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Farmer Market Pricing

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Farmer Market Pricing

by Redwinger » Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:52 pm

I frequent a couple of local farmer markets and have been noticing that regardless of vendor the price for items is exactly the same within a given market. 7 guys all selling tomatoes for$X/lb, same for peaches-they're all priced at $Y/lb. Same for beets, spinach, eggplant, etc.

Is this pricing just a coincidence? Is this "same price" strategy prevalent in your area?
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by David Creighton » Wed Jun 19, 2013 1:05 pm

prices vary a bit at mine - ann arbor, mi. eggs from $3.50 to $6. strawberries by at least $1/qt.sometimes comparing prices is hard because of the way they are sold. asparagus is one of the few things - along with baby greens that are sold by the pound. and of course you can always find cheaper veggies at the supermarket that are better traveled than you are.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Redwinger » Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:03 pm

David Creighton wrote:and of course you can always find cheaper veggies at the supermarket that are better traveled than you are.


Or, sometimes as is the case with peaches being sold in the farmer markets before the local fruit is mature. The crop is obviously coming from more Southern states, but I doubt these vendors are trucking them across 3 states in the back of their pick-up truck. More likely they are getting them at the same produce jobber in the nearest urban center as your local supermarket.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Karen/NoCA » Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:36 pm

Prices can vary from grower to grower for some product, especially tomatoes because that is a big ticket item here. Everybody loves those heirlooms. I find that here, produce is actually more expensive than the grocery store, but I accept that because my produce lasts so much longer. Sometimes I over buy, but it lasts until I can get to it, with the exception of green beans.
Your market growers have no doubt agreed to a certain price for product, which is beneficial to everyone. Then the competition to grow a better variety comes into play. Our little group at the market keeps each other filled in on who has the best of this or that. Competition with tomatoes is big...one grower has tomatoes planted in the ground but under the protection of a big overhead tunnel thing. I found that his tomatoes are mealy and I told him that, with much respect, I should add. He was not happy about it and promptly told me, "they are in the ground!" Next visit, I inquired again if the tomatoes where field grown or from his tunnel, and he said only one flat was field grown but he had mixed them all in with the tunnel toms. I did buy two huge Cherokee Purple and I hope they are good because they are going into BLT's for our grandson who is coming for lunch.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Redwinger » Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:46 pm

So far, it appears this fixed pricing model is perhaps unique to this area. As someone mentioned somewhat jokingly on my FB post, the prices are the same because all the vendors are related. :P
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Redwinger » Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:53 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:.one grower has tomatoes planted in the ground but under the protection of a big overhead tunnel thing.


Interesting. I grow a couple of rows of tender plants in a small tunnel. It protects them from an early frost and warms the soil a bit to give them a head start---hey, I'm an impatient gardener. I'd never think to use it once the chance of a frost has passed. Might as well buy a tom grown in a greenhouse.

Karen/NoCA wrote:Your market growers have no doubt agreed to a certain price for product, which is beneficial to everyone.


Would everyone include the consumers?
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by David Creighton » Wed Jun 19, 2013 3:36 pm

at my market you can't truck stuff in from elsewhere - you have to grow it or make it yourself.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Karen/NoCA » Wed Jun 19, 2013 4:06 pm

Redwinger wrote:
Karen/NoCA wrote:.one grower has tomatoes planted in the ground but under the protection of a big overhead tunnel thing.


Interesting. I grow a couple of rows of tender plants in a small tunnel. It protects them from an early frost and warms the soil a bit to give them a head start---hey, I'm an impatient gardener. I'd never think to use it once the chance of a frost has passed. Might as well buy a tom grown in a greenhouse.

Karen/NoCA wrote:Your market growers have no doubt agreed to a certain price for product, which is beneficial to everyone.


Would everyone include the consumers?

I see folks at the Farmer's Market comparing prices at each stand. It takes forever to do that with the crowds. So, if you must/need to price compare, then having a standard price would certainly save time. Some of us, however, are looking for the best tasting.
I agree with you about the greenhouse statement. The grower seemed insulted that I would ask for field tomatoes and that is why he informed me that the tunnel ones are planted in the ground. OK, I have grown tomatoes for over 35 years, and while I am no expert, I do know that the direct rays of the sun give a much sweeter, juicier, and all around better tomato. I, also understand they want to get the jump on the season, which is fine, because it is about money for them. For me it is taste and texture.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Jenise » Wed Jun 19, 2013 4:25 pm

Prices vary here. Typically, the guys closest to the entrances tend to charge a bit more per item than the guys in the middle, and sometimes I can see no rhyme nor reason for why one guy thinks his cukes are worth two for a dollar where everyone else gives three for the buck.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Karen/NoCA » Wed Jun 19, 2013 4:35 pm

Jenise wrote:Prices vary here. Typically, the guys closest to the entrances tend to charge a bit more per item than the guys in the middle, and sometimes I can see no rhyme nor reason for why one guy thinks his cukes are worth two for a dollar where everyone else gives three for the buck.

Here in Redding, the booths to the right and left of the main entrance are for the folks who are pulling in the most money. It changes from time to time.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Redwinger » Wed Jun 19, 2013 4:41 pm

Sounds like your markets are a whole lot bigger than what we have here in Hoosierville. Here on the North Side of the river were lucky to get 20 or 25 sellers, if you exclude the crafts and painted saw blades.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Mike Filigenzi » Wed Jun 19, 2013 7:50 pm

We get some variability within our market. Big sellers with short windows (cherries, for instance) will be within $0.50/lb for all of the sellers unless someone has some that look significantly better than everyone else's, and they'll demand a premium for them. I bought a small basket of Rainier cherries a couple of weeks ago that were really great, and paid a bit more for them. Tomatoes will vary by up to $1/lb for heirlooms. On the other hand, squash blossoms go for anywhere from $0.75 each to $1 for a bag of about 25.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Karen/NoCA » Wed Jun 19, 2013 8:30 pm

We have a ranch here called Lazy 69, and they have some of the best organic eggs I have had. They sell in a selected locally owned super market called Holiday Foods, plus the health food stores. I pay about 3 to 4 dollars for a dozen depending on the season. He gets between 6 to 7 dollars in San Francisco at the outdoor market. People pay it readily. That is amazing to me. Another grower who specializes in olive oils and almonds of all different varieties sends his wife and daughters to our local market, and he goes to the Davis CA market where he gets more money for his products. His products are great and not only grown right on his land but made into the final product by his family. His name is Sam Cabral for those of you who live in No. CA you might look him up if you get to the Davis market. He is always at the very right of the entrance to our market, which means they are one of the top sellers. They also have peaches, apricots, oranges, and Satsuma mandarins around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Redwinger: Redding has five markets on different days, one of them is a year round market. Then there are the smaller markets in the mountain and foothill communities. 80 minutes from here in the University town of Chico is a year round market that I love to go to...it is huge and has fresh made foods to sell, not only from bakeries(which we also have) but other foods. I've seen home made noodles, smoked trout and salmon. It is very relaxed and they do not have an opening bell like ours do. If you get there early, they sell, and they let you bring dogs, which is a pain because some are small and one is not paying attention to anything but the booths. But I do like how they operate with that very laid back feeling. Our markets here do not allow any animals or smoking.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Brian Gilp » Wed Jun 19, 2013 8:46 pm

Price fixing is alive and well at my farmers markets. There are three markets within 7 miles of my house. Prices are the same at each stand within an individual market. There may be slight differences for blemished product but even those are generally the same. Prices do differ from market to market with the largest market that openly allows the bringing in of shipped produce with the lowest prices.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Lou Kessler » Wed Jun 19, 2013 9:02 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:We have a ranch here called Lazy 69, and they have some of the best organic eggs I have had. They sell in a selected locally owned super market called Holiday Foods, plus the health food stores. I pay about 3 to 4 dollars for a dozen depending on the season. He gets between 6 to 7 dollars in San Francisco at the outdoor market. People pay it readily. That is amazing to me. Another grower who specializes in olive oils and almonds of all different varieties sends his wife and daughters to our local market, and he goes to the Davis CA market where he gets more money for his products. His products are great and not only grown right on his land but made into the final product by his family. His name is Sam Cabral for those of you who live in No. CA you might look him up if you get to the Davis market. He is always at the very right of the entrance to our market, which means they are one of the top sellers. They also have peaches, apricots, oranges, and Satsuma mandarins around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Redwinger: Redding has five markets on different days, one of them is a year round market. Then there are the smaller markets in the mountain and foothill communities. 80 minutes from here in the University town of Chico is a year round market that I love to go to...it is huge and has fresh made foods to sell, not only from bakeries(which we also have) but other foods. I've seen home made noodles, smoked trout and salmon. It is very relaxed and they do not have an opening bell like ours do. If you get there early, they sell, and they let you bring dogs, which is a pain because some are small and one is not paying attention to anything but the booths. But I do like how they operate with that very laid back feeling. Our markets here do not allow any animals or smoking.

I'm surprised about the allowing of dogs, we have signs at the entrances saying that dogs are not allowed by state law.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Mike Filigenzi » Thu Jun 20, 2013 12:12 am

Karen/NoCA wrote:We have a ranch here called Lazy 69, and they have some of the best organic eggs I have had. They sell in a selected locally owned super market called Holiday Foods, plus the health food stores. I pay about 3 to 4 dollars for a dozen depending on the season. He gets between 6 to 7 dollars in San Francisco at the outdoor market. People pay it readily. That is amazing to me. Another grower who specializes in olive oils and almonds of all different varieties sends his wife and daughters to our local market, and he goes to the Davis CA market where he gets more money for his products. His products are great and not only grown right on his land but made into the final product by his family. His name is Sam Cabral for those of you who live in No. CA you might look him up if you get to the Davis market. He is always at the very right of the entrance to our market, which means they are one of the top sellers. They also have peaches, apricots, oranges, and Satsuma mandarins around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Redwinger: Redding has five markets on different days, one of them is a year round market. Then there are the smaller markets in the mountain and foothill communities. 80 minutes from here in the University town of Chico is a year round market that I love to go to...it is huge and has fresh made foods to sell, not only from bakeries(which we also have) but other foods. I've seen home made noodles, smoked trout and salmon. It is very relaxed and they do not have an opening bell like ours do. If you get there early, they sell, and they let you bring dogs, which is a pain because some are small and one is not paying attention to anything but the booths. But I do like how they operate with that very laid back feeling. Our markets here do not allow any animals or smoking.


The San Francisco market next to the Ferry Terminal is by far the most expensive market I've ever run across. It's fun but man, is it expensive.

In this area, the Davis market is the priciest one. I've even noticed that the wines at Trader Joe's run more in the Davis store than in the Sacramento store. I'd love to check out that one in Chico. We have some close friends whose daughter is a freshman there. I'll have to see if we can tag along one of these days when they go up there.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Fred Sipe » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:48 am

In my little corner of NE Ohio I can't think of any farmers market type coops nearby. But there are at least 6 individual farm markets within 10-15 minutes. They sell their own produce and that of other local specialty farmers (garlic comes to mind) as well as early season trucked in corn and tomatoes which I usually pass on. All but one of these markets is Mennonite owned and not open on Sundays. :(

There is one good one I can go to on Sunday, thankfully. I find even farm market tomatoes disappointing these days though. It seems they all grow very similar hybrids and the flavor is just not there anymore. But there is one market about a half-hour away that has an amazing variety of heirlooms and it's well worth the drive. I *love* gazpacho.

I've never really done a comparison price-shopping tour but that sounds like an interesting idea. Going to have to check that out.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Mark Willstatter » Thu Jun 20, 2013 1:41 pm

I've been helping a friend who is also a (very) small farmer sell at a local market. While the same thing may not be true everywhere, based on my observations here, there probably isn't anything so sinister as price fixing going on. I suppose if prices are actually identical, there might be cause for suspicion but I'd point out there are natural market forces in the direction of price consistency.

A vendor at one of these markets has two goals: to maximize income and to sell out. The former argues for higher prices, the latter for lower. Nobody wants to take produce home; the stuff is perishable and one can eat so many tomatoes. Continuing with tomatoes as an example, if the going price at a given market is $3 per pound, that's because a deal has implicitly been made between buyers and sellers; at that price, apparently, enough buyers are willing to buy that sellers are able to dispose of all or almost all of their tomatoes. That's pretty much the definition of what an economist would call a "fair market price".

If the going price is that $3 per pound; there's little incentive for a given seller to cut his price to $2.50. Priced lower than his competition, he'd sell out early, be left twiddling his thumbs for the rest of the market with nothing to sell while at the same time cheating himself out of 50 cents per pound in income. Likewise, raising his price to $3.50 wouldn't make sense; unless there's enough customer demand to force desperate buyers to his stand (after the competition sells out), he risks taking lots of tomatoes home with him.

So there are market forces that naturally cause consistency in prices. Barring factors like location and quality differences, the result is similar prices for similar goods. I doubt any collusion is going on; at least I know it isn't here.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Brian Gilp » Thu Jun 20, 2013 9:03 pm

Mark, it may be only market forces but I doubt it. If it were just market forces, I would expect prices to adjust to quantity changes during the season. I might also expect the farmers with larger farms and thus more product to sell may cut prices slightly to better move their product over their competitor. Instead at the market that I pass every day, I see product going home regularly and/or product rotting before it can be sold. Tomatoes and corn are where I see this the most but it happens with other produce as well as with baked goods, eggs, and butter. This market is almost entirely Amish so it may factor into how it runs.

The Amish market being on my way home is the one I frequent the most so I can't swear that seasonal changes do not occur at the other markets. But when I do visit those other markets, I have never seen price variance and I have been there at the end of the day on a number of occasions and witnessed that most of the vendors are not selling out of most things.

From a different perspective (art shows) I have seen the pressure that other vendors will put on an artist that they feel is underpricing their work and by doing so stealing sales from other artist. Art pricing is much more subjective than produce so I find it hard to imaging that if one farmer started under selling everyone else that the other merchants would not talk to him.

Maybe I am just too cynical.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Lou Kessler » Thu Jun 20, 2013 9:31 pm

Brian Gilp wrote:Mark, it may be only market forces but I doubt it. If it were just market forces, I would expect prices to adjust to quantity changes during the season. I might also expect the farmers with larger farms and thus more product to sell may cut prices slightly to better move their product over their competitor. Instead at the market that I pass every day, I see product going home regularly and/or product rotting before it can be sold. Tomatoes and corn are where I see this the most but it happens with other produce as well as with baked goods, eggs, and butter. This market is almost entirely Amish so it may factor into how it runs.

The Amish market being on my way home is the one I frequent the most so I can't swear that seasonal changes do not occur at the other markets. But when I do visit those other markets, I have never seen price variance and I have been there at the end of the day on a number of occasions and witnessed that most of the vendors are not selling out of most things.

From a different perspective (art shows) I have seen the pressure that other vendors will put on an artist that they feel is underpricing their work and by doing so stealing sales from other artist. Art pricing is much more subjective than produce so I find it hard to imaging that if one farmer started under selling everyone else that the other merchants would not talk to him.

Maybe I am just too cynical.

No you're not. I've been involved in retail businesses since my 20s and the prices in farmer's markets that I've observed for many years don't arrive at their #s accidentally. It makes sense because the different people selling the same products are all under the same roof. It wouldn't work any other way.
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Re: Farmer Market Pricing

by Rahsaan » Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:20 pm

Interesting discussion. At our farmer's market here in Northern Manhattan the prices are all within range, but definitely not the same. And the discrepancy is pretty obvious. There are a couple of stands with much higher quality stuff and their goods are all a bit more expensive. There are a couple of stands with the lowest/'bargain' quality and they are the least expensive. Most are inbetween. Which is pretty much how I remember it from most markets that I've visited.

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