Memorial Day weekend is here yet again and that means farmers markets are gearing up for high season. It also means that it’s time for the USDA to update its annual National Farmers Market Directory. So when you swing by your farmers market this weekend, be sure to ask the managers to update their listing. They have until June 15th to do so.
The directory — when it comes out in August in conjunction with National Farmers Market Week (August 7-13) — serves a variety of purposes. It’s a great guide for consumers, allowing you to instantly locate a market wherever you may be. It’s also an important tool for tracking trends.
“The USDA National Farmers Market Directory not only counts, lists and maps the country’s more than 6,100 farmers markets, it is also a fantastic resource for those interested in local food production, small producer success, and public policy about regional food systems,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement.
“In addition to helping people find the closest farmers market, the farmers markets listed in this directory are included in maps, mobile apps and other stats. We hope that all managers ensure their markets are included so that no farmers market misses out on this opportunity.”
But when you hear the words “farmers market” do you think of overpriced, precious produce? Think again. According to a report released earlier this year, prices for organic produce at farmers markets are actually lower than at supermarkets — a whopping 40% lower in fact — and many conventionally produced products are less expensive as well.
“We’re starting to see enough competition among vendors at farmers’ markets that the prices are becoming competitive,” said Jake Robert Claro, a graduate student at Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy who led the study, in an interview with Barry Estabrook’s Politics of the Plate blog.
As Estabrook also noted:
Claro’s study reinforces the findings of other groups looking into pricing at farmers’ markets. In 2007, Stacey Jones, an economics professor at the University of Seattle, had her students compare costs of 15 items at a farmers’ market and a nearby supermarket. The farmers’ market was slightly less expensive. The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture compared prices of conventional food in four Iowa cities and found that the farmers’ markets’ prices were often equal to or lower than those at grocery stores.
“It’s promising to see that regardless of the region, these studies are holding up,” said Claro. “This trend is going to grow stronger. Maybe that will put the elitist perception to rest.”
As these studies point out, it is simply a perception that farmers markets are pricier than supermarkets. There is very little real research to back up the claim that farmers markets are more expensive, and the research out there tends to prove the opposite.
So get out there this weekend and take advantage of what your local farmers market has to offer.
Photo courtesy of NatalieMaynor via Flickr