Locally produced food cheaper at stores than farmers' markets?

April 06, 2011|By Liz F. Kay

Just wanted to draw everyone's attention to a line in Laura Vozzella's story about the new Baltimore Food Co-op, which should be opening mid-spring.

It will take over the same space where Cheryl Wade now operates the Mill Valley General Store on Sisson Street, off Interstate 83 in Remington.

In her story, Laura points out that Mill Valley "has been known to sell Gunpowder ground bison for less than Gunpowder itself sells it directly to shoppers at area farmers' markets."

I also noticed that Zeke's Coffee was selling its coffee beans at the JFX market for more per pound than it costs at least one local brick-and-mortar store that carries it.

Now, one of the features of the farmers' market is that you have eliminated the middleman, and the entire purchase price goes to the producer. That's why it's surprising to find some prices higher there than in traditional stores, where I would expect to be paying more for overhead and convenience.

However, I'm sure farmers' market vendors have overhead of their own, in terms of the fees they pay to host a stall, transportation and staffing. They may be taking advantage of a different convenience calculation as well --- reaching customers that shop at the farm markets regularly but don't stop at Mill Valley often.

The producers may also have to negotiate lower prices with stores who feel their customers won't buy items over a certain price point.

Have you noticed any price differences between locally produced products sold both area farmers' markets and brick-and-mortar stores? Are there instances when you are willing or prefer to pay more?

UPDATED, 10:37 a.m.: In addition to making up for the overhead that farmers' market vendors incur, local producers may actually move more volume at traditional stores than at the market, when their sales hours are limited. 

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