Farmers and their farms survive by selling what they produce, be it directly to the public or wholesale to distributors. We have been direct marketers for most of Jim’s farming career – starting with a roadside wagon and progressing to an on-farm market.
This year we are venturing into attending some farmers markets, after having helped our sons at farmers markets they attend. Setting up, displaying and taking down at each market is an interesting challenge in how to successfully sell what we grow. Meeting people who want to support farmers but not necessarily visit a farm, is a fun part of the experience. Most are so gracious and appreciative but some look at you like you are a bandit charging way too much considering what they can buy it for at the store.
It happens every year. At the peak of the season for various crops the supermarket flyers come out with these fruits and vegetables at giveaway prices. For the farmer it is just another challenge as these are prices that are always below production costs. This price differential is a real conversation starter when our customers ask why our prices are not as low.
Some reasons for the low prices are easy – supermarkets are using them to get you into their stores – produce can be an attractive loss leader. For them it is just one item out of thousands that they stock and who leaves the store with just the one sale item? Check to see if it is even grown in Ontario. They also can buy volumes and some farmers are glad to unload their whole crop at one time for a small profit. Who knows how much companies are willing to lose in one area to gain more in others. It must work for them as this practice has not changed in years.
Farmers are usually stubborn, optimistic risk takers who love working on the land and will try to keep on farming. To match these low supermarket prices would spell eventual doom for the farm. The prices that you see posted in our markets are prices that reflect the cost of maintaining our farm and soil as well as the cost of planting, growing, harvesting, grading and packing, transporting and selling of the produce plus a bit of profit so the farm remains economically sustainable and a contributor to the community. There are also a number of people on the farm working hard to get that food to you. They love what they do but they also like to eat and be paid a decent wage for their efforts.
Most customers at the farm and farmers markets come for the freshness and quality of the food and for the opportunity to directly support the farmers. They understand a fair price for a good product. We are truly grateful for your support.