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The $30,000 Carrot: Farmers' Market Pricing

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Farmers' Market pricing can be vexing. Why are carrots 2 dollars more per pound at one stand than all the others? Why is it that some crops are cheaper than their supermarket counterparts, and some triple the price? Having worked on farms, I understand the urge to charge $30,000 per carrot (if you ever weed a 100-foot row of baby carrots, you will, too). But how do farmers determine equitable prices for their food - ensuring accessibility of their food and simultaneously maintaining their own livelihood?

Edible Communities has a great piece on the many factors that go into deciding how much to charge for a given product. First, there are certain social considerations to be accounted for when setting prices - should need be factored in? What about the quality of the food itself - if it is a necessity should it cost more or less than a commodity? And what about the farmer's quality of life - why should producing food be akin to taking a vow of poverty? Shouldn't farmers, who produce the food we eat, be payed just as much as bankers and lawyers?

The Farmer's Dillemma: Choosing a Price from Edible Communities

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about 3 years ago smslaw

Most of the people at the farmer's markets I used to sell at, including me, are/were very small operators with very little usable data as to costs of production, comparative prices, etc.
When you need to sell it today, because there's no market tomorrrow and it won't last until the day after tomorrow, you tend to underprice stuff just to get rid of it.
Some farmers around here (Maine) have interns (a/k/a free labor) so their costs are unrealistically low.
It is incredibly difficult to make enough money at a farmer's market in an area not close to a big population center, especially if you have a short season. Add the fact that in rural areas lots of people have gardens, so your fabulous tomatoes are prized only if you manage to get them earlier than everyone else. I have seen no real data, but I suspect the sweet spot for farmer's markets is affluent suburbs of good-sized cities.
Some foods, like cucumbers or squash, are more or less a commodity, in the sense that most people don't see much difference in taste between one shipped from CA and one grown here, so the fact that I need $3 per pound to make it worthwhile doesn't help if a similar item can be bought at the supermarket for $1.
On the other hand, organic does have its advocates and commands a better price.