Local garlic and other high prices [General]

2009 Aug 15
I visited the Carp farmers market today while the "garlic festival" was going on.

I really couldn't believe the prices. $3 dollars for ONE "large" head of garlic? and by large they mean a normal grocery store size head of chinese garlic. A "bunch" of garlic which was probably about 20 *small* heads was $35? I damn near fell over

I bought some heirloom green beans (which were not all green, some black and yellow and very tastey!) for $3 which ended up being a reasonable size for a side dish for two of us at dinner. I bought 4... yes FOUR medium sized heirloom carrots for freaking $3.

I could get a huge bag of carrots for that price at any grocery store. I can buy 6 heads of garlic for under a buck at a grocery store.

Can people who do not grow their own really sustain themselves on local vegies when buying from farmers markets? I'd be hapy to pay double in some cases, and I do for heirloom tomatoes because they are worth it. For garlic, potatoes, carrots and other staple foods it's 10x the cost and up.

These farmers markets are more treats for me than anything I can actually live off of.

2009 Aug 15
Supply and demand - people will pay it, so they charge it.

Those prices are way more than the Parkdale Market BTW

2009 Aug 16
Yeah we've discussed this thread before, but markets such as Montreal get great local produce for relatively cheap. Personally I think the difference is more people who really like to cook with local food, as opposed to those who go with the local/organic trends but don't really cook on a regular basis. Just a hunch. Unless you go with a CSA, I really don't think you can afford to buy much at the Carp or Landsdown market - ie enough to feed your family. Its more of treat kind of thing.

The other factor is that alot of the folks at these market are doing it as a hobby. Although that doesn't apply to Acorn Creek - which is one of the most expensive (still like their produce though).

2009 Aug 16
BTW, as reported in my thread about preserving carrots, I got 15 lbs of heirloom carrots at Parkdale Market for $15. That was an exceptional bargain and not an every-day price, but still prices are generally-speaking pretty fair to me.

I just got 15 really nice looking Niagara pears for $5 which I consider to be a fair price.

2009 Aug 16
I was at the Jean-Talon market last weekend, a 15lbs bag of carrots was $3, 20 lbs of beets $12, competition rules there; I have to go back before the end of summer. Got a beautiful braid of red garlic for $12, certainly more expensive than the supermarket but it's not from China!

2009 Aug 16
The garlic is well worth the price. That stuff in the supermarket has green sprouts growing in it half the time givng a bitter taste not to mention the cloves are tiny.

2009 Aug 16
Whoops, I made a typo above. My 15 lbs of heirloom carrots was also $3.

2009 Aug 16
Garlic @ Parkdale market is $1/bulb. Considerably less than Carp if you work in the cost of gas to and from the Carp market.

2009 Aug 16
Im with orleansfoodie on this one. Its well worth the trip to montreal to get some nice produce for pickle/preserving. The fresh chili selection makes me all hot and bothered just thinking about it!! Not to mention, good smoked sausage and piglets!

2009 Aug 17
I paid a ruddy fortune for garlic at the Carp garlic festival, but I wanted an authentic braid of the stuff. I will have to check out parkdale though, if they have reasonable prices (~$1 each) of local garlic. They are close enough to me that they are worth checking out.

2009 Aug 17
I bought garlic when it was first coming on at Jean Talon...and I am pretty sure it was 2$ per head, or perhaps even a bit more. It was fantastic, but certainly a bit of a luxury. I also found blueberries, raspberries and strawberries and occasionally corn to be really pricy from the road side stands I have visited this summer. Fiddleheads and wild garlic were pretty pricy at the market this year as well.

That being said, I generally find the prices at Byward, where I get most of my produce, to be fantastic. .75$ for lettuce and broccoli. 1$ for cauliflower and parsley. 4 cukes for a buck. I don't even think NoFrills or Food Basics can compete with those prices, and that's not accounting for the huge gap in quality.

2009 Aug 17
We hit up Jean Talon once a year and as posted find great deals on local produce. I'm sure Parkdale is pretty good too - but Jean Talon and the surrounding places to nibble are just astounding. Highly recommended to any one with a day on their hands and some time to drive.

2009 Aug 20
Hey Folks,

I am new to this forum and was drawn to it by this conversation. First, let me advise you that I am the President of the Carp Farmers' Market and a commercial vegetable producer. I do this so that you will know upfront that I do not come to this conversation without some personal perspective.

Just recently, I finished a farmer to farmer training session sponsored by Just Food, and the Carp and Ottawa Farmers' Markets. Our goal was and is to encourage a new generation of farmers to get involved in direct sales. One of the questions participants frequently asked was can we make a living doing this(?) My response was that it is not easy. That is why threads that complain about the price of produce are so discouraging. No-one is getting rich selling vegetables. In fact, it is really difficult to get new people involved because it is such hard work and has such limited financial reward.

Yes, there were $3 garlic bulbs at the Carp Garlic Festival. But there was also tons of garlic available at lower prices. You make a choice each time you make a purchase. Fortunately, a lot of people do opt to support local agriculture and, we the producers, do appreciate them.

Reference was made to comparison prices at other markets. I won't call them Farmers' Markets because there are real questions as to whether the vendors are actually producers. Consumers can be assured that the Carp Farmers' Market is a producer-based market. That means that if you haven't grown it, baked it or made it you can't sell it. The City of Ottawa is going through a major effort to encourage other markets to also be the same. If you are at another market and are uncertain, ask to see the vendor's Savour Ottawa certification. It is only given to those who have been varified as being what they claim to be.

If your interest is limited to the cheapest price for produce then I would suggest that you give true Farmers' Markets a pass. If quality and buying local is important then true Farmers' Markets are a place to shop.

Heres hoping we see you soon at the Carp Farmers' Market.

2009 Aug 20
Not wanting to be a stickler, but there are couple of points I would like to make. These are made in good faith and my goal is to raise discussion, not dissension.

1. I've been to other markets across the country and across the globe. Take for example, St. Jacob's in Waterloo. The food there is consistently cheaper, and by a fair margin, than that of the supermarket. While I do not doubt it is a difficult to be a farmer and I have great respect and admiration for those who do, I find it difficult to understand the disparity in the prices unless you can show me why it costs 3x more to grow fruits and veggies in the Ottawa Valley as opposed to the Waterloo area.

2. Comparing different vendors from different markets is like comparing apples and oranges. I agree that this should not be done. However, as in a previous thread, I would like to say that the SAME vendor selling the SAME product at DIFFERENT markets for DIFFERENT prices is, to be blunt, dishonest and wrong. I understand that there may be different market dynamics at play, e.g. Glebe-ites are better off and therefore don't mind paying more for the experience of a "market", but there are people who shop at both markets and find the experience off putting to say the least.

2009 Aug 20
However, as in a previous thread, I would like to say that the SAME vendor selling the SAME product at DIFFERENT markets for DIFFERENT prices is, to be blunt, dishonest and wrong.

I agree with the exception of those vendors who charge a bit more because they have retailers who sell their product in the area. For example, Bekings sells at Byward, but charges a bit more because Sasloves sells their product. I think it's appropriate, especially beacuse Beking's is transparent about why they are doing it.

2009 Aug 20
Snoopy Loopy - Good post.

RE - Montreal vs Ottawa

This has been discussed before on Ottawa Foodies, Quebec has a lot more Market Gardening / Truck Farming (requires vast amounts of flat land... popular spots are all along the St Lawrence River). This does not, will never exist in the Ottawa Valley (geography & climate). These are the guys that you'll see at most Farmers' Markets in La Belle Province (just look at the addys on their trucks). Not the "farmer next door". They meet the "local" criteria (say a 100 mile radius) but they don't function the same way at all. So one cannot compare the two. Farmers in the OV grow on a much smaller scale... hence in the end things are more expensive.

"Closest" equivalent in Ontario would be down around London - Leamington - Windsor (hence the reason prices are again so good at the St Jacobs Farmers' Market).

DJ - Welcome aboard. Have been a Carp Farmers' Market fan since day one. Want to say you guys do an amazing job.

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LWB - I see the point about how prices differ at one Farmers' Market from another (annoying if you frequent more than one)... but in actuality that is just a fact of any marketplace (as DJ has said... the farmer is doing what he can to make a buck, at what the market will bear). Although when you think about it, this is no different than Loblaws and Metro, they are both grocery stores, but they definitely don't have the same pricing... and sometimes pricing can also be different from store to store (just like the FM at Carp could be different from Byward Market etc). As in all cases, the consumer has a choice where he chooses to shop (lol, at least now we have a choice of FMs... not so long ago there was only Byward & Parkdale).

2009 Aug 20
I'm guessing here but...stall rents may be different at each of the market locations and that could be reflected in the price as well.
I go to the Parkdale & Byward Markets and, overall, find the prices cheap and quality good+.

2009 Aug 21
Excellent comments! Just a couple of additional points. St. Jacob's might give one the impression that it is a farmers' market but alas it is not a producer-based market. Resellers there and in some markets in Ottawa dominate. Resellers are those that purchase the product elsewhere and then present it to you as their own. In effect, they act as outdoor supermarkets. Prices at these places are invariably cheaper than at true farmers' markets.

2009 Aug 21
But here is what I don't get DJ. Yes, these people are resellers. But they are reselling produce from where? From farmers! If they can make money as a middleman, why can not the farmers make money themselves selling first hand with no middle man?

Parkdale this year has quite a lot of actual farmers - I would say at least half of the vendors if not a little more. Prices are very good in my experience - and in fact very cheap in some cases. Extremely cheap. With the farmers, not just the resellers.

So I just don't buy it that the farmers at Carp cannot do it too. For one thing, I bet they aren't paying $800/month for their stall like they do at Parkdale.

I see it as simple supply and demand. They will charge what people will pay. It's like local beef and pork. Some local farmers charge you way more than supermarket prices. But it is not hard to find really high quality meat, raised ethically, for cheaper than supermarket prices.

2009 Aug 21
The farmer needs a person at the stall to sell their produce so...do they spend the day at the stall when there's a load to be done at the farm? Do they hire someone to work the stall? Or do they sell to the middleman? Tough decisions.

Last summer I was talking to Diane Drouin (of Drouin Gardens in Vars - a stall in the Byward Market - love 'em!). Her and her husband wake up at 3, do a delivery to Farm Boy, then onto the Byward Market for set-up, then Guy Drouin returns to the farm to work all day. Diane works the stall all day. Ooompf. I dreamily think...I'll take a couple days off during the week and volunteer for you Diane...you can finally have a break...sleep in until 7 maybe. Ah, luxury.

Support farmers! Buy direct whenever possible...and pay more than they're asking if you can :)

2009 Aug 21
Zym: I wonder if it's a matter of scale? I wouldn't be surprised if some people are taking hobby farm size plots of land, and trying to make a modern living off of it ( $5 head of garlic? ) I worked for an apple farmer when I was a lad, and he made a nice living off of maybe 40 acres of land. The steady income came from selling to the supermarkets, and the 'gravy' came from the farmer's markets. Up at 4am every Saturday morning from August till May. I can't imagine how much he would have to charge for apples if he only grew enough to sell at the farmer's market.

2009 Aug 21
I think it is even a little more complex than simply a producer v. resaler debate.

I have long been wary of simply buying marked-up produce that is purchased at a grocery terminal and presented in a wholesome outdoor feel-good environment. For example blueberries, tomatoes and strawberries for a large part of the early months of summer.

Many of the farmers at the markets I frequent canít provide certain items in the early months, especially in our Eastern Ontario climate. So they cleverly grab cases of, for example, Leamington tomatoes and provide them along side the spring produce that is actually in season. Many people donít mind this so the farmer is augmenting his/her revenues in the slow times of the year. Letís be honest it is only us demented foodies that are snapping up scapes and fiddleheads and dandelion leaves in late AprilÖregular people are used to regular stuff and that is what they want to buy; often regardless of season.

I personally have no interest in buying a Leamington tomato, a California strawberry or Chinese garlic anywhere other than a supermarket where the price is the lowest (actually I never want to buy a California strawberry, but that is another discussion). However, I donít begrudge a farmer for diversifying and taking advantage the fact that people want to do one-stop shopping at their stands, provided that the vendor is forthcoming about the origin of their produce they are selling, which I find generally to be the case. But you certainly have to take the onus upon yourself and ask.

2009 Aug 22
Good day. Just finished my day at the market so I thought that I would offer one last perspective on this evolving subject.

The question that we are dealing with has a number of dimensions and the perspective that you take to the issue will influence the logic of your conclusion. If, for example, your goal is to have cheap food you will go to the place that offers it. If, on the other hand, your goal is to support local agriculture then you will give less emphasis to price.

Resellers artificially keep the price of food down. Yes, someone somewhere produced what they sell. As we know they didn't. What, you may ask is wrong with that? Well the problem is that it makes it almost impossible for the true local producer of food in the Ottawa area to compete. As a consequence the true farmer is forced to retire or into another profession. The long-term result of this is that the secure source of local produce drys up or even disappears. I would encourage you to do some checking. See how many people are actually involved in the production of your food in this region. Does it seem equitable for a population of a million plus people?

Some would say that we should allow farmers, or others, to sell what is not in season. The problem with that perspective is the one so clearly illustrated by Pandora's Box. Once the door is opened it is virtually impossible to close. The alternative is to encourage people to eat seasonally. It becomes part of the whole food experience.

At Carp, we have very strict rules that prohibit reselling of any kind. You grow it, you make it or you bake it. Every vendor commits to this rule when the enter into a commitment to sell. We have systems in place that ensure that this rule is enforced. Any breaching of the rule would be grounds for removal.

It would be inappropriate for me to comment on other markets or vendors. However, I would repeat my earlier comment that this issue has resulted in the Savour Ottawa verfication process being implemented. If it matters, and you are uncertain, ask the vendor to show you their Savour Ottawa verfication.

2009 Aug 22
I cannot say I disagree with anything you are saying DJ. However, I do not think the conclusion is that local farmers therefore have license to charge whatever they like. And I do not think it means that food has to cost a whole lot more than it currently does. As already mentioned, I've been buying most of my pork and beef from local farmers for years now, and it is actually CHEAPER than the supermarket. My local honey is also CHEAPER than the supermarket. Why can not my vegetables also be? Or at least the same price?

I've said it here before, and I'll say it again - the agrifood business makes billions of dollars a year in profit, and those profits go to people in suits sitting behind desks pushing papers, while the farmers who grow the food are barely getting by. If we cut out the middle men, we send those billions of dollars directly to the farmer. So it should be possible to have food cost about what it does now, and have farmers make a decent living.

I am actually willing to pay more. But not an arm and leg more. I have a family to feed, too, just like the farmers. And that costs money. And I don't have 2 cars, a big stereo, LCD TV, and all the other things most people have but don't need (yes, I draw a direct line between the desire for these, and the desire for cheap food). I don't go out very often, and this time of year I spend a tremendous amount of time canning local produce so that I can eat seasonally, and local, all year long. I'm currently gorging myself on fresh vegetables because I do not plan to have many during the winter - I'll eat home sprouts instead.

Though in writing all this what I realised is that I should go out to the Carp Market myself some time soon, to check it out for myself. Maybe the $3 garlic bulb was the exception and not the rule. Maybe it is as good as it sounds.

So, time to google to see if I can find the hours of operation ...

2009 Aug 22
Google??? It's right here. Carp Farmers' Market

Note: Sept. 12th is tomato day.

2009 Aug 22
OK, looks like going out tomorrow is out of the question since they are only open Saturday, but I will try to get out there next Saturday to see what is what.

2009 Aug 23
As a regular at the carp market there are some "deals" to be had. For instance this week or next the garlic lady starts to clear the inventory - as long as you don't mind having smaller garlic bulbs (red russians) you can get a basket for $5. These aren't the big suckers - you'll need to do some work to use them. However $1/head or more for garlic is the norm. Not everything at the market is super premium pricing - but the bulk discount level you get at parkdale is seldom seen. I have been able to get better pricing on pickling cukes - but that was also by getting to know the vendor and driving over to their farm to pick it up.

2009 Aug 23
I was unable to find anything at the Garlic Festival for less then 3$ a bulb. I love the fresh garlic, but there has to be a happy middleground between 20 cents each Chinese crap and 3$ a bulb beautiful garlic. I would be happy to pay $1-$2 a bulb, but the price I paid for the good stuff was a touch absurd.

2009 Aug 23
Jagash, if you ever go to Manotick via Prince of Wales on the corner or the turn to Manotick is a farm stall. My daughter bought beautiful garlic last week for $1.50 a head. The cloves are huge inside. You will neeed very little of this garlic to satisfy your cravings.

2009 Aug 23
Would some respectful haggling be a way to restore equilibrium to the prices?

I've been to markets in Europe and the Middle East and the majority of vendors were open to some negotiating (I even haggled for overnight parking rates in Tel Aviv. It was crazy). I've never done it here though. Does anyone?

I am looking at the $34 garlic braid we bought at Carp two weeks ago. Would it have been wrong if I had offered $30 for it? If dude was cool with that he'd have said yes, if he wasn't he'd have said no and I could have gone somewhere else.

2009 Aug 24
Urbanroutine - I've never haggled here in the Ottawa area for anything... for some reason it just doesn't seem like "the Ottawa thing to do" (like people look down on it... and see it as cheap petty behaviour). I don't really think that it is, but that is the vibe I get... so I've never even tried.

BUT haggling is pretty normal behaviour at Farmers' Markets over on the Quebec side. Could be part of the reason that you'll actually see price differences from booth to booth... they are prepared to bargain. Also as I have mentioned before, with truck farming, the guys pretty much want to clear out all the wares they've brought with them, so the later in the day the better the deals one can snag (at least in my experience)... And if it means they can get home earlier all the better (seeing as most of them have been up long before dawn). I've always got the sense that here in Ottawa it was more a case of "Fine you don't want to pay my price, I can just pack up and go."