Are farmers market prices too high? Don't get me wrong, I love the Boston area farmers market, look forward to their arrival, and miss them when the weather turns cold. But I can't help noticing that when it comes to pricing their produce, well, you might as well shop at Whole Foods.
Example: last weekend I went to the Saturday market at the Morse School in Cambridgeport. I saw some beautiful looking golden zucchini and bought some at $3/lb. On my way out of the market, I saw the same zucchini at another stall at $1.50. OK, my bad, I guess. Should have done more careful comparison shopping. But when I saw some equally gorgeous golden zucchini at Russo's yesterday for $.29/lb, I was amazed -- and I started wondering why the farmers market prices were five to 10 times higher.
OK, I get it. Small farmers growing quality stuff, struggling to survive and stay in business. They deserve our support. And I'm willing to pay a premium to get the presumably higher quality food they offer. And I certainly don't think they're getting rich from what they sell when they drive into the city and set up their stalls.
But I'm old enough to remember when part of the appeal of driving out to the countryside and going to a farm stand was getting fresh produce at a bargain price. Simple concept: cut out the middleman so the money goes directly to the grower and the customer saves some dough.
Now I have no idea of the economics involved in the farmers market biz. Maybe the farmers are making a bundle (which I doubt) or maybe their only eking out a scant profit. But I wonder if they'd do better, no matter what the case, by charging less. I would think that the increase in sales volume would lead to greater profits, not to mention the social good of making fresh produce more affordable and available to more people. Because it looks to me like the local farmers market are turning into farmers boutiques for the well-off.