It’s veggie season again and that means those of us who sell produce at market have to step away from the fields and weeds for a few minutes every week to research prices. Consumers look for the best deals and selling any commodity requires competitive pricing on the part of the seller. There’s a fine line, however, between asking too much and not enough, and that line changes from week to week as things come in and out of season.
For those of us who sell at farmers markets pricing is always a struggle. We want to offer consumers a fair deal and encourage them to buy from us instead of the big chain stores. But we also need to make a living, to pay for seeds, market fees, fuel, and all the other costs that come with growing and selling. It’s all too easy to undervalue a product just to sell, and that seems innocent enough on the surface. After all, customers love a great deal! In the grand scheme of things, however, under-pricing creates a vicious cycle that undermines everyone, especially when multiple vendors have the same product.
If vendors don’t charge enough for their items:
- The market becomes unprofitable for the vendors and they don’t return. The market fails.
- Consumers develop an expectation that the product has less value, and therefore become unwilling to pay a realistic price. Farms fail.
- Consumers end up with less choice when it comes to buying local. The local food system fails.
Determining a realistic and fair price for an item doesn’t have to be an an onerous task. There are multiple ways to choose fair pricing:
- Organicpricetracker.ca averages regional prices for a multitude of produce types. It’s a quick and easy-to-use resource for up-to-date data on market, wholesale, and bulk pricing.
- Looking around at supermarkets and other farmers markets can provide a guideline for the average price of items. Of course it’s important to compare organic to organic, weight to weight… lettuce shipped from Mexico cannot be considered the same as no-spray lettuce picked from a farmer’s field an hour before market.
- Talk to other vendors and agree on a fair price.
- Consider the value that product has to you, the vendor! There comes a price point where I’d rather take an item home and feed it to the pigs than sell for less. After all, pig food costs money too. Don’t have pigs? If your tomatoes went ballistic and you have way too many, instead of selling them for nothing why not donate them to a food bank or soup kitchen?
Dumping of product at unrealistic prices isn’t good for the vendorship, it isn’t good for the market, and in the long run it isn’t good for the consumer, either. Farmers markets aren’t flea markets… they are venues for local producers to sell quality product at fair prices, and make a living in the process. We need to cooperate to ensure that we CAN make a living. We also need to engage consumers and make sure they understand how and why prices are determined, and why sometimes our products are worth a little more than the chain store “equivalents”. If we undersell ourselves we’re underselling a whole local economy, it’s that simple. Make sure the price is right!