why farmer’s markets aren’t the answer for local food
This interesting post brought up some important concerns about sustainability of the local food movement that rarely gets mentioned.
We talked about it at length at the BC Farmer’s Market Association’s AGM last year. Joel Salatin was the keynote speaker and talked a lot about the problematic nature of farmer’s markets for both farmers and consumers.
Personally, although we have a vibrant, thriving community of farmer’s markets here in Vancouver, I don’t go very often. When I do its usually to pick up honey, have a treat from A Bread Affair (best bread ever), and people watch.
I haven’t tried to seriously shop there since the time I bought tomatoes to can and one (not very big bag) set me back FIFTY BUCKS. Yes. You heard me right. Five Zero. Fifty.
How can anyone sustain that?
Joel had two main issues with farmer’s markets. First of all, most markets now require the actual farmers to be the ones selling. In fact, here in Vancouver, the main marketing message for our markets is Meet Your Maker.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s a nice idea. And a practical one in terms of protecting the integrity of the market.
However, how many markets would a farmer have to attend each week in the summer to make a living? Two? Four? Five? More? I don’t know. What I do know, is time at the market is time away from the farm.
Not very conducive to farming.
Second, Joel points out that most folks who shop at farmer’s markets are like me.
How on earth can a farmer expect to make a living selling a handful of beans to each customer? Maybe that’s why 10 pounds of heirloom tomatoes cost me 50 dollars.
What farmers need is folks to come by and buy a BUSHEL of beans. Joel says if you love your farmers, that’s what you’ll do. Let them know ahead of time, tell them you’ll take less-than-beautiful product and make his or her day.
Personally though, I’m still happiest buying directly from farmers. I love our meat pickup days. There is something joyfully ironic about a bunch of families waiting in the parking lot of Costco to meet their farmer to buy beautiful, organic, pastured meats.
I get to shake his hand, ask after his family and most importantly,
say thank you.