Say you want to buy fruits and vegetables for the weekend, and you only have $15. Will your dollar stretch further at the supermarket, or at your local farmers market?
Many people would assume the grocery store would have the cheapest vegetables. It's what Barry Estabrook calls the accepted gospel -- that only "well-heeled food snobs can afford the exorbitant prices charged for those attractively displayed baby greens and heirloom tomatoes at the farmers markets."
But, as Estabrook wrote in the Atlantic recently, a study by a graduate student at Bard College found that when comparing farmers market prices to the grocery store, the farmers market is competitively lower priced for many conventionally grown items. And if you're looking for organic produce, farmers markets beat grocery store prices every time.
The study by Jake Robert Claro was based on the Vermont market for blueberries, cantaloupe, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggs, bell peppers, lettuce, potatoes, peas, string beans, squash and tomatoes. Claro's research team collected price information from 10 farmers markets and 10 conventional grocery stores serving the same Vermont communities in 2010. With the exception of eggs and potatoes, which can be produced much more cheaply in large economies of scale, the non-organic farmers market items were between 10 and 20 percent more expensive.
What's more, organic items at farmers markets were 40 percent cheaper than at the grocery store.
While the study focused on Vermont, Estabrook points out that it supports other similar studies in Iowa and in Seattle.
What's your shopper's experience at the Lawrence Farmers Markets, whether the Saturday market, or the weekday markets on Tuesday and Thursday? It'd be interesting to see if the same holds true here. I sense a job for interns.
See you at the market!