Guest Post by Amanda M. Socci of Creative Idea Gal
What Are Farmer’s Markets?
Before we get into the beefy heart of the matter as to why I have a problem with farmer’s markets, let’s first define “farmer’s markets” so that we all know what we’re talking about. In my experiences, farmer’s markets is a term given to a makeshift “farm” or “store” in which a group of mom-and-pop suppliers gathers at a central location, like city hall or a public library, to sell their fresh produce, meats, flowers, breads, and baked goods.
Here are a few examples of farmer’s markets in our area. How are the farmer’s markets in your area?
Farmer’s markets typically operate half the year, from approximately April – October. Of course, that depends on the geographical region. In warmer climates, farmer’s markets operate year-round.
Characteristics of Farmer’s Markets
Generally, farmer’s markets focus on selling home-baked and locally grown foods exclusively, and do not offer things that are non-edible, such as purses, t-shirts, books, and the like. Farmer’s markets are found in major cities across the United States and in some cases, are also present in smaller towns, depending on how many active farms there are.
Regardless of their location, the most common thing in farmer’s markets is a collective agreement to offer produce, meats, and breads that are hormone-free, pesticide-free, steroid-free, additive-free, and in many cases, free-from-the-cage (as in free-range eggs that are produced by hens that are allowed to roam freely). What that means is that farmers everywhere seem to offer a consensus or promise to produce foods for consumption that are as natural and “free” as possible, without many of the common additives found in store-bought foods.
The Beef Lies in the Cost of Farmer’s Markets Foods
At face value, every description of farmer’s markets is a pleasing one, making it easy to encourage consumers to patronize the markets and shoo away the bad grocery stores that are making our kids fat and poisoning our bodies. While it is true that farmer’s markets undoubtedly provide the best nutritional value to consumers, they are also the ones that provide the least affordability to all except the affluent and those who have great amounts of disposable income.
That is where my beef with farmer’s markets comes in. My beef, or complaint, about farmer’s markets is their lack of affordability. Let’s compare supermarkets with farmer’s markets in terms of cost to the consumer.
One Example: Price Per Pound of Blueberries
For example, our farmer’s markets sell blueberries that are hormone-free and pesticide-free at $3.99 per pound. Yowzers! Even the most expensive of the regular grocery stores, Safeway, doesn’t gouge consumers so much. Even at the peak of the season, the most it might charge would be $3.49 per pound of blueberries.
Other grocery stores which are fantastic in their offerings offer the same blueberries at a mere $1.99 per pound, and on sale days, $0.99 per pound. Based on that information, can you guess where I would purchase blueberries? Yes – from grocery stores!
What I have learned from my farmer’s markets experiments is that in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, the area where I live, the farmer’s markets in the tri-state region of Washington, D.C. Maryland, and Virginia are all very expensive!
Understanding Higher Costs of Foods at Farmer’s Markets
In trying to understand the higher costs of foods at farmer’s markets, it’s important to understand how farmer’s markets differ from regular grocery stores.
Grocery stores have more manpower, trucks, store space, and resources to commit to its sale of produce and fresh foods than farmer’s markets. By contrast, individual vendors at farmer’s markets are two-person mom-and-pop farms that send one or two employees long distances just to sell their locally grown produce.
Individual farmers work hard to tend to their fields, care for their animals, and maintain their farming equipment. It isn’t cheap to operate a farm, and tighter government rules are making it more difficult for farmers to be profitable. Many sources on the Internet provide thoughtful analyses on the means to achieve profitability in farming.
Grocery stores, by contrast, don’t just sell fresh produce, meats, breads, and flowers. They sell a million things as well, including lottery tickets, spirits, and junk food. If grocery stores don’t have good sales on their produce, it’s not a problem because they’ll more than make up for it in sales of soda and chips.
Individual farmers must sell out their foods in order to pay for the operational costs of the farm and to achieve profits. Grocery stores don’t necessarily have to sell out of their produce. Grocery stores are able to provide deep discounts on produce, meats, breads, and flowers because of their size. Consumers know that and they typically flock to supermarkets to gobble up the savings.
The advertising from the U.S.D.A. and the many commercial jingles and children’s songs that follow us around unequivocally tell us to eat more veggies, eat more fruits. I get it, I get it! I am trying to do the right thing by feeding my family healthier foods. We’ve done a great job getting rid of processed foods, leaving behind boxed macaroni and cheese and boxed hamburger helper and so-called “prepared foods” that supermarkets attempt to pre-cook, such as soups, chicken pot pies, and baked macaroni and cheese. (Consumers mistakenly assume that these prepared foods are healthier when in fact, the foods contain just as much sodium and additives as their boxed counterparts.) We’ve definitely added more fruits and vegetables to our regular diet, but I can’t seem to stray away from the traditional supermarket simply for cost reasons.
It’s not that I don’t understand the value of the extra touches and commitment to additive-free foods that the farmer’s markets vendors offer us. In fact, I admire such a lofty commitment! I completely understand and agree that fresh foods that are free from preservatives should be standard fare for all families. I just don’t agree with the prices! Not everyone agrees with my assessment that farmer’s markets are more expensive. Some people argue that consumers pay the ultimate price in purchasing cheaper produce at supermarkets. What do you think?
Paying Extra at Farmer’s Markets is not a Smart Choice
Ultimately, I do not agree that it makes sense to pay $3.99 per pound of fresh blueberries simply because they traveled 97 miles from our local farm instead of 1,000 miles to get to our local grocery store. I do not wish to pay $12 per loaf of bread just because it is made with top ingredients and is gluten-free. I don’t particularly care for flower arrangements that cost more than my monthly cable bill. It just doesn’t make sense to me!
Does that mean that I am anti-farmer’s markets! Absolutely not! I love farmer’s market selections. I do not, however, love their prices. For a family of four, like mine, that is on a budget and receives help from time to time, paying extra money to purchase additive-free foods, even if they are healthier, is not a smart choice.
While I do realize the plight of individual farmers with their minimal labor help and costs associated with operating a farm with little or no government financial assistance, I simply cannot justify paying exorbitant prices just because I want to delete the pesticides and additives from the fresh produce that my family eats.
I will continue admiring farmer’s markets and wishing them successful, profitable seasons from afar, but I will stick to the more economical and consumer-friendly choices found at local grocery stores.
If the farmer’s markets in your region offer fresh produce, meats, breads, and flowers that are additive-free and good values for the dollar, I’d love to hear from you!
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Amanda M. Socci is a freelance writer and blogger from Alexandria, Virginia who specializes in writing creatively on diverse topics. Amanda posts frequently on her personal blog and on a local online news service Mount Vernon Patch – search for “Socci.” Amanda also stays busy researching topics and conducting interviews for freelance writing assignments. Amanda’s personal interests include craft projects, recycling, and school fundraising. Known as the Creative Idea Gal, Amanda relishes every situation that gives her new opportunities to paint rainbows with 1,000 new, original thoughts, ideas, and written expressions.
[box type=”download”] ☆ 【ツ】☆ Thanks so much to Amanda Socci, the Creative Idea Gal, for her insight and wonderful writing. Do show her some veggie love by commenting and visiting her sites. You will be amazed, amused and inspired, like I was.
If you would like to be a guest blogger on Going Veggie and share your experiences, product reviews or opinions, send me a note at Val@GoingVeggie.com with your ideas. [/box]