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Methinks "The Farmers' Market Myth" is a Myth


Chris Amirault
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I work in the Ag industry and I can tell by just looking at the produce whether it was grown locally or not. I don't know about anywhere else but in Northern IL including the Chicago farmers markets, the majority of produce is not grown in IL nor even in the midwest.

There are some vendors that do have some of their goods grown locally but again not all of what they are offering was grown locally or even by them.

It is fun to shop at a Farmer's Market but just be aware that you are paying for the entertainment too.

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for me it's definitely more expensive, but that's because I go there for things I can't get at Safeway, like true free range eggs, purple carrots, grass fed beef, local honey, etc. It's pretty much on par with Whole Foods though.

Some things are comparable, bag of salad greens etc, but many things are more expensive, but also higher quality.

Somebody mentioned the SF Ferry building market, that's a really expensive one judging from the couple times I went, but it caters to those that shop in the ferry building at all the very nice but expensive cheese, meat, etc stores there. Berkeley is also on the fancy side, living a bit under the Chez Panisse shine. My friends only shop there (same strawberries as Chez Panisse etc), I never go, too far away.

I go to the regular year round Sun market here, there's an other one only in summer on Sat, that's actually a bit cheaper and has slightly different things, a town down the road cheaper as well and more catering to Mexican cuisine with things I can't even find in my town. And then there's a swap meet at a drive in, and I heard they also have a farmer's market section that's really cheap with big amounts of things. Haven't been though.

But particularly here in the Bay Area, yo ucan really tell a difference in price and offerings depending on where the market is. Quite interesting actually.

Once example, in my town you rarely find okra whereas the next town over has piles of it.

Of course, you see the same with the stores in my town (Tiffany's, Apple store, Neiman Marcus moving in) and other towns where I go for my mexican or asian supermarkets etc.

My main reasons to go are quality and products I can't find otherwise (though Whole Foods has a lot of the same things) and I just love strolling the market, though the best is opening my trunk lid after returning home and being overwhelmed by the smell of all the fresh stuff, and then spending an hour or so cleaning things, tasting things, playing with my food :laugh:

But in my case, the market definitely costs me a lot more than the supermarket.

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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too late to edit my post, but on the subject of eggs, I pay $6 for 12 true free range eggs at the market. They differ in size a bit in each carton, but they are a lot better. (yes, really!)

The local honey costs $10 for 1 pound.

The heirloom tomatoes (here already for 3 or 4 weeks) cost $2.50 to $3 - depending on the booth.

Fava beans around $1.50-2.50 I think

Those are the prices I remember off hand.

Other things are often priced per rubber banded unit, a bundle of baby garlic 2.50 a bundle of baby onions 1.50-2.00, bundle of basil 1.50, etc

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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However, there is another St. Louis market, the Soulard Market, which has been around since before the Civil War, and actively touts the fact that its produce is up to 50% cheaper than what you can get in the supermarket.

There's a big difference tween farmers' markets and public markets. Soulard is a public market.

Farmers' markets should be what they sound like: a market which only operates a day or two a week when farmers can leave the fields and bring their output to town.

While public markets can frequently include farmers, they are six or serven-day a week operation in which purveyors sell a variety of food related products -- not just produce and meats, but dairy, baked goods, fish, coffees and teas, etc., usually acquired from wholesalers though sometimes directly from producers. Seattle's Pike Place and Philadelphia's Reading Terminal markets are public markets, even if they also include, at least a few days a week, local farmers.

If we were to include public markets in this survey (which I don't think we should, since there are so few true public markets in this country today, and most of these are more into serving lunches to office workers than food for the home cook) they could beat the pants off supermarkets in both quality and price.

At the market I know best, the Reading Terminal, the butcher I most frequently use doesn't sell USDA prime (as is the case among most farmers' markets meat sellers), but he buys sides of beef individually, so his USDA Choice is almost as good as prime, though he only does limited dry aging. His prices are the same as a supermarket's everyday prices, and quality superior.

The two major produce vendors at the Reading Terminal Market both outdo supermarkets in price and quality. One of them is exceedingly large and buys more produce than most individual supermarkets do (though clearly not as much as a regional group or chain). This results in prices that regularly are lower than a supermarket's and quality that is significantly better. That vendor even has his own direct relationships with area farmers, so you get the benefit of purchasing seasonal, local produce, fresh from the farm, at excellent prices. He even beats supermarket prices (by a long shot) on "imported" produce like California and Florida oranges, Mexican, Chilean stone fruit (in our winter), etc.

Though I only occasionally report supermarket price, I've been noting prices at both local farmers' markets and the RTM for the past five years at my blog:

robertsmarketreport.blogspot.com or bookschlepper.com/marketblog

I usually post excerpts at two eGullet subjects:

2011 Farmers Markets

Reading Terminal Market

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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I live in Northfield, Minnesota and have been selling in our town's farmer's market for 2 years. I sell jams and pickles produced in my home kitchen using ingredients that I purchase from local farmers. Perhaps my experience can be a test case for the discussion in this board.

My jams are more expensive ($6 plus per 8-ounce bottle) than those in a regular store but they sell well for the following reasons:

a) They are delicious. (Most important)

b) They are unique (eg, Rhubarb with Orange and Apples, Spicy Yellow Tomato Preserves)

c) They do not use artificial ingredients, other than sugar. (No powdered pectin, no citric acid)

d) They use organic ingredients (eg, organic lemons)and reusable packaging (preserving jars).

e) They do not have "fillers" like juices that stretch the product.

f) My town mates know me and have come to trust my cooking.

g) I engage my customers in conversation, hand out samples of my product, and explain how to make the jams (I am a big fan of Christine Ferber).

In spite of the higher price of my product, I earn a fraction of the minimum wage.

In general, the produce and prepared foods in our farmer's market are comparable to those sold in our natural food store. In some cases, they may be more expensive than products from a conventional big box food stores but they are a)fresh (picked a few hours before), b)local (creates local job, reduces carbon footprint), c) have minimal to no chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

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Interesting what one sees even if by accident.

I am a regular at our local farmers Market here in Charlottetown PEI. I don't mind paying a bit more in most instances to support our local growers. Often, in season, we pay less.

Last fall, we spent several weeks in Montreal in a condo that belongs to friends. I couldn't wait for the first Saturday to trek to the huge Jean Talon market. We parked a few blocks away and came in off a side street rather than through one of the main entrances. Behind one of the very large booths, we saw a person repackaging blueberries from a commercial grower operation into little fruit boxes and selling them as " organic..just picked this morning". I am so sorry I saw that...it has made a cynic of me.

Helen

Being as montreal's Farmer's markets are a hybrid even when local produce is in season it's sort of what we're stuck with. But on the plus side the truly local stuff when you can get it is worth the premium. Unfortunately, we're only just now starting to get Ontario produce, so I have to go on memory but at peak prices for local farmers at the markets in town are at least competitive. But our growing season is so short that having any kind of selection at the market turns almost everyone into a bit of a retailer.

I'm a great fan of my outdoor, here in Cote-des-Neiges, open 24hrs once they start selling produce, they usually have the best prices on almost everything. But they aren't a farmer's market, they just look the part, it's a single vendor, and they occasionally get batches of things in from local growers at clearout prices. I just came back from there when i found this thread actually.

Out of town near our cottage there's a great farmer's market that's open during the summer. But the winter is a tough mistress so it's mostly honey, preserves, wine and bread with only two or so produce farmers in attendance. The vinter is well priced, the meat and cheese are slightly more expensive, but those that also sell into the commercial chain are cheaper from the market. Which is nice because organically raised goat cheese stretches my budget as is, considering how fast it gets scooped up.

Interestingly, in the same county there is an actual farmer who has what amounts to a grocery on his land, he's a touch more expensive and buys in wholesale like the stalls in Montreal. Weird experience walking through the squashes, but seeing commercially produced strawberries from out of province in the cabin.

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I haven't read every single post, forgive me if I repeat, but I know that there is a problem with farmer's markets being invaded by people who buy "regular" produce and sell it at the farmer's market. Market managers have to be on the lookout for that sort of thing.

If there wasn't a markup at the farmer's market, why would they bother?

I think it probably depends on where you live. If you are shopping in the middle of New York City, it's going to be more expensive. In general, it's going to be more expensive. The one place I can think of that it's cheap is when someone plunks what they've grown on a stand by the side of the road with a jar for money. This is my favorite way to shop, and a cheap way, but they don't do it much in Brooklyn.

:laugh:

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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The farmer's markets here usually sell at a higher price. But then most of the produce on sale is picked the morning of the farmer's market. Local grocery stores can't offer that. There's also one vendor who is certified organic and offers a wide vareity of produce.

Most of the vendors are local farmers with a few of them coming down from the next county. The largest vendor is actually a produce broker :angry: and I don't buy from him because who knows where he bought his produce.

I go to the farmer's market specifically to support local farmers and to get the freshest produce. I have no problem paying higher prices for that.

 

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The estimable Barry Estabrook over at the Atlantic has a piece up titled "The Farmers' Market Myth," seeking to debunk the idea that farmers' markets charge more than grocers:

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 have 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 for conventionally grown produce items were lower than they were at supermarkets. For organic items, farmers' markets beat grocery stores every time hands down.

Call me skeptical -- and let me issue a challenge. Shall we all devote some time as the farmers' markets get going to seeking to figure out what's myth and what's reality? I pay pretty close attention to my grocery bill, and I cannot think of a single item, be it produce, meat, dairy, whatever, that is less expensive at the farmers' market I frequent.

Anyone with me?

I assume you mean only farmer's markets within the U.S.

Personally I have seen both... the first farmer's market I frequented in the states was in the Highland Park neighborhood just north of East L.A... it was twice a month and most people who showed up were elderly or immigrants and the produce prices were definitely cheaper than super markets... of course I have also frequented glitzy see-and-be-seen farmers markets in West L.A. & San Francisco and there of course many high priced items, that might even be higher priced than a loosely equivalent product at a brick & mortar...

And I say loosely equivalent because if one thinks its cool to have a choice between 10 different heirloom tomato varieties irrigated with pee from pigs fed only acorns, that tomato farmer is just never going to be able grow anything inexpensively... (add to the fact that the "cool farms" that feed the "cool farmer's markets" are usually in places with high land value... that is very big part of artisinal produce prices)

Historically farmer's markets have been cheaper than supermarkets.. there has always been a premium for the perceived cleanliness & civility of purchasing your ingredients in an aseptic environment whose air is not contaminated with the intense aromas of the food you are going to purchase. However, demand for farmer's markets in urban & sub-urban location is growing faster than supply so inherently there is going to be some pricing in there. As an example, in Oahu there is a Saturday farmer's market near Diamond Head.. and gets way too mobbed for the paltry offering... prices have to be high to temper the crowds a bit.. as it is it can be very challenging to find parking.

Let me offer a contrasting example... Mexico City has an average of 80 Tianguis (combination Farmer & Flea Market) on ANY GIVEN DAY... there are approximately 560 time & location combinations within a week to do your shopping.. that supply of Tianguis is the result of a continuous 800 year tradition of Tianguis in the Mexico City basin that has grown organically with the population.. and consequently prices are consistently cheaper than Brick & Mortar stores... which is what we should expect based on the economics.

Farmer Market culture was all but obliterated in the wealthier, car centric Urban & Sub-urban population centers of the U.S... right now its just a fad.. but it give it time to settle & make a permanent comeback.. perhaps in 20 years consumers & retailers alike will figure out that providng 10 varieties of heirloom tomatoes irraged with acorn-fed pigs isn't really what the Farmer's Market is all about... we will get over the "novelty" and it will become a sustainable, value added part of our culture, economic system & way of life.

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The estimable Barry Estabrook over at the Atlantic has a piece up titled "The Farmers' Market Myth," seeking to debunk the idea that farmers' markets charge more than grocers:

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 have 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 for conventionally grown produce items were lower than they were at supermarkets. For organic items, farmers' markets beat grocery stores every time hands down.

Call me skeptical -- and let me issue a challenge. Shall we all devote some time as the farmers' markets get going to seeking to figure out what's myth and what's reality? I pay pretty close attention to my grocery bill, and I cannot think of a single item, be it produce, meat, dairy, whatever, that is less expensive at the farmers' market I frequent.

Anyone with me?

I assume you mean only farmer's markets within the U.S.

Personally I have seen both... the first farmer's market I frequented in the states was in the Highland Park neighborhood just north of East L.A... it was twice a month and most people who showed up were elderly or immigrants and the produce prices were definitely cheaper than super markets... of course I have also frequented glitzy see-and-be-seen farmers markets in West L.A. & San Francisco and there of course many high priced items, that might even be higher priced than a loosely equivalent product at a brick & mortar...

And I say loosely equivalent because if one thinks its cool to have a choice between 10 different heirloom tomato varieties irrigated with pee from pigs fed only acorns, that tomato farmer is just never going to be able grow anything inexpensively... (add to the fact that the "cool farms" that feed the "cool farmer's markets" are usually in places with high land value... that is very big part of artisinal produce prices)

Historically farmer's markets have been cheaper than supermarkets.. there has always been a premium for the perceived cleanliness & civility of purchasing your ingredients in an aseptic environment whose air is not contaminated with the intense aromas of the food you are going to purchase. However, demand for farmer's markets in urban & sub-urban location is growing faster than supply so inherently there is going to be some pricing in there. As an example, in Oahu there is a Saturday farmer's market near Diamond Head.. and gets way too mobbed for the paltry offering... prices have to be high to temper the crowds a bit.. as it is it can be very challenging to find parking.

Let me offer a contrasting example... Mexico City has an average of 80 Tianguis (combination Farmer & Flea Market) on ANY GIVEN DAY... there are approximately 560 time & location combinations within a week to do your shopping.. that supply of Tianguis is the result of a continuous 800 year tradition of Tianguis in the Mexico City basin that has grown organically with the population.. and consequently prices are consistently cheaper than Brick & Mortar stores... which is what we should expect based on the economics.

Farmer Market culture was all but obliterated in the wealthier, car centric Urban & Sub-urban population centers of the U.S... right now its just a fad.. but it give it time to settle & make a permanent comeback.. perhaps in 20 years consumers & retailers alike will figure out that providng 10 varieties of heirloom tomatoes irraged with acorn-fed pigs isn't really what the Farmer's Market is all about... we will get over the "novelty" and it will become a sustainable, value added part of our culture, economic system & way of life.

Perhaps it's a novelty in other parts of the U.S., but the Greenmarkets have been part of NYC culture for over 30 years now.

Long may it continue.

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I live in Northfield, Minnesota and have been selling in our town's farmer's market for 2 years. I sell jams and pickles produced in my home kitchen using ingredients that I purchase from local farmers. Perhaps my experience can be a test case for the discussion in this board.

My jams are more expensive ($6 plus per 8-ounce bottle) than those in a regular store but they sell well for the following reasons:

a) They are delicious. (Most important)

b) They are unique (eg, Rhubarb with Orange and Apples, Spicy Yellow Tomato Preserves)

c) They do not use artificial ingredients, other than sugar. (No powdered pectin, no citric acid)

d) They use organic ingredients (eg, organic lemons)and reusable packaging (preserving jars).

e) They do not have "fillers" like juices that stretch the product.

f) My town mates know me and have come to trust my cooking.

g) I engage my customers in conversation, hand out samples of my product, and explain how to make the jams (I am a big fan of Christine Ferber).

In spite of the higher price of my product, I earn a fraction of the minimum wage.

In general, the produce and prepared foods in our farmer's market are comparable to those sold in our natural food store. In some cases, they may be more expensive than products from a conventional big box food stores but they are a)fresh (picked a few hours before), b)local (creates local job, reduces carbon footprint), c) have minimal to no chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

That is the key right there.. processed Supermarket food is subsidized with Tax Payer dollars (I was in a financial management position at one of the largest Ag concerns in Calfornia and am intimately aware of the gazillions in subsidies thrown at Big Ag & tax shields for Ag Coops)... in your example you are more expensive for two primary reasons:

1) You don't have reasonable economies of scale (I bet in your region you & other artisinal Jam producers barely have any market share.. if more people steered away from Big Jam.. you & other locals who would compete with you would find ways to be more efficient & less expensive while still delivering the all natural, local, organic stuff

2) The main barrier though is that subsidized Big Jam is too cheap for many consumers to pass up.

Edited by EatNopales (log)
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The estimable Barry Estabrook over at the Atlantic has a piece up titled "The Farmers' Market Myth," seeking to debunk the idea that farmers' markets charge more than grocers:

[. . . .]

Call me skeptical -- and let me issue a challenge. Shall we all devote some time as the farmers' markets get going to seeking to figure out what's myth and what's reality? I pay pretty close attention to my grocery bill, and I cannot think of a single item, be it produce, meat, dairy, whatever, that is less expensive at the farmers' market I frequent.

Anyone with me?

From what I've seen (NYC, San Francisco, and several towns and cities in Italy and Denmark), my impression is this depends on where you are, and the product in question/time of year, but in some places, for some products, at some times, the prices at farmers' markets will be lower. It's not not something I would ever count on, however, and I tend to assume that I'll spend more per unit at a Farmers' market, at least in the US.

The prices I've seen in Århus seem higher then those at the really cheap supermarkets, but the same or lower than those at the mid-priced supermarkets. I'll try remember to make a note of prices at the farmers' market this Saturday, and do a real comparison.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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This video should provide some perspective on why Farmer's markets in places with long traditions (not 30 years... but long rooted traditions where the Farmer's Market has a relatively large market share) are inherently less expensive than supermarkets:

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=147153972018364

I don't doubt that, but to say that farmers' markets in a place like the NYC metropolitan area (for example) are a fad is quite a stretch.

What began over three decades ago with 12 farmers in a parking lot on 59th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan has now grown to become the largest and most diverse outdoor urban farmers market network in the country, now with 54 markets, over 230 family farms and fishermen participating, and over 30,000 acres of farmland protected from development.

http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket for reference.

Hardly a "novelty".

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Please take a minute to visit my local market....winner of an online vote ....for what it's worth....as America's Favorite Market.

http://www.cityofrochester.gov/article.aspx?id=8589936780

I look forward to posting our many products as the season goes by. I'm not sure where it fits in the Public/Farmers market debate. There is a permanent indoor structure.....mainly but not only, meats, fish, honey, bakeries . Two outdoor covered sheds with mostly produce, and some "stuff"... housewares, out of date bread and crackers, knit hats whatever. The city has recently refurbished the market and it seems to be very popular, at least on Saturdays. Parking can be difficult. It is surrounded by wholesale and retail buildings, lately turned into cheese shops (with their own olive oil), bakeries, and coffee shops. We even have a brewery, not IN the market, but very close. The area seems to be improving. It seems to be the place to be on weekends.....it's open for community garage sales on Sunday.

A lot of the produce is local, but of course there is "mango man" and always lemons and such non-local products. Some local growers must buy extra produce to extend their offerings. Many of the farm families have been selling at the market for generations.

To get to the topic of price I think that the prices for standard local produce at the market are much lower. The local big chain here is Wegmans where quality is not an issue but I find their prices high. This winter there were lots of cold storage apples and pears at the market which were excellent. I got a half bushel bag of Crispins for $7-8.

Will check back in a few weeks and I'll take pictures and check prices more carefully. But for now I'm saying I love good stuff and I love a bargain and I find both at our market.

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For many things, for most of the year, the item's at the farmer's market where I live are more expensive than what is available at most supermarkets.

The exception is harvest time, when quite a few items are comparable, and sometimes cheaper. Notably apples, pears, potatoes, eggplant, asparagus, brussel sprouts, pie pumpkins, etc.

Throughout the year, there are a few things that are comparable, and a few less expensive. Pastries and bread-stuffs and some meats are comparable, and cheese, butter, and maple syrup are less expensive.

However, many of the things I buy at the farmer's markets are not available at the supermarkets. Such as: free range chickens, and their eggs, rabbits, fingerling potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, fresh lima beans, a wide variety of mushrooms, etc. So, I really can't tell if the prices are higher, because there is no competition. I do suppose that if I were on a tight budget, these things would mostly not be on my menu.

FWIW, I knew a fellow who was working towards a truck farm operation. I asked him why he did not get a stall at this market, because it was year round, and not limited to the warm season as the one nearest him. He said that the stall rental was too high to make it a sure thing he would do enough business.

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This video should provide some perspective on why Farmer's markets in places with long traditions (not 30 years... but long rooted traditions where the Farmer's Market has a relatively large market share) are inherently less expensive than supermarkets:

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=147153972018364

I don't doubt that, but to say that farmers' markets in a place like the NYC metropolitan area (for example) are a fad is quite a stretch.

What began over three decades ago with 12 farmers in a parking lot on 59th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan has now grown to become the largest and most diverse outdoor urban farmers market network in the country, now with 54 markets, over 230 family farms and fishermen participating, and over 30,000 acres of farmland protected from development.

http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket for reference.

Hardly a "novelty".

So what percentage of food consumed in NYC runs through the farmer's markets... I would be surprised if it surpasses 1%. Until the Farmer's Markets (and also Central Markets with stalls who distribute straight from Farms as oppossed to the Supermarket warehousing system)... are a tangible % of food consumed... they aren't much more than curiosities & hipster scenes.

Now don't get me wrong... I am not saying Farmer's Markets aren't worthwhile.. complete opposite... we have to love them & cherish them, urge others to shop them because you have to start with something... the age of the Supermarket is numbered... they are unsustainable, a waste of resources, and their goods are usually gastronomically inferior... what I am pointing it out is that in cultures & societies where the Farmer's Market is an actually part of the social fabric their prices are inherently cheaper than Supermarkets (of course the other side of the coin is that we have to stop subsidizing tasteless, unhealthy, environmentally damaging food as well)

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This video should provide some perspective on why Farmer's markets in places with long traditions (not 30 years... but long rooted traditions where the Farmer's Market has a relatively large market share) are inherently less expensive than supermarkets:

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=147153972018364

I don't doubt that, but to say that farmers' markets in a place like the NYC metropolitan area (for example) are a fad is quite a stretch.

What began over three decades ago with 12 farmers in a parking lot on 59th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan has now grown to become the largest and most diverse outdoor urban farmers market network in the country, now with 54 markets, over 230 family farms and fishermen participating, and over 30,000 acres of farmland protected from development.

http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket for reference.

Hardly a "novelty".

So what percentage of food consumed in NYC runs through the farmer's markets... I would be surprised if it surpasses 1%. Until the Farmer's Markets (and also Central Markets with stalls who distribute straight from Farms as oppossed to the Supermarket warehousing system)... are a tangible % of food consumed... they aren't much more than curiosities & hipster scenes.

Now don't get me wrong... I am not saying Farmer's Markets aren't worthwhile.. complete opposite... we have to love them & cherish them, urge others to shop them because you have to start with something... the age of the Supermarket is numbered... they are unsustainable, a waste of resources, and their goods are usually gastronomically inferior... what I am pointing it out is that in cultures & societies where the Farmer's Market is an actually part of the social fabric their prices are inherently cheaper than Supermarkets (of course the other side of the coin is that we have to stop subsidizing tasteless, unhealthy, environmentally damaging food as well)

And yet here you sit, making sweeping generalizations.

I'm sure the people who shop at our Greenmarkets would be surprised at being labelled "hipsters" and "curiosity-seekers".

So what percentage of food consumed in NYC runs through the farmer's markets... I would be surprised if it surpasses 1%.

Please cite sources.

Here's GrowNYC's annual report for 2010, in case you're inclined to read it: http://www.grownyc.org/files/GrowNYC.Annual.2010.web.pdf

Once again, this isn't a passing fad. Or if it is, it's a 35+ year fad in the making that shows no sign of withering away.

Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)
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That article is incredibly cursory. He's talking about markets in what? Seattle and Vermont?

In my experience of cooking and shopping, it's nearly meaningless to talk about this or that market being more or less expensive than another. I visit a bunch of different markets and buy certain things from each, according to what is better or cheaper or available, period. I do watch the prices. Here in the Chicago area, I am pretty sure that if you can find an item at Jewel or Dominicks, it will almost always be cheaper than at most farmers markets. If it's at Super H Mart or Costco, it will be tons cheaper. But I don't go to the farmers market to get a wide range of things at lower prices; I go for things that are hard to find elsewhere or found only in markets that are still more expensive. I almost never see things like Michigan sour cherries outside of a farmers market, for instance. (And prices for such vary widely even among vendors at the same markets.) I think I would be shopping in very different ways if I lived in California or Hawaii or Nebraska.

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This video should provide some perspective on why Farmer's markets in places with long traditions (not 30 years... but long rooted traditions where the Farmer's Market has a relatively large market share) are inherently less expensive than supermarkets:

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=147153972018364

I don't doubt that, but to say that farmers' markets in a place like the NYC metropolitan area (for example) are a fad is quite a stretch.

What began over three decades ago with 12 farmers in a parking lot on 59th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan has now grown to become the largest and most diverse outdoor urban farmers market network in the country, now with 54 markets, over 230 family farms and fishermen participating, and over 30,000 acres of farmland protected from development.

http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket for reference.

Hardly a "novelty".

So what percentage of food consumed in NYC runs through the farmer's markets... I would be surprised if it surpasses 1%. Until the Farmer's Markets (and also Central Markets with stalls who distribute straight from Farms as oppossed to the Supermarket warehousing system)... are a tangible % of food consumed... they aren't much more than curiosities & hipster scenes.

Now don't get me wrong... I am not saying Farmer's Markets aren't worthwhile.. complete opposite... we have to love them & cherish them, urge others to shop them because you have to start with something... the age of the Supermarket is numbered... they are unsustainable, a waste of resources, and their goods are usually gastronomically inferior... what I am pointing it out is that in cultures & societies where the Farmer's Market is an actually part of the social fabric their prices are inherently cheaper than Supermarkets (of course the other side of the coin is that we have to stop subsidizing tasteless, unhealthy, environmentally damaging food as well)

And yet here you sit, making sweeping generalizations.

I'm sure the people who shop at our Greenmarkets would be surprised at being labelled "hipsters" and "curiosity-seekers".

So what percentage of food consumed in NYC runs through the farmer's markets... I would be surprised if it surpasses 1%.

Please cite sources.

Here's GrowNYC's annual report for 2010, in case you're inclined to read it: http://www.grownyc.org/files/GrowNYC.Annual.2010.web.pdf

Once again, this isn't a passing fad. Or if it is, it's a 35+ year fad in the making that shows no sign of withering away.

GrowNYC is impressive & inspiring... yet at the same time paltry. Perhaps, the better term to use for NY is not fad or hipster scene rather niche or fringe. I've been to NY, I worked for Consumer Packaging Foods company that distributed there on truck... I help start that subsidiary, I know the NY food distribution infrastructure reasonably well.. the Green Markets are not even close to providing 1% of the food consumed in NYC.

GrowNYC is an impressive organization & they have accomplished ALOT in a mere 35 years... kudos to them.. if you want to use that as bragging rights over other cities in the U.S.. well okay that is not what I am about or the point I am trying to make. The key to my point is that the Mission will be accomplished when Farmer's Markets are able to handily beat the inherently higher cost Supermarkets on price.. there should be no doubt... and what that will take is a dramatic increase in scale... the great Street Market cities of the world weren't built in 35 years or even 100 years... and its not even the antiquity that matters it is the market share... something that is fringe is not part of the social fabric & way of live... we have to make part of the way of life.

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GrowNYC is impressive & inspiring... yet at the same time paltry. Perhaps, the better term to use for NY is not fad or hipster scene rather niche or fringe. I've been to NY, I worked for Consumer Packaging Foods company that distributed there on truck... I help start that subsidiary, I know the NY food distribution infrastructure reasonably well.. the Green Markets are not even close to providing 1% of the food consumed in NYC.

Please cite sources.

GrowNYC is an impressive organization & they have accomplished ALOT in a mere 35 years... kudos to them.. if you want to use that as bragging rights over other cities in the U.S.. well okay that is not what I am about or the point I am trying to make. The key to my point is that the Mission will be accomplished when Farmer's Markets are able to handily beat the inherently higher cost Supermarkets on price.. there should be no doubt... and what that will take is a dramatic increase in scale... the great Street Market cities of the world weren't built in 35 years or even 100 years... and its not even the antiquity that matters it is the market share... something that is fringe is not part of the social fabric & way of live... we have to make part of the way of life.

Your words, as I don't think I said that.

I understand your point but I would be very careful about making sweeping generalizations.

I shop almost exclusively at farmers' markets in New York City. I've been doing so for a couple of years now. I am neither a curiosity-seeker nor a hipster, and I very much resent someone implying that this passion of mine is "a fad".

And I'm quite certain that people like me who regularly shop at our farmers' markets, and who are active in the food community here in the City would be surprised at being labelled as such.

*gets off soapbox*

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Anyone with me?

I'll try to remember to keep track of pricing when I go do my weekly run on Saturday.

It'll be difficult for me to do a price comparison because I don't buy very many things at the corner store, and then only things like milk and non-edibles (e.g., soap).

If anything, I'll say that I learned something today that I didn't know ... that food stamps are now accepted at most NYC Greenmarkets via the EBT program set up by GrowNYC in 2010 (and not just at certain locations as I think someone mentioned upthread). That means that somewhere in NYC, on four days out of the week, some family is doing shopping at a farmer's market with food stamps ... and conceivably spending less than at a supermarket. Possibly.

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... the age of the Supermarket is numbered... they are unsustainable, a waste of resources . . .

This is an unsupportable statement. In most of the US, supermarkets are much more efficient at delivering food to customers than farmers' markets.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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... the age of the Supermarket is numbered... they are unsustainable, a waste of resources . . .

This is an unsupportable statement. In most of the US, supermarkets are much more efficient at delivering food to customers than farmers' markets.

In what way and under what assumptions are they more efficient? How much energy do they use per nutritional unit delivered?

They may be more efficient at $75 / barrel oil.. will they be more efficient at $200 / barrel oil?

They may be more efficient if you include the billions of subsidies.. will they be more efficient when the subsidies dry up?

The trajectory of the century, in my not so humble opinion.. is that food will inevitably HAVE to travel less distance, with less warehousing & handling, less processing, and lower overhead as the U.S. adjusts to living standards in a post-Oil world.

If you included all the hidden costs borne by tax payers (cost to clean up the environmental mess our current food system & energy system makes, direct subsidies to energy & food producers, military spending & aid to maintain our current trade & consumption patterns etc.,) it would certainly not be more efficient... it is only in this artificial, house of cards we have created that supermarkets appear to be efficient.

For the record, I am a CFO and believe in the sustainability of capitalism done right, not some wacko conspiracy theorist... although I understand my views might seem like that upon first digestion.

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