Farmers markets vs. grocery stores: A price comparison

Guest post by Maya Montemayor and Nina Gruber of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance (NFMA)

In an effort to further understand the economics behind food shopping choices, Seattle University (SU) students conducted a price comparison study featuring the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance (NFMA) and other Seattle grocery store options like PCC, Whole Foods, Central Co-op and QFC.

While it is a common notion that farmers markets are more expensive than other options, the students showed that the costs of supporting local farmers at the market were comparable, or even cheaper than buying similar produce at the grocery store.

U-district FM Recipe comparison
Comparing ingredient costs from farmers market vs. grocery store (image courtesy of Seattle University’s Cici Pham)

By comparing the prices of ingredients for a mushroom, leek and squash recipe, students found that “Farmers markets can be cheaper, especially for produce at the peak of their season.” This suggests that shopping seasonally and locally can cut costs if you plan ahead and aim for foods in their peak season (when supplies are high), buy in bulk, and buy directly from the farmer.

Shopping at farmers markets in your community contributes to the local economy, keeps smaller farms in business, and diversifies your diet. According to the study, the grocery stores stocked 69% less of the types of produce investigated on average than the farmers at market. And, 100% of the produce available at NFMA markets is locally sourced, so your dollars always go directly to the Washington state grower standing on the other side of the lettuce display. Plus, farmers markets generally have heirloom varietals and specialty produce that simply never reach the grocers’ shelves.

Buying fresh, seasonal produce from the farmers market can be comparable to grocery store prices, and is often a better deal. Then consider the added value of the farmers market: fresh, tasty food at peak ripeness, purchased directly from those who know it best. Sounds like a deal! Stop by a market near you and try your own price comparison study.

The Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance is committed to supporting and strengthening Washington’s small family farm businesses by creating and operating vibrant, successful neighborhood farmers markets. Studies from Seattle University students Cici Pham and Fayme Mann.

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