A bit of unpleasantness at the Farmer’s market

I was at the Farmer’s market.  We were thinking about buying some radishes.  I don’t know why radishes, my partner just had a hankering.

Radishes were at one booth manned by a couple of senior citizens.  Radishes were also at the booth directly across manned by a young couple with a big farm banner.

My partner went directly to the first booth without noticing the other folks.  They were $1/bunch.  I pointed out that there were radishes across too and maybe we should comparison shop.  So he turned around and we discussed the radishes.  Hm, these radishes are $3/bunch and across the way they’re $1.  The young woman overhearing said, “That’s because farming is our life and our full-time job and they’re just here on the weekends.”

Which was not what I was expecting at all.  Really?  She wants us to buy her 3x as expensive produce because she needs the money more and this is her job instead of a hobby?  “That’s really not a good way to sell your produce, saying that you need the money more than they do,”  I said.  (“That’s not what I meant,” says the lady.)  At this point my partner decides he wants to crawl into a hole and hide.  Then I look at the banner and notice that it says “grown with sustainable organic practices.”  So I ask about the organic, and she confirms that yes, they are organic farmers.  I say, “organic is a good reason to be more expensive, why not sell that rather than you need the money more than the other people.”  At which point my partner decides he no longer wants radishes and drags me back to the car before I can embarrass him further.

Back in the car I feel guilty and terrible because I have been unpleasant without actually purchasing anything, and I do want to encourage more organic produce at this market which is mostly conventional stuff, so I send the partner out to buy a bunch of dratted radishes from the $3/bunch people even though I’m not really that crazy about radishes.

What would you have done?  What should we have done?

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25 Responses to “A bit of unpleasantness at the Farmer’s market”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    Wow. Ballsy. I think it was good you gave the farmers advice. They are probably good farmers but bad business people. They may also be $3 because they aren’t efficient at running their business and do you want to reward inefficiency?

    Radishes are super easy to grow by the way and they don’t require much to grow and be pest free, so I bet the $1 were just as good.

    I probably would have bought the $1 ones. Paying triple seems excessive, even if it’s organic. They won’t stay in business long if they continue with that kind of pricing.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s good to know about the radishes. I haven’t looked at one of those which are good which are bad charts in a long time. Just know I don’t need organic bananas and I must have organic grapes.

      Hm… I wonder if buying the expensive radishes helped or harmed. Hopefully $3 doesn’t do much to the bottom line either way.

  2. Everyday Tips Says:

    Well, I probably would have just walked away (ran away) from the expensive radishes and bought the dollar radishes without giving it much thought. I am usually in such a hurry that I would have paid and run!

    (I do think it is safe to say I will never be driving anywhere specifically for radishes though.) :)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We were actually there for jarred salsa. There’s a grandma who makes the most amazing salsa on the face of the planet and my partner is addicted. The radishes were just an after thought.

  3. Roshawn @ Watson Inc Says:

    I completely agree with the rationale but to say that the scenario you described was awkward would be a great understatement. I likely would have done the same thing Kris suggested personally.

  4. imawindycitygal Says:

    Oh boy. To me, this is a tough one. I don’t know the particulars about the $1 radishes or the $3 radishes, but this could be a symptom of the outrageous way food is priced in the U.S.

    “Farmers Markets” don’t always have locally produced goods. It depends on the rules of the market. Those $1 radishes could have been grown in Mexico, where the standards for labor and environment are much lower. After being trucked into the U.S., the radishes may have been purchased at a produce wholesaler, where the “farmers” purchased them and brought them to market.

    Federal agriculture subsidies cover transportation costs such as shipping/trucking produce from places like Chile and Mexico. A local farmer doesn’t get a subsidy for the fuel costs associated with planting, cultivating, harvesting, and bringing food to market.

    Although I agree the young farmer was not articulate in her message, to some people what she said would have been enough. Yes, even in this tough economy it’s true that some people are willing to pay more for food produced close to the local community by people they can get to know. “Know your food, know your farmer” is one of the mantras of the local food movement.

    Whether the food is organic or not doesn’t always factor into buying decisions, either. I regularly purchase fruits and vegetables at several community farmers markets. One of the vendors I frequent doesn’t have organic produce, but I purchase from them anyway. I see these folks at the markets all the time and buying from them I am helping to keep their business running so they can be back next year selling me tasty produce. I don’t even bother to comparison shop their products. Of course, it’s hard to comparison shop for Cox’s Orange Pippen apples (which I absolutely LOVE) when they are sold nowhere else: not in any local green grocer, supermarket, or other farmers market vendors, either.

    If you’re on a strict budget, of course you wouldn’t pay higher out of pocket costs for something like radishes. But realize that for items like radishes you, as a taxpayer, *are* paying much more than $1 for radishes produced outside your local community. Somebody has to pick up the tab for the farm subsidies, and that falls squarely on the taxpayer.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s an all local market– the seniors at the other $1 booth were manning things they grew out of their own garden, dirt still on them. (We’re in a very rural area, so these gardens can be sizeable.) Our favorites are the salsa grandma and the jam-making grandma (she’s got a wilderness area filled with dewberries and wild plums). There’s also a guy with local bees sometimes, and every other week there’s local beef. Most of the people selling are over the age of 60.

      There’s a chance that the seniors need the money more than this young couple. But their gardening is on a much smaller scale than the farming couple. She may have been trying to say that she’s trying to make a profit but they’re just selling things they’d have grown anyway.

  5. frugalscholar Says:

    My farmers’ market is so upscale and expensive that I am uncomfortable even being there! How I miss the ones I used to patronize in the midwest.

  6. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    I would have bought the radishes from the $1 people and then sold them to the $3 people for $2 per bunch. PROFIT!

  7. trashyblog Says:

    I don’t think you were mean or spoke out of turn.
    I’m a small-time chicken farmer and before I invested in my first batch of baby chicks I created a business plan and than looked around to see what I could sell them for competitively. She’s not selling her radishes competitively! I can’t imagine putting another farmer down because it’s a supplemental income for them. That would go on my pet peeve list.

  8. Jill Says:

    Is it bad that I think your story is hilarious? I agree that their marketing definitely needed a little adjusting. Also, they should probably thank you for pointing out that they should focus on the organic angle. As far as your decision, hmmm tough one. I say going with your gut is your best decision.

  9. bogart Says:

    Hmmm … I wonder if the organic radish sellers understand that they’d sell more radishes if they priced them lower? Given their response to your initial query (or maybe they were just having a bad day), perhaps not.

  10. Money Reasons Says:

    I would have done the same as Everydaytipsandthoughts and went and bought the cheaper radishes. :)

    But I think you bring up a great point! And If the lady follows your advice, it could be a great selling point (although there’s a great chance the other seller was also selling organic)!

    Hopefully, the $3 dollar radish seller becomes more clever from the encounter with you (but I doubt it…)!

  11. Rumpus Says:

    My favorite thing to get at Farmers’ Markets is fresh squeezed juice. Coffee is also good. Ooh ooh, and food right off the grill.

  12. eemusings Says:

    I’d’ve just quietly bought the dollar ones and not bothered to engage with the seller. I take it the bunches were the same size?

    We don’t often go to farmer’s markets, but do notice price differences for the same produce at different stalls.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m sure that’s what my partner would have done without my big mouth. That’s probably what we would have done if the $3 seller hadn’t been listening to our price discussion and added her commentary. (And we’d be $2 richer and she’d be $3 poorer and 1 radish bunch richer.)

      Yeah they looked about the same size, though we didn’t examine them really closely.

  13. MutantSupermodel Says:

    They would’ve lost me at the rudeness- organic or not. Her butting in is just insanely rude and would drive me crazy. My advice would’ve been something along the lines of an “are you psycho?” stare and then I would have turned around and bought THREE $1 bunches. Oh I hate rudeness.

  14. Meg Says:

    I had to laugh. I always wanted to be able to call people out on things…but never have had the guts to do it. You put her in her place. Good job! :-)


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