Are the Farmers Markets really more expensive?
Are the Farmers Markets really more expensive?
The vast majority of the fruits, vegetables, herbs and berries are comparable or sometimes even cheaper at the farmers markets, especially with organics in peak season.
Additionally, the quality and variety of the products at the farmers markets far exceed what one finds in a conventional grocery store over the course of a year: no other place supports ONLY local farmers and local farm products, all gathered in one place.
Below are a number of price comparisons conducted in past years, showing our Farmers Markets are often more cost-effective than regular grocery stores.
Remember, too, that there are additional ways to save by shopping at our farmers markets. All seven of our markets accept EBT, WIC and Senior coupons.
Seattle University's Albers School of Business students surveyed almost 3 dozen organic produce items at the Broadway farmers market on its opening day on May 8th. They then went hunting at local stores Madison Market, QFC, and Safeway to compare price, availability, and local sourcing. In terms of availability, there was no contest, and the survey generally ignored unique items like lovage, edible chrysanthemum leaves, unique potato varieties, and foraged items like nettles found only at the Farmers Market. The students found that the average price on organic items available at both the Farmers Market and each particular store was lower by between $0.47 and $0.73 per pound at the Farmers Market.
One student made the comparison especially clear by preparing a salad from spinach, mustard greens, asparagus, apple, carrot, onion, and chives, and showing that the farmers market salad cost 25% less than one made from the same items from the produce aisle. In addition, the student noted that while 100% of the ingredients of the Farmers Market salad were from Washington, the other stores had between 5% and 17% locally sourced ingredients overall (14%-43% of the salad list).
Prices of Organic Produce at U-Distr Area Markets
Apples, Gala: 2.49/lb at Farmer Market, 1.00 at PCC, 2.99 at QFC, 2.99 at Whole Foods, 2.00 at Safeway.
Chives (1 ounce): .75 at FM, 3.32 at PCC, 3.59 at QFC, 3.05 at WF, not available at Safeway.
Lettuce, Green, one head: 2.00 at FM, 2.49 at PCC, 2.99 at QFC, 2.49 at WF, n/a at Safeway.
Strawberries, pint: 5.00 at FM, 7.98 at PCC, 4.99 at QFC, 3.99 at WF, 4.99 at Safeway.
Radishes: 3.16 at FM, 1.99 at PCC, 5.98 at QFC, 1.99 at WF, n/a at Safeway
Total spent at each store for all these items: 13.40 at FM, 17.77 at PCC, 20.54 at QFC, 14.51 at WF, Safeway not tallied since most items were not available.
Total number of organic items available: over 21 at the FM, 21 at PCC, 16 at QFC, 20 at Whole Foods, 5 at Safeway.
Total number of local items: over 21 at FM, 7 at PCC, 8 at QFC, 5 at Whole Foods, 2 at Safeway.
2003: we compared identical bags of 10 items purchased the same day (items selected were a mix of fruits and vegetables such as a family of four might buy). This study was done three times, over a period of three weeks, to compare three different stores to the University District Farmers Market. Some items cost more and some were less but the total balance weighed heavily in favor of the Farmers Market:
Week one was Whole Foods vs the Farmers Market (the bag of groceries at Whole Foods cost $30.75, vs the Farmers Market bag of identical fruits and vegetables for $22.12). Week two was PCC ($38.11) vs the Farmers Market ($32.00). Week three was QFC ($35.83) vs. the Farmers Market ($22.98).
Testimonial (unsolicited) from a shopper:
Fall 2004: "Last week I headed to the U district market to stock up on fall vegetables and fruits. Most of the items I purchased store well so I purchased in larger than normal quantities. The farmers were quick to offer a "deal" and many offered to carry the boxes to my car. I spent a total of $76 and went home with the following:
50 pounds of organic Yukon and Russet potatoes ($30)
10 pounds of organic rutabagas ($8)
10 pounds of organic mixed beets (8)
2 organic celeriacs ($4, $2 each)
! pound organic German Red garlic ($5)
23 pounds of organic apples (mixed varieties) ($17)
4 fat bunches of leeks ($4 not organic)
"When I got home, I calculated the pounds and price of each vegetable that I purchased. I then calculated how much everything would have cost if I bought it at PCC. Overall, I calculated a remarkable savings of nearly $90. I love PCC and am always grateful to have a coop like that in our community. But when purchasing in large quantities for my family of five and the upcoming holidays, I was truly impressed with my recent U-District market experience. Thanks." -Missy Trainer
June 4, 2007: article in the Seattle Times: "Farmers-market food costs less, class finds"
Spring 2008: study by professor Stacy Jones' SU statistics students found that the average cost per pound of all organic produce at QFC was $2.98, at Whole Foods is was $2.53, and at the Broadway Farmers Market is was $2.36. A few items were more expensive at the Farmers Market, but most items were more expensive at the grocery stores, so the total average was less at the Farmers Market - which means that a shopper's grocery bill would average lowest at the Farmers Market.
Comparisons by a market volunteer in early fall with the Columbia City Farmers Market:
Safeway (Rainier Ave.) organic prices 10/7/08
Gala apples $2.79
Golden apples $2.00/lb.
Medium Tomatoes $4.19/lb.
Head red leaf lettuce $2.19/head
Large onion $1.89/lb.
1 medium green pepper $1.79 each
Blueberries 1/2 pint $4.99
Columbia City Farmers Market organic prices 10/8/08
Gala apples $1.50/lb.
Golden Apples $2.59/lb.
Medium Tomatoes $3.50/lb.
Red Leaf Lettuce $3.00/head
Large onion $1.50/lb.
1 medium green pepper $1.30 each
Blueberries 1/2 pint $4.00
Safeway (Rainier Ave.) organic prices 10/14/08
Butternut squash $1.79/lb.
Acorn squash $1.79/lb .
Chard (medium bunch) $2.99/lb.
Gala apples $2.79/lb.
Romaine lettuce (med.) $2.19/head .
Green beans $3.00/lb
Golden delicious apples $2.79/lb
Columbia City Farmer's Market organic prices 10/15/08
Butternut squash $1.00/lb.
Acorn squash $1.00/lb
Chard (med. bunch) $2.50
Gala apples $1.99/lb.
Romaine (med.) $1.50
Green beans $2.79/lb
Golden Delicious apples $1.99/lb
Winter study by SU statistics class, November 2008 at the University District Farmers Market:
Price comparison study between the U-District Farmers Market, Whole Foods and QFC. They summarized their report as follows:
"According to the FDA, the average family should spend about $330 a month on groceries. At the Farmers Market, $330 will get you 152.25 pounds of organic produce; at Whole Foods you can get 131.80 pounds, and at QFC a mere 118.6 pounds for the same $330. I.e., the average price per pound is lowest at the farmers market."
January 2009 study by Seattle Central student: U-District Farmers Market vs. Whole Foods and QFC. Note: all produce at the market was local, everything at Whole Foods was from CA except apples from WA, and QFC simply said from "USA."
Squash $1/lb at market, $2/lb at Whole Foods, n/a at QFC
Potatoes $1.60/lb at market, $2/lb at Whole Foods, $1.99/lb at QFC
Fuji Apples $2.50/lb at market, $3/lb at Whole Foods, $2.99/lb at QFC
Braeburn Apples $2.50/lb at market, $2.50 at Whole Foods, $2.99 at QFC
Whole Chicken (free range) $4.50/lb at market, $3.29/lb at WF, n/a QFC
Chicken breast (fr. range) $11.63/lb at market, $5.99/lb, $7.99/lb QFC (WA)
Cabbage $1.00/lb at market, $2/lb at WF, $1.99/lb at QFC
Artichoke $2.49/lb at market, $2.50/lb at WF, n/a at QFC
Beets $2/lb at market, $2/lb at WF, n/a at QFC
Carrots $1.99/b at market, $1.29/lb at WF, $1.29/lb at QFC
Brussel Sprouts $5.50/lb at market, not available at WF or QFC
Eggs (xl, free range) $7 doz at market, $4.50 doz at WF, $4 doz at QFC
Arugula $3 bunch at market, $3 bunch at WF, n/a at QFC
Kale $3 bunch at market, $3 bunch at WF, $3 bunch at QFC
Average savings at market: $.62
Average miles saved by buying local: over 900
Main points to consider (as presented in class report): Farmers market offers largest selection of organic local produce, and greater varieties unavailable outside of WA. Farmers at market take home 100% of their sales (vs grocery stores buy cheaply and mark up - the longer the item can sit on the shelf, the lower the wholesale price given to the farmer). Farmers at the markets sell based on their inventory - are also sometimes able to bargain! Many say pricing is the hardest part of the market job. We all benefit by shopping at the markets: putting $$ directly back into the local economy, produce is fresher, lowering carbon emissions from farm to table, learning about how your food is produced, soil quality, preparation ideas, meet the grower.
The real cost of cheap, mass-produced foods: higher taxes, more health problems, worsening environmental conditions.
With large, well-stocked grocery stores dotted throughout our urban and suburban landscapes, our modern food system appears efficient and effective, enabling most of us to buy an abundance of food for a relatively small percent of our paychecks. Americans, in fact, spend a smaller percent of their paychecks on food than nearly every other country in the world, even in our current economic climate. Unfortunately, while we save pennies at the checkout counter, we’re spending more on taxes for large farm subsidies ($114 billion between 1995 – 2002). Additionally, when we buy products shipped in from long distances that are also locally available, it adds to our carbon footprint and increases our dependence on foreign oil.
Our main-stream food system also depends upon 500 million pounds of pesticides annually, resulting in $8 billion in environmental and health costs, and 300,000 farmers with pesticide poisoning. Furthermore, some pesticides banned in America are still widely dumped into developing countries, providing us with cheaper produce yet causing terrible environmental and health problems in those countries. Runoff from overuse of synthetic fertilizers also ends up in our lakes and rivers, killing fish and other wildlife, and costing us more tax money in cleanup. Small, diverse, local farms do not depend on mass amounts of chemicals, packaging and long-distance shipping - instead, they produce smaller and more varied amounts of high-quality fruits and vegetables. Buying directly from these farms enables shoppers to support a more sustainable, healthier food system, with more diversity of products and far less waste and depletion of resources.