Farmer's Market Question
I live in the Northeast US and look forward to the summer and the farmer's market in our town. I am lucky to live close to a major city yet in a suburban area with lots of small local farms. My question is this: I often read posts on here and other food sites by people who get great bargains on produce at farmer's markets. This has never been my experience where I live. The prices at my farmer's market are not any cheaper than the grocery store and sometimes are more. Even when I go directly to the farm and buy from the stand, it still isn't cheaper. The quality and freshness is miles better, if course. But, what is going on? Is the bargain produce only to be found in California, where the growing season is longer and farms are bigger?
I agree. I never find bargain prices at farmers markets near me - in fact, quite the contrary, prices are often higher than supermarkets, although quality is usually higher and provenance is assured.
Our farmer's markets are very short as our growing season is about three months. So, we practically accost the vendors in season. Our prices are far higher than at supermarkets; some produce is double the price. But, as Harters mentions, the quality is superior. Thankfully I grow my own vegetables but do not have the room for corn.
compared to supermarkets, you don't usually get bargains ($$$) at farmer's market, you get better produces.
BUT (speaking of experience of Montreal's markets)
In some instances you will find better bargains for bulk on some very seasonal products like tomatoes, apples, leaks, ... all at the end of the summer beginning of autumn.
The Farmers are there to make money, as are all businesses.
I grew up in Detroit and the Farmers Market there ( http://www.detroiteasternmarket.com/ ) was (and Is) a one day weekly event. The farmers come from a 200 mile radius and 40,000 people go through the Market area each Saturday. If, at the end of the day a farmer is not sold out, then he may offer items for less, just so he doesn't have to carry anything back home; the product will get old if they don't have a street side farmstand where they live.
Where I live now (San Diego County) there are over 50 Farmers Markets a week (http://sdfarmbureau.org/BuyLocal/Farm... ). Some are Certified Farmers Markets and some are not certified (i.e., the booths feature people reselling items that were purchased elsewhere: the seller is not the Farmer). The Farmers/sellers can take unsold produce and sell it at their next scheduled market later that day or tomorrow, so there is no incentive to clear out of product at the end of the day.
I am in New England and while my CSA is comparable if not cheaper than the super market the farmers markets are not. I am happy to pay the higher price though because, as you noted, the quality is usually superior. I also find that the "shelf life" tends to be longer because it has not already travelled for days. And as trite as it sounds I like meeting and getting to know the people who grow the food my family eats.
As Max noted too, there are occasions when it can be cheaper such as during the height of the season. I can usually find local corn in August, apples and winter squashes in fall for example.