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Four Questions You Should Never Ask at a Farmers Market

Editor’s note: In honor of National Farmers Market Week, we bring you a view from the other side of the market stand.

I’ve spent over 1,000 Saturdays and Sundays selling at farmers markets, and even after all this time I still love to answer questions. Farmers markets are one of the few places where customers can directly connect with their food, meeting face-to-face with the people who grew it. Questions are expected at market, and even encouraged. From livestock breeds to production practices, organic certification to chemical usage, I’ve been asked just about every food-related question under the sun.

Though most farmers will happily answer all inquiries, there are a handful of questions that make even the friendliest farmers want to choke a carrot. If you don’t want your farmer to turn three shades of beet red, here’s the reasoning behind four questions every customer should avoid.

1) Was this picked fresh this morning?

So what’s wrong with this question … you just want to know if it’s fresh, right? That’s totally understandable. But let’s take a moment to think about how a farm really works.

Imagine market has just opened, and it’s 8 a.m. For the last hour and a half, the farmer has been setting up his booth. Before that, he drove two hours to get to market. Sometime earlier he brushed his teeth, made a pot of coffee, and—with any luck at all—put on his pants. At what point this morning would he have had time to pick 20 bushels of tomatoes, 100 pints of blueberries, or gather 50 dozen eggs?

Truckloads of fresh food don’t magically load themselves in fifteen minutes. It takes many hands many hours to pick basketfuls of green beans or apples. This doesn’t even count moving the harvest from the field to the packing shed, or loading it onto the truck itself.

So when should the harvesting happen? At 2 a.m.? I’m picturing a bleary-eyed farmer with a headlamp, picking corn with one hand and drinking coffee with the other. As Rachel Bynum of Waterpenny Vegetable Farm explained to me, most market produce is picked a day or so before (depending on the fruit or vegetable), then loaded onto the truck in the cool of the evening before market day.

If you want it any fresher than that, you’re probably going have to grow it yourself. In the meantime, let those farmers get a good night’s sleep! Which leads me to my next question…

2) What time do you get up?

This one’s a classic, something I’ve been asked hundreds of times. Farmers are famous for being early risers, so it’s understandable if people are curious about a specific hour. So why add this question to my list? Because—as I’ve learned from years of experience—there’s never a satisfactory answer.

For instance, if I say, “Oh, about 6 o’clock,” the questioner’s face turns thoughtful for a moment. “That seems kind of late, doesn’t it? I mean, I get up at 5:45 myself.” If I say “A little before 3,” their eyes go suddenly wide. “Why do you have to get up so early? To milk the cows or something?”

One day, I realized there’s only one correct answer for this question: 4:30 on the dot. Not too late, and not too early. Not too lazy, and not too crazy. 4:30 a.m. is the Goldilocks of responses.

So in case you were wondering, all farmers—everywhere—get up at precisely 4:30 (although I sometimes hit the snooze button on my rooster). Any more questions?

3) I know you’re not open yet, but I’m in a hurry … could you sell me something before the bell?

Hello, Starbucks? Sorry to call so early, but your door is locked and I really need a latte. Could you open up early just for me? I’m in such a rush, and it’ll only take a second!

Where else in the world could someone get away with this question? Despite how it might appear at first glance, it takes farmers a long time to set up their booth each morning. Trucks must be unloaded, tents erected and produce arranged. If farmers opened early for even one person (and I’m talking to you, Latte Lady), they’d never be ready for the opening bell of market. Which is a perfect segue to my last question…

4) Since it’s the end of market, can I get a special deal on what you’ve got left?

This one’s a little trickier. I once asked my friend John Hyde, a baker for 25 years, what he thought about discounting leftovers at the end of market. His face lost all expression as he gave me this advice: “Forrest, that path leads to madness.”

He elaborated. “If we gave discounts at the end, then people would simply wait till the last ten minutes of market to shop. And what about the loyal customers who paid the normal price? They’d be insulted to learn they got charged more for showing up on time. It’s always better to donate it to a food bank than to discount things at the closing bell.”

Markets must never become Priceline.com or GroupOn, where last-minute deals and discounts are the norm. In order to stay in business year after year, farmers must get the price they ask for. Discounting at the end of market might seem harmless and even logical, but it’s an unsustainable practice for the farmers themselves.

Farmers markets are a place where customers should expect to have all of their food questions answered. But just like anyone else, we farmers get a little grouchy from time to time (it’s probably because we get up at 4:30). So bring your shopping list, your cloth bag and your farming questions, but leave these four at home. You’ll be a ‘market insider,’ and your local producer will love you for it.

 

This post originally appeared on SmithMeadows.com, along with other posts by Forrest Pritchard.  Pritchard  has a new book out this summer called Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm.

Photo courtesy of Bead for the World.

67 thoughts on “Four Questions You Should Never Ask at a Farmers Market

  1. I disagree on the last point. The price that the people who shop by price at close of the day pay dearly in multiple ways.

    1. Limited choice – obviously these are left overs and they are not getting top of the line.
    2. Not so fresh – Fish especially are not good and strawberries that sat out for whole day are not very good.
    3. I would rather let product go at a reduced price or donate to food bank rather than waste. Fish cannot be donated so I have to trash it or sell.

  2. A couple of summers ago, I helped some friends out who had a food truck at the local farmers market. I could not believe how many people came around asking for discounts right before closing. I thought it was seriously rude. Plus it was always the ladies that walked back to their new Range Rovers and the like. Sorry. The experience made me kind of judgy…

  3. My wife and I make and sell artisan cheeses at several markets in the Portland area, and I have to add one more question that I am asked several times daily at nearly every market I have worked. “Do they carry your cheese at Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s/New Seasons/(insert market name here)?” Ma’am, I am standing right here in front of you with coolers full of cheese that was made and packed fresh within the last 2 or 3 days. You are buying it from the person (or husband of the person) who made it. And you’ve already told me how much you liked it. What better time to buy it than right now?
    Also, while LocalFisherman does have a point with some products (like seafood, which has a very limited shelf life), we don’t drop our prices at the end of the market either. It devalues our products, and does a disservice to our loyal customers who show up earlier in the day.

  4. I agree with LocalFisherman. I’m a habitually late person, so I often rush to the market towards the end to make sure I get there at all. Sometimes if they are have a special on blueberries, I’ll buy, whereas I normally wouldn’t. So, I don’t go towards closing to get a discount, but if there is a good deal, I won’t pass it up. Also, I go to 4505 for my meats, and by closing time the pickens are slim. And they don’t do deals. I do appreciate these tips though, so thanks! Oh, just to add – I try and bring a variety of change since it’s rarely an even price and I imagine farmers have a limlited amount of change on hard (I could be wrong).

  5. I’d rather see the stuff you couldn’t sell go to a homeless shelter or something, rather than giving in to those who wait around until the end of the market hoping for a discount.

  6. I see the point localfisherman is trying to make but as a farmer, I’d have to disagree. As a general rule, lowering prices at the end of market creates bad habits with customers. People will wait until the market is near closing, while we’re busy packing up our produce and loading up the truck, to see if we can give them a discount. To me as someone who strives to produce and sell with the highest quality standards, these people ( anyone who asks for a discount) do not understand the real price of their food. The price that we sell food at is what allows us to grow things profitably-this is not a commodity market and we’d never want it to be. Our focus is rather on freshness and the dialogue between producer and co-producer (the consumer). Think about it this way, instead of making an hourly wage, our 60 hour a week jobs are all paid for in the 4-8 hours we spend at market or in selling to restaurants and CSA’s. Would you be appreciative of someone who tried to heckle with you?

  7. I am a teenager, and have been helping out at a local farmers market for quite a while, and have worked at four different stalls as i love the produce and the atmosphere.
    I have to say Erin is fairly correct about the amount of change.
    Every morning we start the day with a certain amount in the till, and often, because many people get their money out of an ATM, they pay in $50 notes.
    That depletes our change quite quickly if we get a heap of $50′s in a row.
    Then we have to swap for change with the stalls next door, who are also in a similar position…
    I reckon the same note/coin can go around the market from stall holder to customer, and back again! ;)
    Even $20′s are easier to give change :)

  8. As a seller, I may discount at the end of the day if the product is currently in great supply locally, if I can’t sell it somewhere else or sometime soon and if I can’t use it myself in some preserved form. But only during the last 10% of market time.

  9. It’s good you mentioned # 4 because EVERY article I read (online and in print) about shopping at farmer’s markets tells you that “farmers are willing to negotiate at the end of the market” – I think that’s why so many people have been asking

  10. Great Article, funny yet right on target. A very big shout out to all of the wonderful farmers, growers and producers at all of the local markets. You are my true hero’s for continuously bringing us the best local foods with a smile!

  11. I’ve got a 5th:
    I only bring $20 to the market, and I’ve spent most of it. So I only have $1.98 left. Can’t you sell me that ($8) jar of jam for that? It didn’t really cost YOU anything to make, did it?

  12. The only question that I want to know from farmers is: What kind of chemicals do you use on your products? What I really wish is that they would supply the information in written form, on a sign or handout, so that I wouldn’t have to ask. I’m not generally a distrusting person, but I feel like when I ask the question, it’s an invitation for them to give me the answer that they think I want. Plus it can be a bit complex and I don’t want to take up their time (or wait around trying to get their attention).

  13. Selling via “discounts” is something that can work or not work, depending on the vendor. When someone asks for a discount, you simply need to make them an offer that warrants a discount. For example, offer a quantity discount. Everything at the Farmer’s Market is usually fresher at the end of the day than a grocery store is at the beginning of the day.

  14. This kind of thing is why my farm barely touches markets anymore. Most people aren’t there to buy so much as make a social statement. Some people show up with no bags and two tiny Fifi dogs. People spend lots of time asking questions that range from confounding to offensive, and they do this instead of buying. And it’s amazing how many people show up thinking farmers are backwoods yokels with room temperature IQs that’ll sell them grass fed beef at $3/lb just because the market’s closing.

    We’ve taken Joel Salatin’s advice and redirected the 10 – 12 hours a week we’d spend on farmers markets into developing buyers’ clubs. That gives us all the benefits of both markets and CSA without any of the headaches. We’ll occasionally do a farmers market to introduce ourselves to a new area where we don’t have any clubs, but that’s it.

  15. I have one point to add to the artisinal cheese folks. While I can understand how it may be irritating to be asked if your product is sold in another location, it’s a valid question. Some folks may just be asking to be polite, possibly trying to show interest although they’re not keen to buy at that moment. Others however may be genuinely interested in your wonderful cheese, but may not be in a position to buy your product right there. Here in Central Texas, we have many very hot days where an artisinal cheese might not survive in the hot car. And if I’ve driven miles to come to the farmer’s market, as they’re not typically right near my neighborhood, I’m probably going to be looking to conserve gas by making some other stops before going home. So if I ask you if your wonderful product is available elsewhere, it’s likely that I simply CANNOT purchase it at that moment but very much want to.

  16. This entire conversation is really ridiculous. Why should you be offended when people ask for discounts.? In most other societies, bartering is acceptable and encouraged. In fact in late American history bartering was also encouraged and accepted. Personally I think markets would benefit from a bartering and/or trade opportunity. it is actually a deeply rooted part of agrarian society and has been seriously tarnished from the ideas of corporate Americans. You shouldn’t call yourselves farmers you should call yourselves business owners and retailers.

  17. We sell meat at a Farmers Market and I agree with the principle of not giving a discount at the end of the market. People know that we run out of the most popular cuts and that if they’re not early, they’ll miss out.

  18. I’ve got another question: “How much is it?” I ask this question because the prices are not clearly stated somewhere visible. I’m not buying a 50 lb. watermelon if I don’t know how much I’m paying.
    The only other question: “will you take a check (on a local bank)? That’s because I stopped on impulse and don’t have enough cash to pay for everything I want. If they say “yes” I make it worth their while. If they say “no” I spend what cash I have with them and then move to someone who will take a check. We don’t have a large market so it’s easy to patronize all of the sellers. I’m a farmer too so I KNOW how hard they work and I want them to stay in business. NEVER QUIBBLE about the price, folks! Either be willing to pay what it costs (like you HAVE TO DO) at a grocery store or walk away.

  19. A good way to avoid having to answer question number four and /or dealing with the flak that you may receive is to have a sign letting people know what happens to the leftover produce at the end of the day – such as “we donate any end of day food to a food rescue organization like Second Harvest to help feed people in our community who would otherwise go hungry” This will allow people to know that they don’t get discounts for a good reason and that you aren’t just being greedy or wasting food.

  20. Customers should ALWAYS dicker at the farmers market. That is the entire point of having an outdoor market once a week to mix it up with the real buyers and do a little horse trading. Those early birds who run around the market paying asking price for everything are a big hoot but the real buyers who get to know us always work out their own price every week. That’s knowing your food and knowing your farmer!

    Oh, and customers should stop asking if we “grew it”. Heck most of it we did and the rest of it someone “grew” so what’s the diff? These are the same customers who fork over retail price if they buy anything and we wouldn’t dicker price with them anyway after suggesting we have to grow everything we sell. What nonsense.

  21. In response to previous comments, I think the “is this homegrown” question is completely fair because there are a lot of “farmers” at these markets that buy wholesale and then resell at markets and I want to support real, local farmers, not resellers. So that question may annoy some of you but it’s really helping you out, because I’m not going to buy anything from anyone that can’t give me a yes to that question. I could buy produce at a grocery store for a lot less trouble and most of the time cheaper but I go to farmers markets so that I can buy local, fresh, and (hopefully sometimes) organic produce and support local people. Asking where the produce is grown is a legitimate question.

  22. Do not ask: Why is your stuff more expensive than the supermarket.

    #1. Vendors don’t have the time to give you a lesson in basic retailing economics.

    #2. The quality and care is what costs money.

    #3 So does gas, labor and non-Monsanto seeds.

  23. Thanks for your comments, and as a potter, my pet peeve one is DID YOU MAKE THIS YOURSELF. well nobody else would work for these kind of wages. but I never say that, just smile and say yes I did!!!

  24. If I have any, I give away my leftover baked goods to the volunteers who help our local market run so well

  25. About whether or not it is homegrown, a lot of markets have regulations on what you can sell, meaning you cannot bring products you do not produce.

    Also, discounting at the end of the day because it is ‘left over’ is silly. The produce and products at a farmer’s market might be sitting there for a day, versus being a week old (or more) in a grocery. If the farmer is going to discount at the end, they will do so without you having to ask.

  26. One question I get all the time is: “Is this homegrown?” –

    My farmer’s market sells Dole bananas. In the northeastern US. “Is this homegrown?” is a GOOD question at some markets!

  27. I sell Jams at our local market – and I will barter with other stalls – Say cupcakes for some jam, or fruit/veggies for some jam etc. but I NEVER ask for a discount at the end of the day, because honestly I wouldn’t discount my wares at the end of the day even tho it gets heavy loading those cases of unsold jam in my car at the end of market.

    And when people ask me where the fruits/veggies for my jams come from, I proudly point to the farm stands at the market and say most of what I make comes from farms like them!

    I have a good relationship with the other folks at the market. We help each other, and we mock the people who come to market to gripe about prices or conditions or whatever. We are selling at the market because we are proud of what we do, we are proud of what we grow, and we are proud to support small LOCAL farmers/business/families.

  28. When I was sell at our Farmer’s Market, you were not allowed to sell anything that you did not produce. I think that is the rule at all the markets around here.

    Please, do NOT assume that haggling is the way to go. If the farmer wants to give you a deal, fine. But would you be happy if your customer (or boss) haggled with you over the work that you had done. These are usually NOT factory farmers. They do not have economy of scale (which, as near as I can tell, does NOT mean better product, but worse and cheaper).

    My eggs are more expensive than our (somewhat local) big producer. They are also WAY better. I do not have 15,000 birds in a barn, but 150 on a farm. It takes more time for me to find the eggs (they sometimes hide them) and sort and pack them. If you do not want to pay for quality, go away.

  29. At the market in town, selling before the bell will get you thrown out of the market. As will setting things aside so the person can pick out their stuff early and then go shop other tables.

    My usual answer to ‘when do you get up?” was “When the cat makes me”

  30. What about did you grow this yourself? I’ve seen some produce that is out of season or otherwise does not appear to be a local product.

  31. I’m with the first commenter. Reduced prices at the end of market day seem to work just fine in Europe and the UK. I’m even down with the gleaning tradition. Less waste and more good food to people outside the upper middle-classed.

  32. I’ve worked many a farmers’ market and am on the path to farming my own space for self-sufficiency and profit. It has been my experience that the farmers/producers will barter amongst each other at the end of market, or a charitable organization will come around to glean. Only seconds should be discounted at market.

  33. We go early for the best selection. Price? What does health care cost? More and more we go directly to the farm. We had to FORCE our egg farmer to take a fairer price for the most unbelievable eggs in the world. I still feel guilty about paying only $3/dozen. Frankly, the only time we ask price is when we are buying several bushels to put up.

    Also, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask if the food is grown at a local farm – far too many farmers markets allow retailers to attend. I want to know who made it and what their practices are. I really don’t care if the are ‘certified” organic, just that the aren’t certifiable.

    I love my farmers!

  34. The question of things being “home” or farm grown is, perhpas sadly, sometimes legit. Our small town farmer’s market does have some produce for sale that is not from the vendor’s farm. Markets in Europe are also not strictly farmers markets, but also a place to do the weekly food shopping, and will therefore have things like bananas, kiwis, etc. One big difference is that in France, for example, the point of origin must be marked on the produce. I’d be happy if the one farmer I know who sells out-of-season (Florida, Canada?) tomatoes would note it. The average buyer might not know that June is too early for a tomato.

  35. We shop our local farmer’s market to purchase homegrown, local produce, baked goods, meats, cheese, etc. For this reason we prefer to buy only from the actual farmers themselves and not from a reseller. And yes, we absolutely prefer organic.

    Never once thought about asking for a discount, except when inquiring about ordering two dozen (24) pies in advance of the market next week, for a company event. In this case, I never had the chance to ask for the discount because the baker immediately offered a twenty percent (20%) discount for the quantity, and I wrote a check for the full payment in advance.

    Long-live farmer’s markets, CSAs and Co-ops..

  36. As a farmer/rancher selling 3 days/week for 10 years rain or shine I love your questions and the article! Interesting that the last question would strike a nerve with so many!

    Here are 3 added items for consideration: (1) some workers may be personally compensated by the farmer/owner based on barter and/or selling so that perishable items are not wasted or tossed. This is not first-hand experience, this is what we’ve been told by a few workers (not many) so they are motivated to bargain. (2) for us selling our frozen meat, the price is the price. Whether it’s in our freezer or someone else’s is not an issue. We explain that the only “deal” we have is that the bison are here at all in any form since they were nearly made extinct 100 years ago. Also, we give no discounts for volume requests. It is not in our best interest to try to replicate commercial stores or volume/commodity type behavior and thinking among those seeking us. That may be what helped create farmers markets in the first place; those distribution chains were closed to small volume farmers. (3) For those customers who are buying on price alone, at least for us, we respectfully explain they will be happier buying at Safeway or Ralphs. If they leave and don’t come back, we are better off since they won’t support us beyond a price point If they stay, they understand that by supporting us and helping to keep us in business, they are better off too.

    The farmers we know who have great products we deeply value and respect. We show our respect by paying full price and never asking or expecting any bargains or deals. They are growing food for my family for goodness sakes. They deserve every bit of financial payment, esteem, regard and respect often expressed to doctors, engineers, – perhaps even moreso today than ever before.

    Those looking for “deals” or those who may want to manipulate a time sensitive situation so they can financially benefit may have just insulted the value of a farmer’s honest and heart felt labor. That labor and how it contributes toward good health and nutrition of my family is priceless!

    Thanks again – great article!

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  38. It has become common practice in the Chicago area for folks to rent a truck, buy produce at wholesale, and then sell this at a farmers market because people ASSUME it was grown locally.

    Also I ask and will always ask about farming practices used by a seller. I’m willing to pay the price but want locally grown and truly organic.

  39. How do you feel about us asking if it is grown conventionally, is it GMO or is it organic? What kind of chemicals used, if any? And would most farmers answer this honestly? Thank you!

  40. Our farmers market doesn’t have the rule that produce be local or homegrown. One vendor comes with produce that he has bought from downstate and sells at the market. I encourage my customers to ask that question. Also, our market starts at 3pm and I DO pick 95% of my veggies that morning. And I am the only organic grower, so I am always saying FRESH,LOCAL and organically grown.

  41. Great information and comments, I volunteer at our market and see a little of all of these things- The one area that I find interesting is the different perspective of the discounts. I agree with both sides and believe that the just to assume there would be a discount if asked is wrong, especially when one is trying to respect the local farmer. However there are times when it is appropriate. I do visit farmers at the end of the market but only ask if there they have items that would otherwise go to the chickens. (Not all food kitchens can accept the “left overs” though this is changing). Usually these are tomatoes, peppers and other greens that would be unsellable on another day. Most times they do not charge me but what I do, especially for one farmer is that I will process the food for freezing and return the next week with about half for them. This allows them to fill their freezer without having to do the work. Another method, is that I ask if they have any seconds-this is particularly true with fruit vendors. I will buy them at a discount or in some cases get them for free; after all after a long market day the last thing they want to deal with is over ripened food. I do hold a strong belief that if I am going to bargain that I also have to buy on a regular bases food at the set prices, and I do. Over all I think there is a balance at the market and just like I can say no to a price (and I have seen some farmer’s prices well above what they should be – i.e. $2.50 for one medium tomato) a vendor should always feel free to say no discount. It is the basic law of supply and demand. Joyce (my blog- farmersmarket365.com)

  42. Fellow vendors…we have heard it all…havent we? I hear: “You grow it or make it yourself SO it doesnt cost you anything”,therefore expecting some fantastic deal! We have Alpacas and one of our products is “felted soap”.I had a mother and young son inquire about the cost.I told her.She put the soap down and her son grabbed it and bit it…teeth marks across the entire bar. She doesnt skip a beat when asking if they can have it for “FREE” now that it damaged and unsanitary??? Keeping a smile,I told her that I would have to throw it out…she stomped off very mad…LOL

  43. Asking if an item was grown on “your farm” is a perfectly legitimate question. If the market doesn’t allow you to sell wholesale items, then it’s not really a problem. However, that isn’t always the case and I’d rather buy local, thank you. If you grow all your own product, you should hang a sign that says so – brag about it. It makes your produce more valuable to me and to a lot of other people who want to support farmers, not wholesalers.

  44. Sometimes my tomato plants don’t produce enough tomatoes at one time for canning, and I’m not paying retail price for canning tomatoes. So on those occasions, at the end of the day, I’ve offered to pay a discounted price for a bulk purchase of tomatoes. I ask if they would accept $1/# if I buy 20 pounds) and if they agree, I just start scooping tomatoes onto the scale. When they see that I’m not picky about blemishes, etc, and am truly buying bulk, they help me pile tomatoes on the scale. It’s a quick $20 and 20 pounds they don’t have to pack up of picked over tomatoes that probably wouldn’t sell anyway, and definitely wouldn’t last until the next weekend.) Because I’m really asking for a bulk discount, I could make my offer earlier, but I feel they may be more willing to take it near closing time.

  45. I see a lot of produce stands selling flats of commercial produce from the same industrial suppliers as the chain grocery stores. Asking if it’s grown by the seller is certainly legit. Your particular farmers market may not allow for resale of industrial produce, but not all customers are going to know the rules at your particular market.

  46. As a poor person trying to feed a family on a shoestring budget, I value my farmers and our local economy by never asking for a discount. I will always look for markdowns (day old baked goods for example), and when my pastured meat lady told me, immediately after ringing up a $95 sale, that they gave 10% off orders of $100 or more I started buying at least $100 worth of meat at a time to get that discount. I buy bulk when a bulk discount is offered, if we can use the item in bulk, but I never ask for a bulk discount.

    My 4 questions to farmers at our market are always (in this order):
    1) Do you grow/raise all of this? (Selling another local farmer’s stuff is fine, but there are a couple of vendors who resell from our wholesale market. I’m looking to put more than the average 8 cents of my food dollar into the pocket of a local farmer, not a middleman)
    2) Where is your farm? (I want local, and I might want to visit :D )
    3) Do you use pesticides/herbicides/chemical fertilizers/GMOs? (Organic certification is expensive, and I’m interested in supporting my farmer, not the certification agency, I will gladly pay more for functionally organic produce that isn’t certified) Or in the case of buying animal products: What do you feed your animals? Do your meats contain nitrates/MSG/etc? (I can get conventionally raised meat products full of nasties I don’t want for well under half your price at the supermarket, I will gladly pay a premium for a superior product)
    4) When was this picked? (Sweet corn picked last week is not awesome, and if that’s what I wanted I’d be at the supermarket. Sweet corn picked yesterday is awesome, and I’m willing to pay a premium for awesome)

  47. On the discounting issue: I am not a vendor at farmers markets but I do own a small retail business. When customers ask for a discount and when discounts are given I think it makes prices look like some sort of arbitrary number that was decided on with no for-thought. Let the massive corporations discount – its in their dna and they make massive profits. For small businesses where people hopefully make a living, prices are usually set with the idea of balancing a need to make a living while considering what the consumer will pay and can afford. Discounting devalues a product or service and next thing you know people are saying, “you’ll be discounting in an hour anyways and you have a lot left, give me the discount now. ” Next thing you know, you can’t sell at regular price and it isn’t worth going to the market and somebody will be saying, too bad So-And-So no longer comes to the market, their product was great and they must have been making money because they always gave me a discount.

  48. To the person that called farmers rediculous for not discounting food, and giving us a lesson on the agrarian history- customers who are asking for a discount are not offering anything. There is no barter happening. I do love to barter with other vendors at the end, as they are not devaluing our work.

  49. Hi, I wanted to say something about the last question and the comments.
    I understand why LocalFisherman would need to reduce prices or else have fish leftover. I do not understand why “limited choice” is even on there as a reason behind dropping prices. If you feel that you are not getting something that was lovingly hand-picked and fresh, then you can come earlier when there is more of the same exact product or go somewhere else to shop. I suggest a grocery store.
    Farmers pick how much they have to because the product either has to be picked or else rot or because they’ve planned ahead to how much can be sold. So, you should congratulate the farmer who only has a couple melons/bunches of kale/fish/etc. at the end of market because that means that they sold what they thought they could and didn’t bring too little. It does not mean that the quality is any less.
    I know that there are some crops that don’t do very well. Last year was a hard year for potatoes, and I know a bunch of farmers who had “Charlie Brown” potatoes for a reduced price. These were a completely separate product and price than the regulars. That is a completely different idea. If we, as farmers, don’t value our products at the end of the market, then why should our customers? It is also a different story when someone calls me to ask for a specific quantity of a product, places an order, and I bring that to the market, set aside for them at a slightly lower price. That is called a wholesale order.
    Thanks for hearing me out. I think this is a very important topic for farmers to discuss in their families and farming communities.

  50. One time I came home with a bag of peaches from the local farmer’s market, emptied it out, and noticed that one of the peaches had a tag from ‘Safeway’ that had been missed for removal. If you get the question ‘did you grow this yourself’ than realize it is a descent question from a customer, I have really slowed down going to farmer’s markets because I’ve had questions about the legitimacy of the ‘locally grown’, and if truly organic…..also, I worry about the pesticides and GMO. It is very important today that you tell us, these things with out an attitude please, if you have a sign at your booth that says ‘non-GMO’ then I will go straight to YOU! Thank you

  51. Here in Texas it is common for buyers to buy from Mexico and pass the fruits and veggies off as their own. I don’t ask if they are homegrown because I generally can tell the difference, but the question, “Did you grow this?” makes sense around here.

  52. To Cheesebaron…I am a consumer who regularly shops my local farmers market, but it is some distance from my home and I can only get there once or twice a month. I think the question regarding where else is your cheese sold is legitimate. The person might have been asking if it is carried by a retailer that is more convenient for her and therefore could lead to additional sales at times coming out to the market is not possible.

  53. I do not discount unless it is flawed in some way.. something that gets over looked in the washing and packing procedures… If folks only knew the cost of seed, fertilize, sprays (when needed) the cost of land, insurance, labor, fuel for the tractor, gas for the truck maintenance, cooler space, electric and water.. then they would or should not even ask for a discount… But hobby gardener that does not have to pay overhead costs will join a local market and give away produce to customers and is very frustrating…They joined the group 10 years ago pay their dues each year but really are not farmers…UGH they sell tomatoes cheaper that I can grow them.. I am often tempted to just stop growing tomatoes and buy mine from them and resell them… Discounting prices hurts those who are trying to make a living off the land…

  54. Wow! Who knew farmers were so sensitive about questions! I would have thought that ANY question was a good question…at least these people are at the farmer’s market and not at walmart buying cheap, poor quality produce. Maybe it’s someones first time there or they are trying to get into eating a little healthier and a little more locally. Can you imagine if a vendor gave a first timer a hard time for asking a ‘dumb’ question? Or even gave a regular customer a hard time for inquiring about a discount? I hope this is just a rant and not a general bad attitude towards customers interacting with their local farmers.

  55. I support all of the questions listed, however, I am taken back by the comment by Provision Farms. The debate of what constitutes a “real” farmer is an old and multi-layered one. I routinely go to every workshop, class and organizational meeting that I can to grow better and healthier food for myself and my family. I do not do it as a way to pay my bills. I consider myself a “real” farmer just like you; I DO pay my membership fees, stand in line behind you at the feed store and worry about whether I will lose my tomatoes or pumpkins or meat birds just like you. If I chose to give away the fruits of my labor, I can. I worked just as hard for my single bushel of peaches as you did for your truckload proportionately. I don’t qualify for aid from the government, subsidies or tax breaks. Mi pay for everything out of pocket and full price. That’s quite a “hobby”.

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  58. Okay, yeah… questions 3 and 4 are dumb. But they do suggest that people who are used to a different culture and a different kind of marketing are actually going to farmers markets. What the heck is wrong with that? You can always say no, or better yet, explain to them why their question is offensive to you. Question 1 just sounds innocent. If you don’t want to explain what farmers do to people who have never been on a farm, you’d be better off either just saying “no, it wasn’t”, or selling your produce wholesale. Question 2 is personal, and if you don’t want to have personal interactions with your customers who are curious about what you do and how you do it, I wonder why you are actually selling at a farmers market in the first place. I’ve heard far worse questions and statements than these. Like “why is this cabbage twice the price of the one at Walmart”, or “do you have any tomatoes (in June)”. It sounds like you’re tired of marketing direct. Maybe you should get someone else to do it – an intern perhaps? Or maybe you should look at a way to make money through wholesale markets. I’m going to ask you a question, and you can add it to your list of dumb ones if you want. Do you know which crop you grow that would give you the best wholesale price margin, taking into consideration inputs, labor, seed cost, and other expenditures? Or how about this one: What crop gives you the best profit over a year at the market considering ALL of the input costs and the volume of sales? Seems like you should be worrying more about these questions than the ones you wish uninformed consumers wouldn’t ask.

  59. I am one of the people who are going to ask “did this item come from your place or a wholesaler?” because my next question is going to be “My family has a lot of food-related allergies and sensitivities. Can you tell me whether this item is a GMO and what chemicals were used on it and when?” Those questions can be forestalled by putting out signs with the answers, at least to the “where did this come from?” question.

    Around here, it is a common practice to label certain crops, such as “South Carolina peaches” or Bogue Banks watermelons” or “Pamlico County corn/potatoes/cabbage” etc. I’ve never had anyone refuse to tell me if chemical fertilizers or pesticides were used, although some people do seem to think it’s their agricultural philosophy that’s being questioned rather than the status of their produce as a possible trigger for an allergic reaction.

    For what it is worth, in my personal opinion, if the seller wants to sell those wilted collard greens and limp strawberries at the end of the day when they are no longer fresh, he or she should offer a discount. Otherwise, load ‘em up and take ‘em to one of the shelters. Nobody is forcing anyone to sell them at any price. If a potential customer wants to make a counteroffer to the posted asking price offer of sale, the producer can just say “no.”

  60. One good reason for discounting: Some fruit growers at my market lower the price on the fruit at the end of the market. But if you wait for it, you get bruised fruit. Don’t mind that? Great. Go get yourself some bruised fruit for cheap. If you want prettier peaches, get there earlier and pay full price.

  61. This is a great post and a great example of why our farm no longer goes to market! We just don’t see a sustainable future this form of sales. The driving, the tolls, the price hagglers, the lack of courtesy. It’s hellish to say the least.

    Farmer owned Co-ops and buying clubs are where it’s going for us. It’s still direct marketing, but it’s organized and can be scaled. We see it as the most efficient way to not only move our products, but the best way to contribute to organizing our local food distribution infrastructure. We’re working with our farm community rather than being in competition with them, and we’re feeding way more people in the process. Plus, we can stay home with our families on weekends rather than being stuck in traffic on a freeway coming back from the city, dead tired from the 3am loadup from earlier that day.

  62. I tend to agree with Paula’s comment, and even Lawrence. If a customer is buying a piece of sculpture designed to last a long long time, I can imagine not wanting to discount, but if your produce is going to spoil on the the truck ride back to the farm, what, and who, is being devalued?
    I expect to see higher prices when I go to Farmer’s Market, but sometimes, even that is hard to swallow. I have to work hard to keep my body and soul together, just like everyone else.
    I even believe that farming can be seen as a higher calling, but for farmers, just like anyone else, to take themselves seriously enough to not realize they are at a MARKET, not a church, then the self-righteousness is a bit out-of-hand, and in my opinion, in it for the wrong reasons, only because they will not survive.
    These are probably all growing pains: I recall a lone farmer with a meager crop grumbling that the CSA was a doomed concept, just a scam meant to pull the wool over the customer’s eyes. My guess is that his endeavor was the one that was doomed, not the businessperson/farmer who found an equitably valued way to finance his/her operations for the greater good. Not the same as “you should unquestionably pay me what I ask, because I’m making enormous sacrifices for YOU.” So, maybe humor me when I ask (from your enlightened perspective) stupid questions.