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State study: Vermont farmers’ markets offer affordable prices

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 & Markets (VAAFM) conducted a pilot research project to address these consumer concerns and determine whether or not 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.

In August 2015, VAAFM gathered pricing information on over 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 convenience stores. The products reviewed in this study included a wide cross-section of commonly purchased foods, including organic and non-organic 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 from “A Comparison Study of Product Pricing at Vermont Farmers’ Markets and Retail Establishments” include:

Ninety-two percent of certified organic produce available at farmers’ markets is competitively priced (within a 10 percent 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 percent of the time.

When comparing local products, farmers’ market prices are competitive most of the time, and, in some cases, less expensive than the same items available at retail establishments.

Local, certified-organic products available at farmers’ markets are almost always (89 percent 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, VAAFM, in partnership with NOFA-VT, will work to expand on the existing body or research to complete a comprehensive state-wide product price comparison study.

For access to the price comparison study, “A Comparison Study of Product Pricing at Vermont Farmers’ Markets and Retail Establishments,” and future related resources, visit agriculture.vermont.gov/localfooddatatracking or inquire about copies available at the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets at 116 State in Montpelier.

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