Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NOFA-VT Price Study

      Do you want to switch to local and organic foods but think that you can't cover the price? Did you know that it may actually be cheaper to shop at farmers' markets?
      The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) set out to answer the question: Is locally-grown and organic food really more expensive? "Vermont Farmers' Markets and Grocery Stores: A Price Comparison"is a 29-page report that was recently published.  In the report, the authors estimate that there are over 5,200 farmers' markets in the United States, yet Americans spend only .2% of their food dollars at farmers' markets.  The authors argue that the main reason for this is because of the perception that prices are higher at farmers' markets than at conventional grocery stores.
      To look at the question of pricing, five researchers set out to collect prices from farmers' markets, conventional grocery stores, and co-ops around the state of Vermont.  Prices were collected over a two-month period, three times each month.  At each location, researchers collected prices for 12 items, including blueberries, corn, cucumbers, eggs, green peppers, head lettuce, mesclun and spring mix lettuce, potatoes, snow peas, string beans, squash, and tomatoes.

      After some statistical analysis, the report concluded that the difference in prices between farmers' markets and grocery stores is largely exaggerated.  For all organic products, except for potatoes, prices were cheaper at farmers' markets!  The authors argue that as local operations become more efficient, prices will continue to drop.  
      So what's the lesson from this study? If you are looking to buy organic (which you should!) try shopping at your local farmers' market.
      For the full report, please visit http://nofavt.org/sites/default/files/NOFA%20Price%20Study.pdf.

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