As secretary of the Vale of Glamorgan Farmers Market and a regular stall holder I hear time and time again people say they cannot afford to shop at the farmers’ market. They argue only the well-heeled can afford to buy free-range eggs and heirloom tomatoes at the market.
As a huge fan of the Farmers market, local produce and the values it stands for it’s tough to hear it being bad mouthed. I wondered how I might be able to somehow celebrate the Farmers’ Market, help to show that it is not the exclusive rich-person’s club it is often made out to be, and highlight the benefits of the market.
Customers at the Vale of Glamorgan Farmers Market are assured of the provenance of the produce as market rules lay down stringent standards, which must be met before a producer is allowed to sell at a market.
- the products are produced within a defined local area
- the food producer runs the stall
- only products he or she produces are allowed to be sold
I decided to undertake my own very unscientific price comparison between some of the major supermarkets and the farmers market. The hardest thing was to compare products like for like, this is especially difficult with the many artisan products offered at the market such a cheese, preserves, cakes and breads. Unique products of this quality, individuality and freshness are simply not available at the supermarket. Produce at the Farmers Market is always going to be seasonal, and therefore some items will not always be available, and we are never going to be able to compete against the cheapest ranges and BOGOF deals. These are completely different products, and that’s not our target market - we want to convince people that buy the mid to top range products that we are a viable alternative.
At the market on Saturday I asked the stall holders around me for a few random prices and then set about comparing them with the supermarkets. The result was surprising, where I expected the market prices to be comparable or maybe a little more expensive, I felt that the better quality and freshness justified this difference. The reality was that almost all the market prices are cheaper than the supermarkets.
The whole experience of shopping in the farmer’s market makes buying food such a pleasure, supermarkets won’t engage you in conversation about the trials of producing a certain product, or share with you their pride in the end result. The difference between supermarket and farmers market produce goes beyond price and quality. While I agree that you are not going to buy everything you need for your weekly shop at the market, why not come to the market first, see what is on offer, sample the produce, and experience the atmosphere, before you head off to the impersonal supermarket.
Shopping at a farmers market puts money back into the community, helps the environment and makes food buying into an adventure instead of just a chore.