Community Philosphy Blog and Library

HOMEGROWN Life: Support Your Local Farmer, Or My Mercedes Might Get Repossessed

 

 

 

 

 

$3 a  pound for apples. $2 a pound for butternut squash. $3.50 for a bunch of beets. $4 a pound for green beans. $5 a pound for tomatoes and eggs at the low, low price of $5 for a half dozen.

These are some of the prices I have seen or heard of at various farmers markets around Boston. You would think that I, as a farmer selling at these markets, would be thrilled to see produce fetching so much, but I am not. I feel that, in the long run, these inflated prices will hurt farmers markets by limiting who is able to afford to shop at them.
“I don’t want a parent to have to think about whether they can afford to give a kid an apple or a peach with their lunch” says Steve Violette, owner of Dicks Market Garden here in Lunenburg, explaining why he is not charging what some consider the going rate for those crops. “I dont want to see lower income people priced out of certain crops. And with some of the prices being charged, it seems as if that is happening.” He says that a parent shouldn’t feel guilty because they can’t afford to buy a peach for a kid.
The rise in popularity of the farmers markets has been great for local farmers, but not always so much for consumers as far as I am concerned. I have seen – time after time – that, rather than meet increased demand for produce by increasing production, farmers are raising prices instead, creating almost a bidding war for crops. The problem is, with the increased traffic, someone is always willing to shell out the cash. But I am afraid that many of these purchasers take the view that they are making more of a charitable donation, rather than a legitimate purchase, driven by the panic created by the save the farms movement.

While I believe that fresh, local foods grown for flavor as opposed to shipping ability deserve somewhat of a premium over commercial crops, I think that we, the farmers, have to ask ourselves what a fair premium is. And, if we want to sustain the surge in popularity of the farmers markets, we have to be careful that we don’t price things out of the range of average people. We should also keep in mind how lucky we are to live and farm in a region where we can direct market our produce to the consumer, and realize that, as Steve Violette pointed out, a lot of the premium we receive is because we are able to market crops that we might not if we where selling to a chain store or processor.

Ok, getting tired now. Got to get up and harvest in the morning.

More about Steve: “Common Ground: The Farmer and the Musician“. Parker Farm’s Facebook page is here.
Steve Parker, Parker Farm

I grow vegetables on 35-acres in Lunenberg, MA. My farm – Parker Farm – has been operating for 19 years and, if it doesn’t kill me, I’m planning to farm this land for many years to come.

Tags: , , , ,

9 Responses to “HOMEGROWN Life: Support Your Local Farmer, Or My Mercedes Might Get Repossessed”

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Over here on the West Coast, some farmers’ markets, like the one in my city are now taking food stamps, which I think is a HUGE step in the right direction of allowing lower income families eat healthy. Healthy, good tasting food shouldn’t be available only to the wealthy.

  2. While I morally support the local farmers who sell at the farmers markets, I can afford to buy anything from them only occasionally. The best thing for people in my situation is to volunteer at a community garden if one is available. It beats me why more people don’t buy their veggies there using muscle and sweat.

  3. Larry Snyder Says:

    I think the small farmer is experiencing what all farmers have. To make large profits the farmer must either charge more or get larger. The small farm is still to feed your family & sell the overage. As more setup small farms over pricing will be the greedy”s down fall.

  4. Rory Allison Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. At my local market I tend to grab what I want then when I go up to pay I swallow hard at some of the prices. I am not asking for cheap vegetables, only for what they are worth. I glance behind the tents of some of these high priced farmers and see brand new full size pickups with all the bells and whistles. I grew up on a farm and believe me all we drove were the quintessential “farm truck”. Neither new or clean. I feel like some of the farmers market farmers are trying to get rich off the farm to table movement which will kill the movement. I want to continue the trend of buying local and will no matter what the price, but not everybody thinks like me. I am afraid that some of these farmers prices will drive people away.

  5. I agree as well — both that charging a slight premium for tastier, organic (or grown with organic practices even if it’s not certified organic) produce is justified but also that charging too much excludes too many from eating good food. As Rachel says, many farmers’ markets in Cali are taking food stamps, and I recently read about a CT org, Wholesome Wave, that doubles the value of food stamps with private dollars if they’re used at farmers’ markets (http://wholesomewave.org/what-we-do/double-value-coupon-program/).

    Buying in bulk, if you have the time to “put up” the food, helps on pricing! I recently bought 30 lbs of tomatoes for $9 (30 cents/pound) and canned, jammed and oven roasted them for winter (http://wp.me/pYaOR-ha).

  6. I take my fight out of the city, Here in Portland Oregon I am seeing the same thing.. In fact there are farms that are charging different prices for different markets, selling to the demographic the market is in.. THIS MAKES ME ANGRY!!!!!! Talk about taking advantage of the fact that now we CAN use food stamps.. better get as much as you can wile you can right? NO in fact I have gone back to taking advantage of harvest season and am going back out to the farm stand where I can. We have a local farm partnership with ONE farmer who brings us eggs and fresh milk at a reasonable price. WE have created out own relationships with farmers who produce livestock and as a result can fetch a much more affordable price on our meats.. There is no reason that Farmers need to get all out of control.. I KNOW it has been a harsh growing season here on the west coast, but get your egg prices under control, stop taking advantage of the egg recall.. Build relationships and go back to Reasonable prices, I am not saying get cheap because we all know that QUALITY food is just going to cost more, then the mass produced crap..

  7. I understand the gut reaction to the farmer with the new vehicle when they are supposed to drive the “farm truck.” But it is this kind of thinking that drove young folks out of farming. Why are they forever doomed to that overall look, if they don’t want it? Do they really have to leave the farm for the big city job, so they can reach the American dream? The reality is we pay money for things like technology, where the real cost is actually hidden (LOW wages in 3rd world countries to build that laptop!) We need to start paying real money to real people so they can live. But if you don’t want to pay $3 a pound for apples, don’t buy them. I bet they will be less expensive next week. My favorite suggestion here is the one from Jim where he talks about volunteering at a community garden. GREAT idea!

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by HOMEGROWN DotOrg and HOMEGROWN DotOrg, DesignStudio504. DesignStudio504 said: RT @HOMEGROWNdotORG: "…some farmers market farmers r trying 2 get rich off the farm 2 table movement which will… http://bit.ly/cXTqce […]

  9. Great blog, it’s keeping me from studying I’ll be keeping an eye out for updates.

Leave a Reply

*