New Study Compares Prices at Farmers’ Markets and Supermarkets. The Results Might Surprise You.

Dirt cheap

Dirt cheap

It’s getting harder and harder to be an elitist these days.

We’re all familiar with the accepted gospel: Only well-heeled food snobs can afford the exorbitant prices charged for those attractively displayed baby greens and heirloom tomatoes at farmers’ markets, while those who can’t afford such greener-than-thou food-purchasing decisions must paw through limp broccoli, wilted lettuce, and tennis-ball tomatoes at supermarket produce departments.

It may come as a surprise that there has been virtually no formal studies to support this widely accepted contention, and the few studies that have been conducted call its veracity into question.

A report released earlier this year by Jake Robert Claro, a graduate student at Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy who did the study for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, found that prices at farmers’ markets were lower for many conventionally produced grocery items than they were at supermarkets. For organic items, farmers’ markets beat grocery stores every time hands down.

“We’re starting to see enough competition among vendors at farmers’ markets that the prices are becoming competitive,” said Claro in an interview.

Claro organized a five-member team that collected price information from 10 farmers’ markets and 10 conventional supermarkets serving the same towns in Vermont during the summer of 2010. The group compared costs for a dozen items: blueberries, cantaloupe, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggs, bell peppers, lettuce, potatoes, peas, string beans, squash, and tomatoes.

Non-organic farmers’ market cantaloupe, cucumbers, lettuce, and peas were better buys than their supermarket counterparts. With the exception of eggs and potatoes, the other items surveyed were between 10 and 20 percent more expensive. Conventional eggs were 43 percent more expensive and potatoes 58 percent more expensive—differences that Claro said were expected, given the economies of scale industrial-sized egg and potato producers enjoy.

Astoundingly, organic items at farmer’s markets were nearly 40 percent cheaper than they were at neighboring supermarkets.

Claro’s study reinforces the findings of other groups looking into pricing at farmers’ markets. In 2007, Stacey Jones, an economics professor at the University of Seattle, had her students compare costs of 15 items at a farmers’ market and a nearby supermarket. The farmers’ market was slightly less expensive. The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture compared prices of conventional food in four Iowa cities and found that the farmers’ markets’ prices were often equal to or lower than those at grocery stores.

“It’s promising to see that regardless of the region, these studies are holding up,” said Claro. “This trend is going to grow stronger. Maybe that will put the elitist perception to rest.”

Now, if only it will stop raining long enough for the farmers up here in the northeast to get out and plant something to sell.

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48 comments

  1. Ken Peterson says:

    I bought a three-pack of organic strawberries at the Pacific Grove, Calif. farmers market last night for $6; and two one-pound bunches of organic asparagus for $3 apiece. Both were gorgeous and utterly delicious.

    I can’t imagine finding prices like that at the supermarket.

  2. Maggie says:

    While I appreciate the studies as an introduction to a good discussion, I’m not sold on the idea that comparing organic vs. organic and conventional vs. conventional really gets to the heart of the “accepted gospel.” I would be interested to see a price comparison between organic farmer’s market produce and that of conventionally farmed produce, particularly if data collection showed seasonal variation in prices.

    That being said, it never hurts to have an extra reason to go to the farmers market : )

  3. Barry says:

    Ah, Ken. And then there’s all that beautiful produce in your own garden for free!

    I agree totally. I think that the take home message from these studies is that more studies like them need to be done. It just bugs me that someone who chooses to buy quality food is labeled an elitist and someone who buys a fancy car or an expensive pair of athletic shoes is not.

  4. Anna says:

    I am definitely not surprised by studies like this, and they’re great, but I think they need to be part of a wider discussion about why farmers’ markets continue to be perceived as elite institutions. As we know, class is not just about money; if farmers’ markets are cheaper, then we need to be thinking of broader reasons as to why they still seem off limits to lower income people. I think these other reasons are both practical–farmers’ markets don’t stay open until late like supermarkets do, thereby being off limits to those who work long hours/multiple jobs and don’t have much leisure time–and cultural–the rhetoric around these spaces has been so overwhelmingly white and middle class that these spaces can seem exclusionary even if they are not really.

    If we want to put this “elitist perception to rest” then I think we need to do a lot more than compare prices.

  5. Jake Claro says:

    Maggie,

    We actually did compare organic farmers’ market produce prices with conventional produce prices. Additionally, we showed seasonal variation for five items: squash, green peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and string beans. It’s all in the full report that Barry has linked.

    best,

    Jake Claro

  6. I work for the nonprofit that runs the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco. I have done price comparisons between our market and the supermarket. I was at first hesitant to do the comparisons, because I think reducing the argument to which produce is the cheapest misses the whole point of the farmers market. How do you quantify flavor, sustainability, community, and support of local agriculture?

    Yet I wanted to be fully informed when I addressed complaints that our market is too expensive. I did three comparisons (3 different years) between our farmers market and the nearby Safeway and Whole Foods. The results of all three were similar to those described above.

    We chose not to compare some items, including meat and eggs. Like you said, the costs of production are so different for eggs from pasture raised, humanely treated chickens on a small farm than they are for eggs from hens raised indoors on a large scale–even organic eggs.

    There are places around SF (Chinatown is one example) where produce of unknown origin can be found at a very low price. Small local farmers can’t compete with those prices. If they tried, they’d go out of business. If it’s a choice between those veggies or no veggies, I’d certainly encourage people to buy those. But price and value are two different measures, and for me the value of fresh food from farmers I trust is very high.

    Thanks for calling this out, Barry.

  7. yes, i think anything that will get people to farmers markets is great! what confuses me are people like the woman i passed at the hollywood farmers market on sunday who said, “i think i’m going to get my tomatoes at trader joe’s, because i like the color of them there.” i had to do a double take to see if she was serious, and i believe she was. she also had a couple bags of produce already. wtf? i was wondering what ‘color’ she was speaking of, because i just passed the most beautiful table of heirloom tomatoes that had every color of the rainbow on it. seriously. check out the photo i posted on my blog if you doubt it.

  8. Jenny says:

    This is very interesting, and heartening for those of us who are able to purchase produce at all. Perhaps an even greater concern is the absence of produce choices of any sort in certain urban areas. The decline of urban grocery options is causing rampant illness among those forced to eat from convenience stores, and many don’t have the transportation means to reach local farmer’s markets. We need to promote urban homesteading, community gardens, and the rebirth of urban groceries with healthy produce options.

  9. Sam Fromartz says:

    The elitist charge is also interesting in light of the popularity of the two-for-one coupons at farmers markets for low-income people. The result: more low-income buy fresh fruits and vegetables. The only limiting factor is the number of farmers markets, though they have been growing.

  10. paul s vail says:

    At our local farmers market, we have a subset of farmers trying to grow organic and another who are ‘conventional’ (pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers). The organic produce is sweet and delicious, ‘though sometimes of variable color, size and with occasional spots. The conventional farmer produce is also sweet and delicious, often a bit larger and uniform in size without as many spots. Prices are the same.

    However, as I live downstream and we have increasingly common lake closures downstream from the farms due to bacterial counts (this is a potable water reservoir for a nearby city), the runoff is a combination of clueless overuse of harry homeowner weekend lawn warrior and the runoff from the conventional operations. I only need to visit the conventional farms and look at the quality of their soil (hence the need for the synthetic augmentation for plant survival, let alone growth). I look at the drainage ditches at the edges of the fields and note the slick algal blooms even there (and the sluggish choked stream adjacent to the property). Visiting the organic producer, I see none of the green matted material in the ditch or the creek nearby. Granted, these are but two data points and not a scientific study, but my point is that the ‘cost’ of conventional technique may be higher than simply the price at the scales.

    When I can, I’m voting with my dollars for the organic. Besides what may be absorbed by the fruits and other produce from the applied chemical cocktails to achieve that uniform beauty of product (hence consumed by me), there are added ancillary costs to the non-organic production. Water treatment isn’t cheap to anyone who has a metered bill, or spoiled plans for a weekend of recreation at the lake. Our watershed drains past dozens of municipalities, eventually draining into what was once a highly productive estuary and ocean. The declines in water quality for all of those citizens, and fishermen, add to the hidden costs of the conventional techniques. The math gets fuzzier the more one examines the data.

  11. Hi Barry and congratulations on your Beard award. A couple years ago before I was growing a lot of my own vegetables, I joined a CSA out here on Martha’s Vineyard. I joined for the whole summer (the best deal) and did a small share, and it worked out to be about $20 a week for produce for two of us–including a big bunch of flowers every week. I did a comparison at the local Stop n Shop (I think I wrote about this on Huffington Post at some point) and the veggies, not including the flowers, would have been more expensive at the Stop n Shop. I think CSAs in particular are a real bargain–and incredibly helpful to farmers who need money upfront. Anyway, just thought I’d mention that as they are also a great way for people to have fun and get creative with veggie cooking while supporting local farmers.
    Susie

  12. Can we put a price on personally knowing our farmer via farmers markets, or for that matter, the lessons we learn by growing our own food (http://www.fulldishclosure.com/2011/05/digging-deep-through-gardening.html#links)?
    I have greater confidence in small scale local production, than in an organic certification, and would pay more for that value. Meanwhile, programs like Wholesome Wave (http://wholesomewave.org/what-we-do/double-value-coupon-program/), which doubles the value of food stamps at select farmers markets, deserve greater support.

  13. GeorgeK says:

    Food prices will be lower at farmers markets.

    Many farmers are selling their #2 produce (for grade, not quality) at farmers mkt’s. Many marketing orders keep #2′s out of the retail stores.
    Small market farmers cannot push their #1 prices too much over the #2 prices, this moderates prices at farmers mkt’s.

    Whenever you read the elitist meme, you can be sure a right wing marketing group is lurking nearby.

  14. janelle says:

    Our farmers market in Omaha just started accepting SNAP (food stamps) this summer. I think it’s a great idea, but again, there’s probably a perception that the farmers market isn’t price-friendly. What would make it attractive to low income folks? There would have to be some real advertisement, concentrated in low income areas to inform them that it’s a great shopping alternative. Flyers put up at social service sites, maybe? It’s certainly already been in the news, but that doesn’t always help.

    Though I have to say, I’ve always found it cheaper than our standard grocery store, and FAR cheaper than Whole Foods, so if we could convince SNAP participants to shop there, they might find they like having a cheaper selection of produce on their limited food budget.

    Oh, and competition between vendors? Hah, I almost made the mistake of buying basil seedlings from the first vendor I saw with them because I thought I had bought from them last year. I went to buy two and he said “$6″. I actually asked, “Are you joking?” and he said no. I said, “oh, I didn’t realize they were so expensive. I’ll wait.” And wait I did, until I got to a vendor selling them for .75! Thank goodness for the competition!

  15. I think the perception that organic and natural foods are much more expensive is a dated one. Of course there are some crazy expensive things at Whole Foods–there are also crazy expensive foods at Safeway. Anyone who pays attention when they shop can find deals on organic foods that bring them into line with many conventional items (except as mentioned above, things like eggs and meat). Nowadays it seems that people use the “expensive” argument to justify their own lazy behavior when it comes to seeking out quality food. It is also a great myth for conventional agribusiness to continue perpetuate–if organic food is elitist and out of reach for ordinary Americans, perhaps they will just settle down, stop questioning the status quo and buy what they are told to buy!

  16. On the egg issue, not all of the egg prices need to be higher than at the supermarket. I’ll bet if you compare like to like you’ll find that the prices at the supermarket are higher. In my area, free range eggs sold direct from the farm go for $3/dozen from most farms. I’m very, very small, I have only 60 or so layers. Between purchasing the chicks, raising them to laying age, taking into account the slow parts of the year (molt and winter), purchasing blank egg cartons and printing labels for them (I do my own printing in house), and assuming that a hen will be spent when she’s 2-3 years old and replaced with a new layer, my cost of production is between $1.39 and $1.50/dozen.

    I checked a year ago at the local Fred Meyer store and the cage free (not even free range) eggs were priced at $4.50/dozen. I’ll be at a farmers market on Friday evening, and I’ll be charging $3/dozen for free range eggs just like I always do.

  17. Forgot to add purchasing feed by the 50# bag, which is the most expensive way to purchase.

  18. Jake Claro says:

    Joanne,

    Yes I agree on the eggs issue, and it was a product we had difficulty comparing because even for conventional offerings at farmers’ markets it was unlikely that they were produced in the same fashion as those found in the grocery store. This is why the organic vs organic comparison is probably a more accurate comparison, and farmers’ market prices were I believe cheaper or essentially the same.

  19. Emily says:

    I’ve been suspecting this all along, actually. I bought a giant box of organic tomatoes to can last summer and I think it cost me $25. On Facebook I wrote that it was 20 lbs. but I’m actually thinking it might have been more. Sucker was heavy! And those excellent tomatoes got me through the winter.

    So as others have said, how do we overcome the perception of elitism?

  20. Leslie McSorley says:

    The results aren’t really that surprising. Here in rural Downeast Maine, we have Farmer’s Markets available and well attended 4 days a week and this is not an up-scale area by any stretch of the imagination. The markets feature a variety of seasonal produce, locally produced cheeses, baked goods, meat, even seafood. The “lower income” shoppers are still rarely seen at any of them, I believe not because of the hours they are open or price perception, but because 1- The small merchants at the farmer’s markets are not set up (yet) to take food stamps. This may be changing with smart phone technology 2- The “low income” shoppers don’t want to stop anywhere where they can’t get everything they need at once (chips, hamburger helper and wonderbread) see them shopping at Walmart? and 3- They don’t seem able (or willing) to prepare anything that requires more than opening a box/bag/can. Fresh food involves thinking. The “low income” shoppers simply don’t know or care what they are missing.

  21. Oreeko says:

    Sooner or later prices will get cheaper. A long way to go but not impossible.Thanks for the article.

  22. Jeff says:

    How is this surprising? i shop at both and compare prices of produce all the time, and yes, farmer’s market prices often are lower. A study has to be conducted to figure this out? I guess I’ve been conducting my own independent study for years.

  23. Jessica says:

    Again, agreeing with most of the commentors on not being surprised by these results. I also agree that “big”/industrial ag’s PR machine has much to do with painting an “elitist” picture of Farmers’ Markets.

    Many farmers markets now take SNAP and WIC (food stamps and Women w/Infants/Children). In addition, some farmers markets (and their associations) have started to receive grants that double every SNAP and WIC dollar consumers spend at their markets. Part of the issue with accepting these benefits is that it can be burdensome for both the markets and the individual farmers. Change is a-comin’, it just takes a while…

  24. Brenda says:

    Here in the Boise, Idaho area, the prices at Farmers Markets are much higher than the grocery stores. i have priced them, and I am sad to see that only the “snobs” can afford their prices. Why would a mother of 3 kids struggling to get by pay $5 for a loaf of whole wheat bread when she can buy the same thing at the store for $2? Veggie prices are also exorbitantly high in price because they are labeled “organic.” I don’t understand how charging twice to three times the rate of grocery stores is going to bring the greedy farmers market sellers the customers they want. I say, shame on them!

  25. Alistair says:

    What you find depends strongly on which markets you look at. Some are excellent, like the Rochester Public Market, with a wide range of good produce at low prices. Some, like the Highland Park Market also in Rochester, NY and the Wooster Square market in New Haven, CT sell predominantly elite goods at high prices. Many times I’ve gone to them and left, not having found the basic produce I was looking for among the hand-made pasta and grass-fed organic goat milk yogurt after working my way through past ladies sporting jewels, silks and furs.

    Maybe this isn’t a one-study-fits-all question.

  26. Sophie says:

    We have comparable pricing in CT. But as some have already said, you can compare the freshness, taste, community value and so on. Also, if it’s organic, you’re not getting the poison and neither is the community.

    If making everything from scratch and cleaning dirt and critters out of my greens makes me elite, I embrace it!

  27. Bilbo baggins says:

    As a small scale farmer for the past 17 years I have seen a LOT of changes at the farmers markets. I do find at least in my area Seacoast NH that the prices are still higher at the market.. I think it really depends on where you are. As a matter of course though I have decided that I will be dropping prices this year for a variety of reasons.. competition not being one of them….

  28. ilona says:

    I’ve been a CSA member in the past and currently shop at both grocery stores, including Whole Foods, and farmers’ markets…but, at least where I live now, it is more convenient (and less expensive) to walk to a grocery store than to drive to a market and fight for a parking spot. And some of the farmers’ markets in Denver have become upscale, with a growing number of vendors selling wine, specialty baked goods, jams, sauces, prepared foods, etc., and a shrinking percentage selling raw produce. There is a wonderful, mostly produce market 30 miles away….hard to justify going there on a regular basis If the price of gas keeps rising.

  29. I have seen wilted produce at farmers’ markets as well as higher prices than at supermarkets.It all depends on what is SEASONAL and how long the stuff has been hanging around.The BEST fruits I have ever tasted are those I grew myself.

  30. Natalie says:

    Regarding Joanne’s comments about the egg price issue for small-scale producers, here in NC we see very wide variation in prices from farmer to farmer at markets because farmers forget to count the cost of labor (theirs or hired help). Factor in the time to care for, house, protect from predators, pick eggs, wash + box eggs, take them to market, etc. etc. then tell us your cost. Now, feed prices are 50% higher (conventional) than they were a mere 12 months ago, no way can a small-scale producer be profitable at even $3/doz.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the “elitism” surrounding farmers’ markets being about more than price alone. I am enthusiastic about the new willingness to accept food stamps and have seen it work at a couple markets where we sell. It is a good start. I think there is more to do, culturally, to show inclusiveness.

  31. Valerie says:

    I think it’s also worth mentioning that non-organic, local produce is generally produced with fewer pesticides and chemical fertilizers than non-organic produce that is found in the supermarket. I also see local produce – organic or non-organic – as the best choice over organic options that have been transported thousands of miles, sometimes from other countries. Buy local, enjoy fresh!

  32. BC says:

    I think some of you missed the point of this article. I have to agree that this study is great. But that being said those of you who comment on lower class people shopping at farmers markets instead of regular stores really need to stop and think. For one, lower class people do not have the extra time to wander from store to store, let alone from store to farmers markets and back, to get all the supplies they need. For many lower class people its a one stop shop deal to afford the gas to get there and get the food they need. Its a great thing to eat healthier, I love being able to every chance I get. BUT that does not make it cheaper. You have to consider many factors in the ‘price’, not just the dollar amount you spend for the food.

  33. Daniel Orr says:

    This is so great to hear. Now all we need is more availability. Where are the CSA farms.

  34. Joan Shields says:

    The prices for produce at the farmers market I have been to are MOSTLY the same as the supermarkets I go to. Some prices are less. So,overall, yes the prices are better. My experience has been this: many markets are open on the weekends. Try to go on Sunday afternoon, when price cuts and deals are everywhere.

    *My experience has been this: many markets are open on the weekends. Try to go on Sunday afternoon, when price cuts and deals are everywhere.I had a great conversation with a vendor at the Yellow Green Market in Hollywood, Florida. She was a USDA certified organic farmer. She paid $25,000 to get her certification. She said it was made possible for two reasons:1st~ She was growing organic produce as per requirements, for over 12 years. She couldn’t sell it as “certified” before the USDA tested her,so her customers had to trust her. 2nd~ sadly, her mother died and she inherited the money to become certified. The truth is many of the vendors didn’t advertise if they were organic or conventional. I emailed the manager of the Market and he replied that I’d have to ask each vendor myself. Some vendors admitted that their produce was leftover from restaurants they owned and were not organic, some said their produce was home grown but conventional. Some said they practice organic but don’t have the money to be certified. the atmosphere is always fun at the farmers markets, so it’s worth the day and the upbeat feeling of the people who go.

  35. Joan Shields says:

    oops. repeated myself in the comment above. Should’ve proofread that…my bad :)

  36. David says:

    I don’t understand why elite is bad.

    perhaps I’m being elite, but are there folks that think to themselves “ah, wealthy and educated people go to farmers markets, not salt of the earth people like me, so I won’t bother going”?

    That seems to be the underlying presumption in this thread, and I guess I’m just wondering if that’s been found to be true in any publicly available studies?

  37. mmmm says:

    The prices for produce at the farmers market I have been to are MOSTLY the same as the supermarkets I go to. Some prices are less. So,overall, yes the prices are better. My experience has been this: many markets are open on the weekends. Try to go on Sunday afternoon, when price cuts and deals are everywhere.

    *My experience has been this: many markets are open on the weekends. Try to go on Sunday afternoon, when price cuts and deals are everywhere.I had a great conversation with a vendor at the Yellow Green Market in Hollywood, Florida. She was a USDA certified organic farmer. She paid $25,000 to get her certification. She said it was made possible for two reasons:1st~ She was growing organic produce as per requirements, for over 12 years. She couldn’t sell it as “certified” before the USDA tested her,so her customers had to trust her. 2nd~ sadly, her mother died and she inherited the money to become certified. The truth is many of the vendors didn’t advertise if they were organic or conventional. I emailed the manager of the Market and he replied that I’d have to ask each vendor myself. Some vendors admitted that their produce was leftover from restaurants they owned and were not organic, some said their produce was home grown but conventional. Some said they practice organic but don’t have the money to be certified. the atmosphere is always fun at the farmers markets, so it’s worth the day and the upbeat feeling of the people who go.

  38. locavore says:

    I love the farmers’ markets, but I found out that it’s important to know if you’re buying from an actual farmer or from someone who doesn’t raise anything at all. There are famers’ markets where only people who actually raise the food can sell, and they can only sell what they raise. Then there are other markets where you have no idea where the products come from or whether the person you are buying from grew it. Even when you ask, you have to realize you may be dealing with a “broker” – someone who buys the products from others, maybe even the same place where the supermarket buys it, and then resells it as “fresh” or “local” at the farmers’ markets, with a big markup in price of course.

    I caught one “farmer” getting a delivery of eggs out of the back of our local supermarket! And don’t get me started about fruit and meat – those are big areas and big markups for brokers. Interestingly it seems to me that those “elite” farmers’ market customers tend to buy from the brokers with the highest prices! Which always makes me, with my low income, smile.

  39. Quinn says:

    There’s been a great story about Farmers Market versus corporate grocery store produce, as well as the frustration that a farmer goes through, on the net for several years.
    http://www.threespringsfarm.com/blog/?cat=5

    It discusses how pound for pound the prices are usually better especially for superior product. That is not elite in the least bit. It’s a good investment in one’s health. The industrial food is devoid of, or at least lacking in nutrition which is what really fuels the human body. What price health? It’s not cheap to be sick.

    I remember lamenting $5.99 a pound for organic spinach at a salad bar in an independent shop, so when I was at a corporate chain store later I was nearly seduced by the bagged spinach that was just $1.99 except, then I saw the per pound price and nearly choked! It was over $9 and was also not organic, not local, and was wrapped in plastic which creates garbage plus other environmental chaos and hassle.

    But on the particular day this post came out I’d just returned from the opening day of the farmers market in my neighborhood. There was basil tops, so very fresh, for $10 a pound. Seemingly a little spendy but a whole bunch turned out to be just a quarter pound. The store sells basil for $1.19 an ounce which it comes out to $19.04 per pound. Hmmm…

    We need to get over the tricks used to seduce us into thinking we are getting a good deal at grocery stores. It’s trickery and seductive deception.

    The market also has a grant which matches food stamp purchases up to $5 and a matching grant for seniors for $5 each week including transportation to and from the site. Rather than elite it is community with most of those making it happen being volunteers and getting to know those who put in all the work and effort to feed you.

    Perhaps ascribing “elitism” to farmers markets is a way to avoid what’s actually at issue. People are afraid of what’s really in their food. Looking at other food means perhaps admitting what they’ve been putting in their bodies and that’s really scary! Ignorance is bliss in this case for them, though they are still uncomfortable, still unhealthy, still losing legs, and their sight, and having heart attacks and strokes, among many other diseases of “affluence” as diet disasters have come to be called.

    Also, finding out what one’s been eating, given the Standard American Diet (SAD) often requires change which few want to do. It requires effort and research, and learning. Plus perhaps no small amount of admitting how duped one has been, how gullible. That’s hard. It hurts.

    But, what’s been said in the comments about low income people is very presumptuous (and often snotty — perhaps an agent provocateur trying to prove market goers as elitist). There are plenty of non-elites who wish to eat well, and avoid processed foods, and all the other things that have been ascribed to those who earn less than… well, what?

    It is the corporations driving lower income people to supermarkets. The Food Stamp program is basically just another subsidy program to sell off all the corn and soy that’s been subsidized by the Farm Bill even though it’s been played up as a liberal entitlement agenda. I surely would like to know how much of Wal-Mart’s bottom line, which goes to several of the richest family members in the entire world, is funded by Food Stamps and the fees for handling them. It is quite literally big business for them. So of course they don’t want to lose any to a groundswell of markets.

    Everyone should have to spend a few weeks out of their lives getting food to market, whether farmers or slaughterhouse before being allowed to buy their own food. There’d be a lot more understanding of just how utterly inexpensive farmers markets are then.

    Here is round-up of market pricing which includes the story I opened with.
    http://www.celsias.com/article/farmers-markets-vs-supermarkets/

    Barry, you might also mention Local Harvest and Eat Local (among others) as locators for markets as well as other resources for local foods including CSAs. There’s also locators for Canada and the UK.

  40. Spice Sherpa says:

    This intro of this article surprised me in that it creates a scenario that is the exact opposite of what my experience is. My entire life I’ve held the stereotype that farmers’ markets are always the place to get fresher, better food at a lower price than a supermarket. You eliminate the middle man.

    So no. There is no surprise to these findings whatsoever. I also think the term “lower class” is used out of context. Money is a resource. Low class is a derogatory term. Here in Rochester our farmers’ market is attended by every type of citizen imagineable. We all know where to get the good stuff!

  41. Greg Arnold says:

    It really boils down to the most important thing to me, personally – buying at a farmers market in your area supports local, healthy economy. You can meet and greet the farmer and ask your questions directly. Go to Safeway and ask the grocery staff and you might just find out your lemons come from Guatemala, your tomatoes from Mexico and that “fresh” lettuce comes from Ecuador. If supporting local Farmers here in the US is important to you. And if fresh, pesticide-free produce is important to the health and welfare of yourself, your friends and family then it’s a no-brainer, make the choice. It’s not difficult to find great deals, fresh vegetables, a warm inviting environment and even fun for the kids at any local Oregon Farmers Market. I should know – I’m a bread vendor at some of the finest here in our great state.

    Otherwise I think there’s a 2 for 1 special on those potatoes from the manufacturing plant in Toledo that’s been hanging out in the warehouse oh so freshly preserved just waiting for your consumption. Bon Appetit!

  42. Jennifer says:

    It’s a great article but I’m a little confused about where The University of Seattle is. I can’t find it anywhere and I doubt it exists. Did you perhaps mean Seattle University of The University of Washington? It’s a little diffiucult to take this article seriously when your sources are incorrect.

  43. Barry says:

    Hi, Jennifer.

    Eeek. You caught me.Thanks for pointing out the error. Sorry. I meant Seattle University. This blog’s copy chief, one Estabrook, has been reprimanded.

  44. kathi says:

    Wow Leslie, what a stereotype about low income people not caring about what they eat and being too lazy to prepare something that doesn’t come out of a box! I used to be one of those low income people and unfortunately hamburger helper etc feeds a family of 5 much more cheaply than fresh produce and local meats. I was aware of the discrepancy but had to go with what was most cost effective based on my budget and what was quick to prepare in between work/school/kids’ activities. Time to get to a farmer’s market was usually non-existent.

  45. RJ says:

    While the produce from the farmer’s markets may be lower than some conventional stores, anyone who is low-income, especially with kids, knows which conventional stores have the good, low priced produce and which tend to be the over-priced stores. I have gone to our farmer’s markets in Seattle and am shocked by the prices. Of course, I also don’t do Whole Foods, which might be on the same level price-wise. When you’re low-income, you feel lucky to have any veggies/fruit for your family because you don’t have the money for them. Food banks give out mostly filler stuff like pasta, breads and other unhealthy canned goods. So, really don’t agree that the produce at the fm is affordable and within reach of the low-income in comparison to a Fred Meyers. I do go to our China Town for my veggies and am happy to have them.

    And just a footnote…..most low-income people are just as concerned about the nutrition of their families as higher-income people. People that do (chips, hamburger helper and wonderbread) as stated above, will be buying those regardless of income level. I’ve never shopped at Walmart because of their poor labor practices (am low-income), and have cooked from scratch my entire life. So maligning people and stereotyping is offensive to me.

  46. ButteryMuffyn says:

    I live in the Seattle area where we have some really lovely farmers markets during the summer months, but originally I am from England where my hometown had a huge market every Thursday throughout the year, selling seasonally available produce. It really is interesting that here the market vendors and shoppers alike are considered “elitist” whereas in England it’s the norm across the board. Maybe it’s that Seattlites in general have a superior air to them ;)

  47. cookier says:

    I think that bringing a wide variety of customers to a market can be as simple as having vendors who are not all white and middle aged. At our area market as well as some standard burger and fries, we have tofu, dumpling, samosa, empanada and sushi vendors, as well as farmers who reflect a diversity of cultures. As a result a rainbow of customers come to shop too. Low income or whatever, if you don’t see yourself reflected in the people around you, you’re not likely to feel comfortable in a place.

  48. This isn’t really surprising. The produce at supermarkets are transported and handled more frequently than the local farmers markets. Potatoes are heavier, and therefore eat up more fuel on the truck from where ever they are coming from.

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