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Farmer’s Market Whiners Annoy The Hell Out Of Me

For three weeks in a row I’ve overheard someone at my local farmer’s market whine about the price of the produce.  Frankly, I’m tired of it.
Every Saturday morning I drag my lazy, love-to-sleep-in-late ass out of bed and hustle on over to the market, various and sundry cloth and recycled plastic bags at the ready to haul home the beauteous, tasty produce. Every week I end up spending at least around $80, sometimes as much as $100. In return I get enough food and more for a week’s worth of meals for two and often am able to prepare some things to save or freeze for later meals. A sampling of what I can choose to take home on any given week: delicious yogurt, fresh raspberries, blueberries, juicy flavorful peaches, fragrant cantaloupe, watermelon, crisp greens (arugula, Swiss chard, kale, several kinds of lettuce, spinach), pears, apples, heirloom carrots, tender cabbage, yellow summer squash and zucchini, green and yellow beans, beets, turnips, salad turnips, potatoes (purple, Yukon gold, fingerling, red, baking), radishes, sweet corn, cucumbers (regular, pickling, yellow, curlicue heirloom ones), peppers (red, yellow, green, hot), sweet potatoes and yams, garlic and garlic scapes, fresh herbs, onions (yellow, red, sweet, and white and red scallions), several kinds of squash…ah, there’s way more, I can’t remember every single thing, but let us most definitely not forget to mention the TOMATOES!!!!

Heirloom tomatoes

2009 Heirloom Tomatoes - Multiple Varieties

  1. Heirloom plum tomato

    2009 Heirloom plum tomatoes

Of course not every item on that list of produce is available all year ’round. One of the pleasures of the farmer’s market is learning to eat seasonally, to savor each item as it appears on the stands, re-learning to eat food that tastes as it is supposed to taste, not as it must taste when it has been engineered to survive mechanical harvest and long transport and storage times. Oh, the wild pleasure of local strawberries with actual flavor! Such a brief season! But the grief of their passing is fleeting, for the next things are coming along, and one knows that soon blueberries and then peaches are on the horizon, and so it goes along.
I don’t spend much money at all in the supermarkets for food items during farmer’s market season. We eat meals made out of what I can create from the bounty of produce I haul home each week, and as a consequence we are much less likely to eat fast food or take out, so we save money there. I could probably shop more frugally at the farmer’s market – we don’t need the raspberries or the cantaloupe each week, but I like fresh fruit, and maybe I could get by with less yogurt, but I like that, too, so I splurge. You could grow your own herbs and not buy them at the market, and I probably don’t need to buy a bouquet of cut flowers, and maybe the eggs are cheaper at the supermarket, but I really, really like the taste of the eggs from the pastured chickens.
So yeah, maybe the farmer’s market produce costs more than the local mega supermarket, I don’t know, but I do know that you can’t buy the flavor you get at the farmer’s market in the local mega supermarket. In the local mega supermarket, your food dollars generally don’t do squat for sustaining local agriculture.  If you need or want to shop there, that’s your choice, but if you show up at the farmer’s market, please leave the whine about how expensive it all is at home.  I’ve seen people shopping at the farmer’s market using food stamps and, interestingly, they’ve never been among the whiners about the price.  Maybe they are more interested in value.

market bounty

A Week's Bounty

  1. k8
    July 23, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I spend about $25 every week at the farmer’s market. But then again, it’s just me and we don’t have the bounty of fruit that you apparently do. Not local to us. And the heirloom tomatoes we had last week? I am afraid I will never eat a grocery store tomato in the dead of sinter again. Sigh. I’ve ruined myself.

    I also can’t remember the last time I went to the supermarket! On certain days, this sometimes makes me feel far superior to my fellow human beings. And then I light up a cigarette and laugh at myself. Mwhahaha!

  2. Zuska
    July 23, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I am extremely fortunate to live in the Delaware valley, with our access to Lancaster county farms and the farmers who willingly bring us their bounty each week to the local farmer’s markets.

  3. Nancy Whiting
    July 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I’m lucky enough to live IN Lancaster Co, and I drive through neighboring York Co on my way to and from work–and I pass 4 farm stands and 3 farms that raise chickens on my way. I stop at one or more of them several times a week.

  4. July 23, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I never did manage to buy enough at our local farmers market, although I love it and I have to walk through it to get to work. I just didn’t reach far enough outside my comfort zone, and like k8, we don’t get that much fruit here. We opted for a CSA this year, which is pushing me to try foods I wouldn’t otherwise. It’s also a little cheaper than getting the same amount from the farmer’s market, for those concerned about the cost. Best part? I get the CSA share on the same day as the market, so I can supplement from the market if I feel I’m missing something.

    I do miss the social interaction of thanking the farm families, though. That part is priceless.

  5. LKL
    July 23, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Half (or more) of the enjoyment of a farmer’s market for me is the social scene – I’ve never, thankfully, heard anyone complaining. Instead, it seems to be a big, happy, community gathering and celebration of local bounty. There’s often live music; maybe that helps. There are also beekeepers selling honey and a rancher with local, grass-fed beef (I don’t eat much meat, but I like to see them there because it’s so much better than factory farmed stuff), and spinners of both angora (with pictures of her pet bunnies) and llama/alpaca (with a name on every hat of the animal the fleece came from).

  6. Kea
    July 23, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Wait until you cannot afford to eat fresh vegetables … and then let’s see you not whine.

    • July 23, 2010 at 5:49 pm

      I would whine like hell if I could not afford to eat fresh vegetables. And I think it’s horrible that anyone in the U.S. has to go without access to affordable fresh produce. What frustrates me is the people who are doing the whining can clearly afford the farmer’s market veggies. They are whining because the farmer’s market veggies aren’t as cheap as they think they ought to be, aren’t as cheap as plastic tomatoes at super megamart. They don’t want to pay what it costs to support local farmers to produce locally grown organic produce, they just want to be able to buy it at super megamart discount prices. Note I said the whiners aren’t coming from the population of shoppers who are buying their produce with food stamps, but from the segment of shoppers who clearly can afford to pick and choose what they eat and where they buy it.

  7. thebewilderness
    July 23, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I think a lot of people misunderstand the advantages of the market.

  8. veganrampage
    July 23, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    People who say they don’t like vegetable have probably never tasted real, fresh vegetables, just the shiny GMO shit in the store. We all know healthy food isn’t subsidized. There is no $ to made off of well people.
    Our market just started taking food stamps again. ’bout time.

  9. July 23, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Ahh, yes, I just love the whiners. When I was in Portland, we had more coops than farmers markets, because it was just easier that way. Pretty much worked out the same, but easier in an urban environment.

    It really irritated me, because I barely had enough to eat about half the time. But I also had to feed eldest, who I had half the time and I wasn’t keen on feeding him crap. Kind of burns you to hear people bitching about the prices, when you haven’t eaten since lunch yesterday and are buying food you won’t actually eat – or eat much of.

    Not that I am complaining about not having had enough to eat at the time mind. I made decisions that precluded it sometimes, as trade off for things I thought were more important. Like having more time to spend with eldest and making sure he had a roof over his head when he was with momma, while we were temporarily split. I actually made pretty damned good money when I worked – I just didn’t work quite as much as I might have and was spread rather thin. It just really irritated me to see people who are wearing nearly $500 and pushing a $300 stroller, whine about excellent produce that cost more than the garbage at Fred Meyer or WinCo (though WinCo was decidedly not as bad as the others – ironic given their prices).

    • LKL
      July 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm

      You could have bought three times as many calories if you didn’t mind eating (and feeding) sugar/fat/plastic crap. Good on you for resisting the saturated advertising that constantly bombards us from all sides.

  10. July 23, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Though I do have to credit one of the whiners, now that I think of it. She ended up paying for the groceries of another woman who discovered she was a little shy of food stamps to cover her bill. She was extremely unpleasant, but she was a very generous unpleasant.

  11. Thisbe
    July 23, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    I complain about the prices of some things at some farmers’ markets. And I stand by it. For instance, in Seattle, people routinely charge upwards of $6 or $7 a dozen for eggs – and other people pay it! When I say that this is ludicrous, people often accuse me of wanting to drive Poor Farmers into a Sad Lifestyle, and they are often startled when I start talking about the various production costs that go into a dozen eggs, and how I know from experience that it costs less than $2 or $3 a dozen to produce eggs of surpassing quality (and how likely it is that the overpriced eggs being sold by the vegetable producers are made by chickens who live in their own poop without ever being moved and are fed garbage instead of fresh pasture).
    Fortunately I have moved back to more sensible lands, where eggs are slightly more expensive at the farmers’ market but I don’t have to KNOW that the extra $4 I can’t really afford is going to finance the farmers’ ski vacation.

    • July 24, 2010 at 11:42 am

      The thing is, if you can’t really afford it – you don’t have to buy it. Cheap eggs aren’t toxic – trust me, I eat a lot of them.

      I also fail to understand why there is something wrong with the farmer going on a ski vacation, financed in part by your contribution. Forgive me for getting rather pissy about that, but I have heard far too much whining of that sort from clients over the years. People who want to have work done right, then start ranting about the things I’ll do with the money, because I am charging them thirty to fifty dollars an hour.

      Quite honestly, it isn’t any of your fucking concern what a person is going to do with the money you give them in exchange for goods and services – except insofar as you may not wish to do business with that person in the future. Don’t give me some pathetic whining about not being able to afford to support a ski vacation or someone’s kid’s college education. Don’t like the price, don’t fucking well buy it.

      • Thisbe
        July 25, 2010 at 8:54 pm

        Right, and I don’t buy it. I buy good eggs at a reasonable price – or, when circumstances align properly, I have my own chickens and eat the eggs thereof, at cost.

        If someone wants to buy $7 a dozen eggs at a farmers’ market under the illusion that those eggs are “better” than eggs at $3 a dozen, they are welcome to do so. I do my best to make sure that people I know are informed that these eggs are generally NOT actually better, however, just so that the market can actually be fair.

        I don’t begrudge a hardworking farmer high prices on items that actually take skill and effort to grow. Eggs aren’t those items, and charging high prices for eggs is no different from any other way of taking advantage of suckers.

    • LKL
      July 24, 2010 at 3:52 pm

      Since ‘heirloom tomatoes’ came into vogue, it’s not unusual to see a single tomato selling for $5 or $6 at the farmer’s market or the co-op. It makes me sad, because even with bins full to overflowing of scrumptious summer tomatoes, I can’t afford to buy any. It’s supply and demand, though… maybe this year some other food will be in style, and I can start getting tomatoes again.

      I do buy eggs for $4 a dozen from a co-worker, though, because a dozen will last me a really long time and I know that he treats his chickens as pets.

      • July 24, 2010 at 9:05 pm

        I have a friend who is all about the heirloom veggies and the prices make sense – at least until you are harvesting your own seeds. The seeds are insanely expensive – like fifteen to twenty dollars for an average packet of seeds.

        The irony, is that the very best tomatoes I have ever had, are still a hybrid beefstake that a friend in Lansing developed. They are everything you would think that something with that name should be and more. Sweet, tart and incredibly juicy – they make the very best pasta sauce I have ever managed.

  12. July 23, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    A little off-topic, it drives me crazy when customers who are affiliated with the elite prep school culture in my area complain to me about the prices at the store where I work. Somehow they don’t realize how ridiculous it is to hear millionaires giving some poor cashier a hard time about how expensive a $4.50 coffee drink is. I can imagine a similar dynamic with some of the farmers, who are probably not generally rolling in dough.

  13. Kea
    July 23, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Well, as the saying goes, the rich are rich for a reason.

  14. July 24, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Yet another reason to look forward to vacation each year: awesome farmer’s market!

  15. Lora
    July 25, 2010 at 9:45 am

    DuWayne :
    I have a friend who is all about the heirloom veggies and the prices make sense – at least until you are harvesting your own seeds. The seeds are insanely expensive – like fifteen to twenty dollars for an average packet of seeds.

    What?!? Nuh-uh. I pay about $2-3/packet of 50-100 seeds for organic heirloom types. Seed Savers Exchange charges $2.75/packet, Sand Hill Preservation charges more like $1.75/packet. For impoverished would-be gardeners, I really cannot say enough nice things about Sand Hill, they sell high quality seed with excellent germination rates real cheap.

    It’s $15 if you’re buying seed for large-scale production: SSEx charges $15/ 0.25 oz., which is about 3000-4000 seeds. And I’ve seen hybrid seed range anywhere from $2/ 0.25 oz. to $60/ 0.25 oz. depending on what is fashionable, how long the hybrid has been on the market. Old hybrids like Beefsteaks are cheap, new ones like Early Girl are expensive. $15 / 4000 seeds is pretty reasonable and definitely much cheaper than the new hybrids–especially when you consider that heirloom tomatoes sell for a lot more than boring old hybrids and as you said, can save seeds from year to year. The advantage of the new hybrids is that they tend to be early maturing types so you can be the first one to market with your tomatoes, and the first ones can always charge more. But IMHO, this advantage is kinda lame and risky compared to the risk & cost of a yearly seed loan.

    Just a note–I have been poor to where the farmer’s market was a luxury I couldn’t afford. If you have any sunny windows, a porch, a stoop, etc. that gets sunlight, you can grow your own in those 5 gallon buckets restaurants & grocery stores dispose of, just ask or dumpster-dive. I used to fill up buckets like that, any kind of container, at the municipal compost facility, plant my cheap $1/packet tomato seeds therein, and set them around the windows and front porch of my apartment. Plenty of tomatoes, enough to can for winter. Also did greens in window boxes, bush type squashes in buckets, strawberries.

    • July 26, 2010 at 9:18 am

      Ok, the price he payed may well be due to his nutty sort of conspiracy theorist/survivalist bullshit. He buys his seeds from a survivalist nut, I imagine because he “knows” they’re organic and real heirlooms. I rather assumed that the prices were normal for heirlooms. I am not a gardener myself, I wasn’t even very good at growing cannabis – though I did design and construct an efficient expanded space for a cannabis coop in Portland. But even then, I mostly stuck to the actual infrastructure – anytime I did any work with plants themselves, I followed strict instructions.

  16. llewelly
    July 25, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Every week I end up spending at least around $80, sometimes as much as $100. In return I get enough food and more for a week’s worth of meals for two and often am able to prepare some things to save or freeze for later meals.

    Wow. If I had to pay that much for food, I’d starve. I simply don’t have that much money, and I haven’t for years.

    • Zuska
      July 25, 2010 at 8:10 pm

      I’m really sorry. I know I am fortunate in many regards. Mr. Z still has his job, and I was damn lucky to be working for a company that offered me disability insurance at the time I had my stroke, so I didn’t lose all my income. If I were living alone, or his job had vanished when the economy tanked, or we didn’t have my disability income, it would be a whole different situation.

      But the people who shop at the farmer’s market, and who are the whiners, are clearly people who are able to afford it. They want what the farmers are producing, they just don’t want to pay what it costs the farmers to produce it – even though they can afford to do so. When I see them standing there with a Starbucks frappucino in one hand, and Whole Foods cloth bag on their arm, and they are crying because the extremely delicious carrots on the table in front of them aren’t as cheap as the tasteless woody dried out shit they can buy in a plastic bag at supermegamart, and they came to the farmer’s market because they thought farmstands were supposed to be SO CHEAP, and this is a RIP OFF, I just don’t have much sympathy. Not when right next to whiny-ass lady, the tired looking lady in well worn clothes with crinkled plastic bags that have been used a thousand times is happily exchanging her food stamps for a ton of delicious produce she’s going to take home and eat all week.

      • Zuska
        July 25, 2010 at 8:12 pm

        And I think I mentioned in the post – that figure I spend each week includes luxuries and non-essentials like flowers, herbs, yogurt I wouldn’t have to have, lots of berries and fruits that also aren’t necessary but that I love, and some already-prepared items like slices of quiche from a local cafe that sells at my market. I could spend way less and still have plenty for us to eat just basic meals all week.

  17. Katherine
    July 25, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Never understood when people whine about the price of ANYTHING if they have enough money to be able to choose. That’s the whole point of having choice! If you don’t like the price of something, you don’t pay it!

  18. Nora Streed
    July 26, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    I am thrilled that my employer sponsors a small (6-8 farmers/week) market in our parking deck. I live a few short blocks away and I don’t drive, so it’s really great to be able to buy fresh stuff on my way home. There are certainly the whiners who complain about the prices; recently one of the farmers apologized to me for the high price of her spinach because she had had so many complaints about it. It was some of the most beautiful and delicious spinach I’ve ever eaten.

  19. July 26, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Don’t they know what they are paying for though? When you buy cheap vegetables it is off the backs of people who get exploited in a severe sense. They get paid so little that companies can afford to fly vegetables half way around the world and still sell them with profit at a lower price. Fresh produce isn’t high on the subsidy list, either.

    I like paying more so that I can pay people enough to live. If it was possible to pay more at a regular grocer and transport the money to the people who grew/picked my food, I would. My community supported agriculture is important to me, and the store I buy from is more expensive, but it is something that needs support. I don’t think the planet can afford trucking this stuff all over, and it is is crazy that people decide what they want to eat before knowing what is in season. It is a monumentally wasteful way to eat and live.

  20. Lora
    July 26, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    DuWayne :
    I am not a gardener myself, I wasn’t even very good at growing cannabis – though I did design and construct an efficient expanded space for a cannabis coop in Portland. But even then, I mostly stuck to the actual infrastructure – anytime I did any work with plants themselves, I followed strict instructions.

    I had to laugh about this–when I was doing the whole container-growing thing using buckets of municipal compost, I had every window of my crummy apartment stacked to the ceiling with containers full of plants on milk crate shelving, and my nosy parker neighbors called the cops more than once because they were sure I was growing weed. Luckily the policeman who showed up was a local guy who knew this neighbor to be a pest, and knew what tomatoes and peppers looked like, so it was OK. But yeah, similar techniques when it comes right down to it.

    Was really happy to move to a college town for DH’s education–no one called the cops because they were growing weed.

  21. Pen
    July 27, 2010 at 6:37 am

    It’s interesting to have a data point in the international price comparison table. I don’t think we pay quite that much for a farmer’s market produce in France. Then again, I can never bring myself to pay for the raspberries! Quite a few people I know here join cooperatives whereby they pay an annual subscription and get a week’s supply of seasonal produce every week. I think it tends a bit to turnips and apples in winter but it’s nice in the summertime. I wonder if such a thing exists in the US?

    • et
      July 27, 2010 at 6:11 pm

      its called a csa (community supported agriculture) and is not uncommon.

  22. Vicki
    July 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I know I could get most of my produce cheaper at the supermarket than at the Greenmarket (apples are the big exception—a lot of our farmers are in the Hudson Valley). Right now, I can afford to do that: not only to pay for the better berries and really fresh fish, but to indulge ourselves in nice cheese and the occasional roast duck. In some sense that’s a luxury: but it’s not an unethical one.

    I know people who look at their budgets, and decide that it’s going to have to be supermarket vegetables, because that’s all they can afford. But they aren’t standing around at the farmer’s markets complaining about the price: they’re buying their supermarket onions and peppers and beets and apples and so on and taking them home.

  23. July 29, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Likewise, I’ll pay more for produce sold at a farmer’s market. I grew up on a farm with an expansive family garden and orchard in east central Illinois and thus acquired a taste for truly fresh vegetables and fruits. Although the produce in a megastore may not be lacking at all in nutritional quality, the flavor? Well, there’s where the disconnect occurs. I’m willing to pay for the extra treat.

    I am extremely fortunate to live in the Delaware valley, with our access to Lancaster county farms and the farmers who willingly bring us their bounty each week to the local farmer’s markets.

    Oh, yes! You’re very fortunate! Central NJ isn’t too shabby either. More often than not, I bought my fruits and veggies from Terhune Orchards near Princeton instead of a farmer’s market, but the quality is nonetheless excellent. There are also a few community supported agriculture associations (see et’s comment above) in the central Jersey area. Purchasing produce at a farmer’s market is also a good way to be a “locavore.”

    I have now relocated to the Boston area, and to be honest, Massachusetts tomatoes are lacking compared to NJ (and IL for that matter), but there’s plenty of good produce to be had. With that in mind, I think I’ll stroll over to the Kendall Square farmer’s market before it closes.

    Those tomatoes are truly glorious. L

  24. December 24, 2010 at 8:47 am

    its called a csa (community supported agriculture) and is not uncommon.

  25. December 27, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    thanks for man

  26. December 29, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Thanks for admin much man

  27. December 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Every week I end up spending at least around $80, sometimes as much as $100.

  28. December 30, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Thank You Verry Nice.

  29. December 30, 2010 at 9:29 am

    ahh, yes, I just love the whiners. When I was in Portland, we had more coops than farmers markets, because it was just easier that way. Pretty much worked out the same, but easier in an urban environment.

  30. January 10, 2011 at 11:02 am

    its called a csa (community supported agriculture) and is not uncommon.

  31. January 25, 2011 at 7:32 am

    thanks for homi.

  32. February 7, 2011 at 5:34 am

    its called a csa (community supported agriculture) and is not uncommon.

  33. March 2, 2011 at 6:19 am

    thanks for verry nice

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