Although the lure of shopping at a farmers market includes fresh and tasty produce, a happy open-air market vibe and the plentiful free samples, isn’t it too expensive to shop at farmers markets regularly?
I tried to answer this by looking at some formal studies. The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture conducted consumer market research in June, July, and August 2009 at farmers markets in Iowa. The researchers found no significant price difference between farmers markets and the supermarkets. In addition, they noted that price advantages at the farmers markets often occurred when there was a seasonal abundance of a particular fruit or vegetable. A more recent study was conducted at Vermont farmers markets and grocery stores. This study evaluated conventional and organic produce and reached conclusions for each type. For conventional foods, the farmers market prices were competitive with grocery stores in many cases, while for organic foods, the farmers market prices were typically less than at the grocery store. While small local farms don’t have the advantage or large-scale agricultural practices, buying directly from a farmer doesn’t include any profits to a middleman, so the similarity in prices tends to make sense.
So what criteria do you use when you shop for food? Is price the only factor you consider, or do you think about value and quality? So let’s check out our local farmers market and make our own comparisons?