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How to Save Money at Farmers’ Markets



I am a huge advocate of farmers’ markets.  I wrote a series of articles I wrote to show how anyone can save 40%+ off their food budget.  See 10-Step Supermarket Combination Technique.  I explained that one of the steps is by using farmers’ markets (see Buy Local and Know Where to Go).  I was bombarded with comments from people who said they found produces more expensive at farmers’ markets.  That is when I realized I should have explained the difference between farmers’ markets in the USA.

Therefore, this article will detail the two different types of farmers’ markets that we have in the United States.  The timing is perfect because National Farmers Market Week is next month from August 6 to August 12, 2017.

Two Types of Farmers’ Markets

Public Markets are Farmers' Markets

Public Markets

The United States has primarily two types of farmers’ markets: street markets and public markets.  Any vendor who sells produce inside a fixed structure (brick & mortar building) will be open for business year-round.  Those types of markets are referred to as “Public Markets”. Public market vendors will always charge more because they must pay rental fees.  They must rent the stalls they use, electricity, heating and air conditioning.  If the building is inside city limits, they must also pay city taxes. Additionally, many of those retailers do not even grow the produce that they sell.

Street Markets are Farmers' Markets

Street Markets

I was referring to “Street Markets” in my Buy Local and Know Where to Go articles. Stree Markets are just that: people set up tables on street corners, along the side of the road, in parking lots, in some state parks, etc.  Street markets are always held outdoors.  There may be one huge tent to cover all the tables that everyone has. Some people provide their own tents to keep the sun off their produce.  Street Markets are only available during growing season.  Vendors at street markets do grow their own produce.  They make their own artisanal food, raise bees and sell their own honey, sell jams & jellies from berries they grow, bake their own bread, etc.  While on this topic, check out Morning Chores’ article: Four Delicious and Different Ways to Make Homemade Butter in Your Kitchen. Their website also offers other great informational articles such as 12 Food Preservation Methods Food to Make Your & Harvest Last Longer.  Although the article references growing your own food, the same concept works for if you buy produce at a street market.

In addition to lower prices and fresher tasting produce, guest editor from the United Kingdom, Joe Thomas, provided an article titled: 10 Reasons Why You Should Buy Locally Grown Food in which he provides a variety of other reasons regarding why locally grown foods are a smart choice.

Public Market Perks

Public Markets do have great uses.  You just need to know your prices before going.   You also need to know what kinds of items you can get at the best prices.  In some cases, you can get produce at a better price.  Normally, that is not the case.  I recently moved from Delaware to Florida.  I used to get most of my seasonings from the New Castle Farmers’ Market (a public market) in Delaware.  Those same seasonings were much more expensive at supermarkets. Additionally, there were several Amish vendors at the New Castle Farmers’ Market.  I used to get a lot of meat and homemade fruit bread from the Amish.  The prices for those items were usually more than other stores; however, the quality was much better and worth the price.

Reading Terminal Market is a Farmers' Market

Reading Terminal Market

Whenever we went to the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, PA, it was utter chaos to get the foods that each member of my family wanted.  So, why did we do it?  Because it was fun to get our favorite foods from the different restaurant stands and then meet for lunch. Even though that is a public market, I would never buy seasonings there.  Why? Because their prices are much more expensive than at the New Castle Farmers’ Market. We got flavored vinegar and olive oils there because those prices were better than anywhere else.

Now that I am in Florida, I’ll be looking for farmers’ markets of either type that sell seasonings. I stocked up before I left Delaware so I have 6-months to 1 year before they need to be replaced.

Brief History

Farming has been around for anywhere from 5,000 to 12,000 years according to Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Science Magazine, and ScienceNordic. Farmers (whether those that owned livestock or grew produce) followed trade routes where they sold their wares to passersby.

As populations began localizing into communities, farmers could focus on selling locally rather than traveling trade routes.  In the United States, trading posts popped up along trade routes.  Trading posts morphed into general stores that sold all types of dry goods.  Perishable items could only be purchased by going to dairy farmers, butchers, bakers, and agricultural farmers.

Modernization continued to progress and general stores could begin offering perishable items in addition to dry goods.  The convenience of being able to go to one market to get all food items took hold and individual butchers, bakers (and candlestick makers!) began to fade out.  General stores became known as grocery stores.  By the way, the term grocery comes from the Latin word groceria (meaning grocery) and grocerius (meaning a grocer).

Today’s World

Fast forward and the general public has begun to be concerned with health-related issues as well as saving money.  The quality of food sold at many supermarkets has declined as store managers find ways to pay their employees as well as remaining competitive with their competition.  One way they accomplish that goal is to buy cheaper items and charge the same prices they did for better quality items.  Manufacturers are reducing their package size and still charge the same price they did for larger size packages.

Personally, I am offended by that because they seem to think that the general public does not notice.  However, the general public is not stupid.  They know that one pound is still equivalent to 16 ounces no matter how you package it.  I would be less offended if manufacturers simply increased the price of their products to keep up with inflation.  After all, that is what they really are doing.  Being so underhanded about it insults the intelligence of the general public.

History Repeats Itself

As a result of all the above, people have begun to go back to purchasing quality items we want from individual butchers, bakers, farmers, etc. and once again farmers’ markets have become very popular.

By the way, I thought I would clarify the difference between grocery store and supermarket.  Grocery stores limit the items they sell to primarily food items of all kinds.  Supermarkets sell foods of all kinds in addition to kitchenware items, household goods, pharmacy products, pet supplies, sporting goods, tools, garden products, etc.

Both street markets and public markets are known by many names around the world: Market Places, Floating Markets, Night Markets, Bazaars, to name a few.  As you can see, farmers’ markets are popular around the world.

To be continued next week: How to Save Money with Locally Grown Food


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