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Do Farmers Markets Save You Money?

2009 July 08

Over the last several weeks I’ve seen a few articles pop-up (see the related links below) about the cost-effectiveness of buying from your local farmers market. The question seems simple enough – can I get a better deal from local growers than I can at a grocery store? It seems the answer is more complex than a simple “yes” or “no.”  If you are going by cost alone there might not be much of a difference, and don’t be surprised if the farmers market actually costs a little bit more. Larry Lev, and Oregon State University agricultural and resource economics professor says that prices also vary by region – farmers markets in Western states tend to cost more than those in the Midwest. But should we be surprised when like everything else it follows the average cost of living?

One thing you will get at the farmers market that you won’t at the grocery store? Quality. I don’t know if I’ve ever had peaches (one of my all-time favorites) that tasted as good coming from the grocery store as it did from a local grower. For many of us it’s a worthwhile additional cost when you know you’re about to bite into the most flavorful piece of fruit or freshest vegetables. You’re also more likely to get some interesting variety that may not be typically found in a grocery store. Local farmers are also more likely to produce organics, using more sustainable methods. Of course, this all comes at a price.

So what’s your motivating factor when selecting produce? You may be better off purchasing from the grocery store except in those circumstances where you need the better quality food. Here are a few links to get you thinking.

Finally, looking at the last set of links – can eating from at $10/week menu bought from the local farmers market really work? Maybe. I haven’t tried it, but my gut feeling is that we eat more than $10 of produce per person/week around this house. It’s worth a shot. It’s also worth seeing what is available through your local CSA, which provides boxes full of produce to you at a pickup location on a regular basis. It has some of the benefits of the farmers market – without the market.

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