Farmers Markets

According to the Farmers’ Market New Zealand Association there are more than 50 farmer markets throughout New Zealand and every week over 50,000 people shop at Farmers markets.

For those who have yet to discover the joys of their local farmers market, it is, according to the Associations website , “a food market where local growers, farmers and artisan food producers sell their wares directly to consumers. Vendors may only sell what they grow, farm, pickle, preserve, bake, smoke or catch themselves from within a defined local area”.

We sent the oily rag team out one early Saturday morning to check out their local farmers market. They came back with an armful of fresh produce and this to say:

You can’t help but feel a sense of community when visiting your local farmers market. Stalls full of fresh produce, buskers and friendly banter fill the air, behind the tables are keen vendors with an eye for gold coins and crisp banknotes, and there are lots of good natured shoppers electrified with a sense of excitement over the prospect of buying fresh produce at bargain prices. One can’t help but feel that the ambience has a little more. It’s a little like party faithful at a political rally; there is a sense of support for an ideal worth supporting and being there is a vote for something wholesome and totally local.

The array of fresh produce was impressive. The morning we visited there was a greater selection of produce available that was at the cities largest supermarket. Locally grown oranges for example instead of those imported tasteless ones, fresh figs, corn cobbs and tamarillo which were surprisingly absent from the supermarket shelves. There was a lot of organic produce and specialised items like passionfruit and melon jam, oyster mushrooms, home cured bacon, specialist salami and cheeses, exotic dips and dunks. In fact, what was on offer was as diverse and as rich in character as the cottages industries from which they were produced.

But there was one big question on our minds. Were shoppers getting bargains?  The theory is by cutting out those that stand between the grower and the consumer the public get quality produce at great prices. To put the theory to the test we compared the price of 20 randomly selected items from the farmers market and compared them to the price at the local no frills supermarket, the one with the cheapest everyday prices.

We found three items were exactly the same price as the supermarket, nine cost less at the farmers market and eight cost more than at the supermarket. Of the items that cost more at the supermarket they were 35% more expensive. The items that cost more at the farmers market were 25% more expensive.

So is produce cheaper the farmers market a bargain? The answer to that is an unequivocal maybe! Are there bargains to be found? Absolutely yes, but you will need to know how to spot a bargain. Here’s some good advise from Murray, a founder of our local growers market. “The first thing we tell all shoppers is to go round the market, buy what’s seasonally cheap and plan your meals for the week around that.”