By Cecilia McCrary, Abbey Willard, and Hailee May
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
One of the greatest barriers preventing consumers from purchasing local food at farmers’ markets is the perception that farmers’ markets are too expensive. Many consumers report that they avoid purchasing local food at direct marketing outlets, such as farmers’ markets, for fear of high costs.
Last year, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) conducted a pilot research project, “A Comparison Study of Product Pricing at Vermont Farmers’ Markets and Retail Establishments,” to address these consumer concerns and determine whether local products sold at farmers’ markets are indeed more expensive. The study concluded that farmers’ markets are a good option for consumers whose purchasing decisions are driven by price as well as local and/or organic attributes.
Photo by Vermont Tourism and Marketing
In August 2015, the VAAFM gathered pricing information on more than 50 local products found at 13 farmers’ markets across the state and compared those prices to the prices of similar products sold at five different retail establishments in Central Vermont, including grocery stores and gas stations. The products reviewed in this study included a wide cross-section of commonly purchased foods, including organic and nonorganic produce, meats and proteins, and local products.
The results of the pilot study determined that commonly purchased foods can be affordably priced at farmers’ markets. A few key findings include:
- 92% of certified organic produce available at farmers’ markets is competitively priced (within a 10% price range) with the same items found at retail stores.
- Local meats and proteins available at farmers’ markets are also competitively priced with retail establishments more than 57% of the time.
- When comparing local products, farmers’ market prices are competitive a majority of the time, and, in some cases, local products available at farmers’ markets are actually less expensive than the same local products available at retail establishments.
- Local, certified-organic products available at farmers’ markets are almost always (89% of the time) competitively priced with the same products available at retail establishments.
The purpose of this study is to guide consumers in making informed food choices based on accurate pricing data and awareness of local and organic options.
Over the next two years, the VAAFM, in partnership with NOFA-VT, will work to expand the existing body of research to complete a comprehensive statewide product price comparison study.
For access to “A Comparison Study of Product Pricing at Vermont Farmers’ Markets and Retail Establishments,” and future related resources, visit the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets webpage or inquire about copies available at the VAAFM.
This piece was originally published in Agriview by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.