I hit up farmers’ market for my first serious visit this week. Des Moines has a huge farmer’s market every Saturday, but it’s more of a festival than a serious place to buy stuff from farms. The scheduling of other local markets is not ideal with my work schedule, but I finally managed to get to one on Tuesday. It was blistering hot, so the kid and I didn’t stick around too long or take great notes.
I’m suspicious there was some price-fixing occurring ($6 berry baskets at EVERY booth?), but most prices were decent. Keep in mind that whatever produce is in season locally is going to be the best deal at farmers’ markets, with produce on the early or late edge of the season being a bit higher-priced. Besides the berries, I found that most produce was a little cheaper than a grocery store’s regular prices, but more expensive than their really good sales. I’d like to give specific price guidelines, but the extreme seasonality of farmers’ markets makes it tough for me to say what a great deal would be in your area.
If you don’t know what’s in season in your area, ask a local gardener. You might be surprised how many are around. I work with a couple people who have gardens, and I wouldn’t have pegged them all as gardeners.
Below I have included a portion of my giant price list that contains produce commonly found at farmers’ markets. Since the list isn’t quite a year old, the fall produce prices might be a little inflated. Here are a couple tips for pricing in your area:
- The prices here are great prices, generally prices that might inspire a freezing session of some foods.
- In general, produce is a reasonable deal at twice the price listed here.
- When produce is in season in your area, it should be near the prices listed here.
- If certain produce does not grow well in your area, it may not hit the listed price at farmers’ markets. Around here, we probably won’t see cheap grapes at farmers’ markets.
- Having been a seller at farmers’ markets in my younger years, please don’t be a jerk trying to bargain with sellers. You can ask for a better price, especially if you’re buying a lot, but don’t expect too much. Raising vegetables is hard work!
- Usually, produce at farmers’ markets is better than in stores, so it might be worth a couple extra dollars. In my sweet corn-growing days, we would sometimes sell a truckload of corn to a grocery store. Four or five days later they’d still be selling the same sweet corn. Whenever we went to a farmers’ market, we sold corn that was picked, at most, twelve hours earlier. Most times, we picked the corn, showered, and drove to the market. Don’t even imagine you’re getting produce that fresh at a grocery store.