I love Pinterest, don’t you? I was browsing Pinterest this morning, even though I had plenty else to do. It was windy, OK?!
Any-hoo, I came across a blog post entitled “6 Reasons to Shop the Grocery Store Instead of the Farmers Market.’ As a farmers market vendor and a committed organizer of the Grafton Farmer’s Market, that title got me curious and pretty riled up! I stewed over it most of the afternoon and finally had to go back to the article and comment. I’ll share my musings with you all, it’s worthwhile to read the original blog post, linked above, as the ‘reasons’ I give are taken directly from the post. Who knows, maybe you’ll feel much like the author.
My heart sank when I saw this post in my Pinterest feed. Then I started to feel a bit angry. Then, I decided that I couldn’t let this go with out a comment. I am a vendor at our local farmers market and I am one of the organizers. We spend much time and effort to try to convince people to patronize their local markets. This is an up-hill battle for us, because shopping at the grocery store is the default choice. We are even working toward accepting SNAP benefits (formerly Food Stamps) and credit and debit cards at our market, to make it easier for folks to access local, fresh food. That is why it kills me to see a blog title like this.
Maybe the author’s family owns a grocery store that is seeing sales drop, maybe you had a bad experience with your local farmers market or maybe a bad experience with a local farmer. I really don’t know why you decided to write this piece. Perhaps you wanted others who choose to spend their time and money somewhere other than the farmers market to feel better, to feel that they are not the only ones who might be feeling a bit guilty about the choice. Of course everyone is free to choose not to shop at the farmers market for whatever reason. But for the most part, no one needs a reason to NOT shop the farmers market. People like myself are going out of our way to get people to the markets. Why? Well here are some good reasons:
It’s convenient. No, actually it isn’t convenient and most who shop at the market have to go to another store to pick up ‘the rest’ of their groceries. But it isn’t just about convenience. It’s also about community. What better place to meet like-minded folks. Our market strives to have activities to give families a reason to hang around or to make the market a destination. We also strive to have a variety of vendors from vegetables, baked goods, handmade soaps, herbs, baby gift items and cut flowers. If I (and several of our other vendors who are moms) can get ourselves, our wares and our infants and toddlers to the market every week, those that make local foods and goods a priority certainly can too! It’s a family affair and I have made many good friends through planning and vending at the market over the past 3 years.
Variety. This is another tough one, as you can find more different fruits and vegetables at the grocery store than the market. Again, if you are committed to making local, fresh food a priority, this is not an issue. We eat out of our market garden all year, canning and freezing for winter. We only buy things like oranges and avocados as treats through the year, mostly when they are inexpensive and in season. We grow about 18 different kinds of vegetables in our market garden. That doesn’t included different varieties of things like tomatoes and peppers. We also have a few fruits available to us and lots of herbs. And that’s here in Northern North Dakota. I’m not saying it’s wrong to expect to be able to buy oranges. I’m just saying that there is probably a good variety at your local farmers market, it’s just seasonal.
Price. This varies by area. At our market, most vendors grow organically but do not certify their operations. That keeps cost down. Most vendors keep prices of their vegetables and baked goods at or near grocery store prices because we know that price is a factor for a lot of consumers. Sometimes this isn’t possible, as in the case of canned goods and some homemade body care items (we have no economies of scale to take advantage of.) With exceptions I have found that you get what you pay for and even if you pay a bit more at the farmers market, you often get more bang for you buck as the produce is fresher and therefore has retained more nutrients and often tastes better. Another way of saving money at the market is to talk to the farmers. I have made deals with customers who were willing to take larger quantities of things like tomatoes and green beans to freeze or can at home.
Coupons. I don’t think I have ever seen a coupon for fresh vegetables. Maybe this is regional or done at some of the bigger grocery chains?
Sales and markdowns. Aren’t we just splitting hairs now? Along with coupons this has to do with price. Again, when you talk to farmers you can (sometimes) get discounts especially buying large quantities.
One stop shopping. Again, covered under convenience. I know in the fast paced world we worship convenience. Can’t we stop and smell the carrots once in a while!
Of course we will all need to make the choices that make the most sense in our particular situations, but please consider supporting local land control under your local farmers and small business owners in your community by shopping your local farmers market.
So tell me, what are some of the reasons that you do or do not shop at your local farmers market. How can we, as vendors and market organizers, convince more consumers to spend their dollars locally at farmers markets?