Finding a silver lining in today’s news isn’t the easiest thing to do when the headlines are dominated by increases in the consumer price index and the inflation rate is at its highest since 1981. But I recently found that silver lining, thanks to articles published by CNBC and National Public Radio.
On July 24, the CNBC headline boldly stated, “”Why Rising Inflation Means You Should Ditch Supermarkets For Your Local Farmer’s Market.” This was preceded on July 21 by NPR’s headline saying, “The silver lining of inflation – shoppers are choosing local foods over national brands as prices rise.”
Support local news coverage and the people who report it by subscribing to the Napa Valley Register.
Farmers’ market aficionados are thrilled to see national publications reporting on the narrowing gap between supermarket and farmer’s market prices. Over the years, the price differential has been defended by the argument that buying local is the right thing to do environmentally and economically. Produce is much fresher if picked yesterday, traveling non-stop and a shorter distance before being purchased. Today, farmers’ market prices can be said to be competitive with supermarket prices.
People also read…
The CNBC and NPR stories included examples of price differences between farmers’ markets and supermarkets everywhere from North Carolina to Kansas, but nothing specific to Napa. This meant I had to visit a few local supermarkets and see firsthand how their prices compare to the Napa Farmers Market for a selection of produce.
One of the products that many customers look forward to are heirloom tomatoes. When they hit the market this year, they ranged in price from $3 to $6.50 per pound. This price is about the same as last year despite the current increase in the cost of gasoline and labor.
At $6.50 a pound, Patch Farm has the highest price on the farmers’ market, but since heirloom tomatoes are their specialty, a premium is understandable. The prices I found in local supermarkets were $6.49 a pound, so in terms of price the market has a decided advantage over the supermarkets.
More than anything, I look forward to sweet corn coming to market. This year, the beautiful cobs of white, yellow and two-tone sweet corn were priced at $1 to $1.50 per cob. Supermarkets win the lowest price contest as I found prices ranging from $1 an ear to three or four ears for $1.
As far as I’m concerned, the price doesn’t matter because I know the sweet corn at the market was picked the day before and is as fresh as possible without going to the farm to buy it. I also have a strong preference for Brentwood sweet corn, which I can buy from G&S Farms at the Napa Farmers Market.
There is something about the growing conditions and the variety of sweet corn grown at Brentwood that sets it apart from all others. The G&S booth is also occupied by local high school and college students who have a container for their college fund. What better way to spend an extra $1 or $2 than to contribute to someone’s college education?
Currently, peaches, pears, plums, nectarines, and apricots are in abundance at the farmers’ market, and all are priced at $3.50 or $4 a pound. Supermarket prices range from $2.99 to $4.49 per pound, making fruit prices evenly matched. However, what the market has that the supermarkets don’t have is Annette Arceo or Michelle Bera, who can tell you anything you want to know about the fruit they grow.
I am now very comfortable saying that NPR and CNBC are right. Farmer’s market prices are comparable to, if not better than, those found in supermarkets.
The Napa Farmers Market is open Tuesday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon, at 1100 West St.