Farmers Market Prices
Your co-op recently hired consultants, Farm Food Drink, to examine the case for a year round farmers market at Beban Park and help determine a way forward for the Island Roots Market Co-op (IRMC). The first step the consultants took was to prepare and conduct a survey of vendors and consumers. Although the report is not yet ready the consultants will be sharing some of the survey’s findings with members at our Annual General Meeting and I thought I’d start that sharing now to give you an idea of what is to come. The AGM will begin at 7pm on Friday on April 6 in meeting room #1 at the Beban Park Social Center. Admission is free for members and non members can join online or at the door by buying one or more shares at $10 each.
Very few of the more than 350 consumers who completed the survey mentioned product price at all, and some of those who did also pointed out that much of the food sold in stores is grown in low wage areas and that vendors need to be able to earn a living from their sales. Others suggested that prices compare favorably to similar products sold elsewhere.
There was, however, one pricing issue raised in a number of consumer comments and it is one that vendors can deal with. It may also be the source of much of the common misconception that prices at the market are high when compared to products in stores. That issue is shock. Shock created by not knowing what a purchase at the market will cost until after a commitment or perceived commitment to purchase has been made.
Prices may be posted on a board or sign, in say, dollars per pound but there is often no quick and easy way to relate that $2.50 or $5.00/lb to the cost of a half dozen tomatoes or the four or five potatoes I need to make a chicken stew. It is even more difficult to imagine what that chicken will cost when it is inside a freezer and can’t even be seen. Having to ask the vendor to dig out a chicken or weigh the tomatoes creates a feeling of obligation and means that consumers will sometimes walk away not knowing what a good deal they might have had because they don’t want to say “please show me your pork chops” and then “how much would that cost” before they can decide if they have enough money to make the purchase.
Some vendors will be able to improve price visibility now, and I expect that consumers will notice changes fairly soon but there are others who will not be able to resolve issues with product pricing visibility until we move into a permanent market location and they have the cases they need to properly display their clearly priced products. In the meantime, I hope that everyone will understand and that consumers will feel free to ask about prices and say “no thanks” if the price does not meet their budget or price expectations.
See you at the Market on Wednesday