafood, and rely more on meals that involve canned tuna, eggs, and legumes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Obviously, just paying a lot for groceries that are experiencing price inflation due to trends won't change a system - but if people are invested in changing the current system, then accepting the notion of spending more on food becomes an issue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Being a local farmer's market vendor in Indiana, I question the prices you are paying at your market. At our market, tomatoes go for $1 to $2 dollars a pound, apples right now are $2.50 for a 4 lb sack, and we sell locally roasted coffee beans for $10 for 12z. These are just a few of the prices from our stands, but most of our prices are lower than the local grocery stores. Only 2 vendors bring product not grown or produced locally and their product is always labeled as to where it came from. Maybe our Market Master is just more on top of things, but I would be questioning someone to find out why produce is not labeled as to where it came from. We even label our apples because we pick them at my inlaws house a county away!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rvrsdrst02

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I shop at Farmers' Markets in central Indiana. Tomatoes are currently $2.50 to $3.00 per pound. Earlier, they were typically around $3.50/lb for regular tomatoes and around $4.00/lb for heirlooms. Where in Indiana do you sell your $1-2/lb tomatoes?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. The Montreal farmers markets are quite expensive especially the fruits, not affordable. The buy local movement and the foodie quest for the ultimate best produce has enabled these vendors to push the prices up. However, I enjoy the market atmosphere and continue to buy produce here. One of the majour markets in Montreal got called out in the local paper for selling imported produce and passing it off as local.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I didn't have time to read alllll of the replies. But I just wanted to say that my local (small town Indiana) farmers' market saved me today.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            I want to make a simple fresh heirloom tomato sauce for pasta tonight.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thank goodness those folks are there every Saturday!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I think we do have to realize that the farmer's must make a living as well and we should appreciate the efforts that they make to bring good produce to us. If I am able to I often buy directly from local farmers instead of the market itself and think this is a better way to economize.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I dont know if you have ever grown asparagus, (My mother recently pulled out her plot in Worthington Ohio) but its not a very easy to harvest crop and it will always be a specialty luxury crop.. For optimum condition, you have to go out there every day and harvest the shoots that have come up. Very few farm markets or other markets sell asparagus in optimum condition, because they wait until its fairly tall and harvest all at once - once the point spreads out, it is past its prime already. I am often disappointed in the asparagus I see in NY farmers markets because they wait too long. But its intrinsically a luxury item and a pound will feed, what, 4 adults amply? doesnot seem like much in that context.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Believe me, whole foods is getting its crops from outside the area likely even from outside the country, we can get asparagus year round now. From where I sit, $6 for a pound of asparagus if it is fresh and local and not over-mature is a good deal

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree about prices generally in farmers markets - prices seem to have gone up radically, for example for tomatoes in my brooklyn greenmarkets, and when we visit Worthington, the farmer's market there seems quite pricy and gentrified also. I guess they price to their market - when I go away from my local market (Grand Army Plaza) in Park Slope to some of the others in less upscale areas, the same items, for example apples or tomatoes will cost less..So I think the farmers charge what they think the markets will bear.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                                                                                                                "I think the farmers charge what they think the markets will bear."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Definitely-an hour's drive out of Vancouver and the price drops 20% or more for the same products.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Salmon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That was my point of going direct away from the big structured markets where merchants are all located together..

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. In the Boston area too. I have rarely shopped at a Farmer's Market. I would LOVE to buy local food. Unfortunately, Local doesn't always mean organic. I have not had the opportunity to visit many farmer's markets, but those I have been to, have locally grown food that's been grown on conventionally worked farmland that has probably been dosing their land with chemicals for years. The few vendors at the market who have organic produce charge prices that made my eyes bug out of my head. I've also signed up to two seasons with a CSA locally for organic produce and was totally unsatisfied with it. Two different farms, two different seasons.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                We grow organic vegetables ourselves. I don't have enough sunny land to grow enough, so I'm always looking for more, but for anyone really wanting to eat well, I don't see how you can do it without growing as much of it yourself as you can. I do end up buying at Whole Foods which I don't feel all that great about either. It is quite a bind we find ourselves in. Everything you read on health encourages you to eat as many vegetables and fruits as you can and then you can't find quality, healthy produce that you can afford. We spend a fortune on food but I don't know what choice we have.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I WISH there were some reasonable local farmer's markets, that had a good, consistent supply of organic produce and eggs and free range meats. I don't believe that exists.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Lizzytish

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I think there is very little reason to think that the "organic" produce at whole foods is superior, in terms of the amount of chemical fertilizers that were historically added to the land, than the conventional farmers market farmers. Most farm land that has been in use for any period of time has had chemical fertilizers, pesticides etc applied.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The farmers I know in the NY greenmarkets try very hard (I am not talking about the organic farmers here) to minimize, particularly, their use of pesticides. They are very aware of the issues and the concerns of their patrons. I dont know how much the soils in urban and suburban america in which we garden have been compromised by lead from auto exhaust, paint chips and other compounds.I like to grow tomatoes, and certainly grew up on home gardened products, almost exclusively - however my parents used pesticides selectively I think that you do the best you can making choices, and try to think of your food not as poison but as a joy of life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Actually, supermarkets that sell organic produce MUST purchase it from Federal-government "Certified Organic" vendors. The process to get certified takes time, is expensive, & involves extensive testing & investigation of the land, as well as all farming methods used. Compliance to rigid rules/regulations & regular inspections are necessary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    With that in mind, I DO believe that any venue selling FRESH "certified" organic produce will be superior to that sold by "conventional" farmers market farmers - if only from a health viewpoint.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I agree with Bacard1. Farmers who are certified as organic, have to have their land tested and it takes years to have past pesticide use dissipated in the soil enough to pass these tests. Besides which, I choose to use my dollars to support farmers that actually feel strongly about the same things that I do. Changing the past wrong practices because they understand the dangers of using these chemicals on food and on the land. I grow food organically, and have done so for 25 years, not having used ONE pesticide or synthetic fertilizer in all that time. I want to support other growers that feel as strongly about it as I do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. One of the best things about living in the PNW is the ubiquitous farmers' market. I am counting weeks until it opens in March. I am very curious what I'll find. Turnips? Radishes? I guess I'll find out then.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Lucky you!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ours doesn't open until the last week in April. They used to start earlier, but didn't have enough vendors who had enough produce to sell that early in the season - especially since there can still be heavy frost & even a stray snow or two in early April. It was pretty much only spinach & a few other early cold-hardy greens, as well as radishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'd like some spinach. Also, I love radishes. I'm thinking golden beets?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It probably depends on what growing zone you're in. I'm in Zone 6/7.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Around here, market vendors who grow cold-hardy veggies in plastic-covered hoop tunnels sometimes have early turnips, beets, etc., but it's sort of a crap shoot.