Farmers’ Market Food Prices Mean I’m Not a Starving Artist

Food prices are a disaster this year.  No, I’m not an economist (ha!). It’s been so obvious in 2022 that even a book author like me can do the math. But amidst all the rapidly rising cost trends at grocery stores, the same thing doesn’t appear to be happening – at least not nearly to the same extent, if at all – at my local farmers’ market. That has definitely surprised me.

A typical farmers’ market haul from August

It All Happened When I Wasn’t Looking

The weird thing about those climbing food prices is that, until recently, I didn’t actually realize how bad they were. There’s an unexpected (to me, at least) reason for that. If you’ve been reading my blogs this year (thank you!), you might have spotted the post I wrote at the end of July about my favourite local farmers’ market, and the difference it has made to my mental health.

At that time, I’d only just started to realize that the farmers, growers, artisans, and makers there weren’t increasing their food prices at the same rate as my local grocery store. In fact, many of them weren’t increasing prices this year at all, and they still haven’t.

Typical farmers’ market haul from September (check out those purple potatoes!)

The reason I didn’t know the difference was that I just wasn’t shopping at the grocery store as much. I shop at a discount grocery store, once every couple of weeks. There, I tend to skip most of the sections around the border (produce, bakery, meat/poultry/fish, dairy, etc), because I buy all those foods at the farmers’ market (or grow them myself in my laundry tub gardens).  At the store, I’ll pick up things like ice cream, canned beans (I make a mean burrito bowl), pasta, rice, and chips. Some of those prices – particularly pasta – have changed, but since there isn’t much in my grocery cart, and it doesn’t contain any of the most expensive food items, the change in the total isn’t huge.

One day’s harvest from my laundry tub garden!

I’m…Saving Money at the Farmer’s Market? What!

I’d always assumed that I was paying a lot more at the farmers’ market. When I first started shopping there, the prices of many products were higher than the somewhat equivalent foods at my discount grocery store. Of course, my grocery store doesn’t sell certified organic beef or pasture-raised pork, and the produce they sell certainly isn’t picked that morning.

The food at the store isn’t as local, nutritious (even fresh produce loses its nutrient value the longer it waits after it’s picked), or even as filling (I’m not kidding – give it a try. Farmers’ market food fills you up!). For that reason, it didn’t feel like I was shopping for exactly the same foods, so the prices weren’t a direct comparison.

All the veggies I needed to make my Great Aunt Marge’s mustard pickles!

But as food prices continued to make headlines, and as it became a hotter topic of discussion, I got curious.

If the grocery store is getting more expensive but the farmers’ market isn’t, am I still paying more?

The table below is a comparison of some of the items I found the most surprising. If you’re a person who likes numbers, then you might like the comparison tables I’ve added for far more items at the bottom of this post.

Comparing was difficult. As I mentioned earlier, in most cases, I’d say that there is no comparison. After all, the pork at my farmer’s market is pasture raised, and I couldn’t find that at any of the grocery stores that listed their prices online. Same for the certified organic beef. There really isn’t any way to compare the baked goods from the artisanal bakeries at the market when compared to offerings at grocery store chains.  Even the honey is local and unpasteurized, which I couldn’t find in products at the grocery stores.

So, I did my best. I compared the closest products or the cheapest products…but even the apples to apples weren’t really apples to apples…Not in terms of flavour, hunger satisfaction, low environmental impact/carbon footprint, or nutritional quality, and certainly not in terms of supporting local small businesses and the local economy.

I don’t know about your grocery store, but mine certainly can’t promise that most of the comparable products were grown/raised/made within about a 20-minute drive of their location. My local farmers’ market sure can!

Crunching the Numbers

Here’s a comparison of some of the big local grocery store prices that I found online in September 2022 with the prices I see at the Thornton Farmers’ Market in Ontario and at Farm-to-Family – Local Fare Barrie (an online order/curbside pickup farmers’ market consisting of many of the same vendors as the Thornton Farmers’ Market, as well as several others).

These prices don’t include sale food prices or the fall harvest discounts currently in place at both farmers markets and grocery stores. They’re the full prices I see most often. I do acknowledge that many prices move up and down depending on what’s in season and based on geographic location, and that is not reflected in these numbers, which are based on the moment I collected them at the stores nearest to me.

Julie B Campbell - Farmer's Market Food Prices
***Please note that as of the day I posted this, the price of the bacon at the Farmer’s Market went DOWN! It is not reflected in this table. I didn’t hear about it in time.

Holy Climbing Grocery Store Food Prices, Batman!

Here’s the boring stuff. The down and dirty data. If you like numbers, here they are.

According to a report in The Daily from Statcan (Statistics Canada) that looked at trends from April 2021 to April 2022, over two in five Canadians called rising food prices the expense affecting them the most. During that span of time, those grocery store price tags rose by 9.7% on average. Since April, prices have only climbed higher in many categories.

During the report’s timeframe, Canadians paid an average of:

  • Meat (+10.1%)
  • Fresh fruit (+10%)
  • Fresh vegetables (+8.2%)

In combination with all the other rising expenses – housing, transportation and essentially everything else – it has also become a lot harder to find the money for a food budget that keeps up with the rising costs.

When Canadians were asked which expense affected them the most, 43% said it was food.

Statistics Canada’s Consumer Price Index, July 2022 showed that food prices in July 2022 were 9.9% higher than they had been in July 2021. Among the categories with the biggest increases included:

  • Eggs (+15.8%)
  • Coffee and tea (+13.8%)
  • Bakery products (+13.6%)
  • Fresh fruit (+11.7%)
  • Preserved fruit and fruit preparations (+10.4%)
  • Non-alcoholic beverages (+9.7%)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  If you have a local farmers’ market, I highly recommend visiting and shopping there. Say ‘hello’ to the people who grow and make the food in your region.  Support them, your local economy, the environment, your nutrition, and (best of all?) your taste buds!

Thanksgiving is coming up. What better way to give thanks to your family, your local community and economy, and yourself?

Published by Julie B Campbell

Julie B. Campbell is a Canadian fiction author and co-author (with Amanda Giasson) of the Perspective series books ("Love at First Plight", "Second Wind", "Third Time's a Charmer", and "So On and So Fourth"). Julie has also written children's books such as "The Elephant-Wolf" and "Finding Manda's Sunshine", as well as her most recent kids' title "An Ogre Ate My Sparkles!". She is a rosacea blogger and YouTuber under the name Rosy JulieBC.

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