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About Farmers Market Prices
An Open Letter to the Farmers Market Community
At farmers markets all over the state I see pricing structures on locally grown fruit and veggies that just don't compute.
When I started a small farmers market adjacent to the Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative on Napoopoo Road in the mid-1990s, avocados were $1.00 each and bananas were 5 for $1.00, as that was roughly what the prices were in grocery stores. Back then my Kaiser insurance was $680/month and gas $2.23/gal or so. My insurance is now $1300/month and you know what gas has gone up to. I'm sure you all have stories like this.
Prices at grocers for avocados have gone from $1.99 to $3.99 at KTA for imported avocados, and at some stores from $0.69-$2.45/lb for local avocados. Why haven’t farmers market prices gone up too?
Are we so fearful of not selling as many as our neighbor that we have to drop prices when what we sell for does not even approach the local grocery price? We talk about sustainability and having strong farms and a strong economy in our community but then we drop prices at a farmers market to undercut other sellers, or just so we don’t get stuck taking some home.
I view this as a problem and one we should all address. If you want to be sustainable you cannot sell for a price less than the cost of production! We must learn that our time and energy has value and you need to pay yourself for the work you do on your farm or in your kitchen.
What all of us, vendors and customers, need to understand is that this market is a place you come to for fresh and local produce. Its not a flea market, not a place to come to look for a bargain. We are at the top of the pile, not the bottom, and our prices should reflect that.
Some of our customers know it. If they didn't, corn couldn’t be sold for $1.25 an ear, or an avocado for $2.00. We need to either educate more of our potential customers -- or let them stay with the supermarket and pay higher for imports. Just take the time to check the prices at markets and compare them to what you charge for locally grown produce.
We all have to practice what we preach if we want to stay in agriculture and be sustainable.
Ken Love is president of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers (http://www.hawaiitropicalfruitgrowers.org/), and has been promoting the growing and marketing of local, sustainably grown fruits for as long as anyone can remember.