Let's Get Fresh: Bridgeport Farmer's Market Pricing Survey Part Two

By Bob Workman on June 22, 2014 from Let’s Get Fresh via

This week at the request of several Market followers I am offering up a second helping of last year’s pricing survey, which compared prices at the BFM with those at two local outposts of large national chains. It was felt that with the large influx of new customers this season that some would benefit by seeing this again. While I plan on doing a new survey sometime in August I agreed that this would be a worthwhile read. And the survey says…
Since becoming involved in the whole Farmers Market scene five years ago I have often heard folks comment, either directly to me or via third parties, that the Market is "terribly expensive". A while back one good friend of mine tried to tell me, "Produce is three to four times higher at a farmers market." Many times I have even heard this from people who admit to having never been to the BFM or any farmers market for that matter. They just took somebody else’s word for it. This line of thinking has always troubled me. Many people seem to think that small farmers must be filthy rich. As a small business owner myself it always puzzles me when people question my prices, as if they know more about my costs of doing business than I do. And I can assure you that I certainly have no idea what all costs go into a small farmer’s pricing decisions. For that matter, neither do most of you.
So, this week I did a little undercover investigative reporting. First I chose seven vegetable staples that are currently in abundance at the Market. The main criterion for being chosen was that each one of the seven had to be available from at least three Market vendors. I also chose three different cuts of beef to compare. All three are always available from the Market's two grass-fed beef vendors. Below are the vegetables and beef cuts with their average price at the Sept 1, 2013, Bridgeport Farmers Market.
Tomatoes: $2.30# (5 vendors, 4 of which sell heirloom varieties)
Corn: 0.42 per ear (3 vendors had corn)
Potatoes: $2.00# (3 vendors) or 0.75 each (two vendors sell by the potato)
Bell Peppers: 0.83 each (3 vendors)
Green Beans: $3.00# (3 vendors)
Eggplant: $2.50 each (3 vendors)
Squash: $1.38 each (4 vendors)
Ground Beef 80/20: $4.13 per pound; 90/10: $5.25#
NY Strip Steaks: $12#
Eye of Round Roasts: $6.50#
Next, I visited two major grocery stores and checked pricing on these same items. In order to get as true an apples-to-apples (come to think of it, why didn't I check apple prices?) comparison as I could I set the following ground rules. First, if an item was currently on sale I used the regular shelf price, not the sale price. Secondly, if I could find an organic version of the item at the grocery store that was the item I used first. I also recorded the price of the non-organic version of the item as well. For the beef prices it is impossible to get a true apples-to-apples comparison as there is no hormone-free, antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef to be found in our local grocery stores. So I had to compare prices with the drugged up, corn-fed variety found there.
                 Store A                                                                            Store B
Tomatoes: $1.48# non-organic not from WV          $2.29# non-organic from ?
   o $3.48 per 10oz pkg organic Mexico                       $3.99# organic Mexico
   o No heirloom varieties                                               $2.99# Heirloom from ?
Corn:         $0.38 per ear not from WV                       No corn available
Potatoes:  $0.98# non-organic not from WV           $0.99# non-organic from ?
   o No organic variety                                                    $2.29 3# bag organic from ?
Peppers:   $0.68ea non-organic not from WV        $0.77ea non-organic from ?
   o $1.88ea organic from Florida                                $2.49# organic from California
Beans:       $1.98# non-organic not from WV          $2.49# non-organic from ?
Eggplants: $1.48# non-organic not from WV         $0.99# non-organic from ?
Squash:     $1.28# non-organic not from WV         $2.49# organic from California               
Ground Beef: 80/20: $3.48#; 90/10: $4.68#           80/20: $4.29#; 90/10: $5.29#
NY Strips:  $9.97#                                                        $11.99#
Eye of Round Roasts: $5.48#                                    $5.99# 
As you can see the Market more than holds its own on the price front. In fact, there are some items (heirloom tomatoes, organic peppers) that are lower priced at the Market. And, at risk of showing any inkling of a bias, I have to say that the two items at Store A that stand out as low price leaders (the tomatoes and the NY Strips) were of questionable quality to this observer’s eye. Add to this the fact that you can be absolutely 100% certain that the BFM items were all grown in West Virginia. With the possible exception of the non-organic tomatoes at Store A which were labeled "locally-grown" I don't believe there is one item on either store's list that was grown within 250 miles of The Mountain State’s borders. Of course this also means that the money you spend with the local farmer at the BFM stays in West Virginia instead of going off to Bentonville, AR, or Cincinnati, OH, to fuel the building of the next Mega-Super-Duper Center.
At this point in the original blog from last year I went off on a tangent about farm subsidies and their impact on our food prices. Since that time our generally do-nothing Congress actually passed a new farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, which should have been completed in 2013 but who’s counting. I will explore the good and bad of that act in a future post here. Suffice to say, it was mostly good for farmers’ markets and small farmers in general. 
This week, back by popular demand, we will feature Chefs Mark Tasker and Donnie Orr of Table 9 in Morgantown under the Chef’s Demo tent. Last week Mark and Donnie stepped up to the plate and knocked their Fresh Fire demo out of the park. A little farm-fresh poached egg here, a dab of fresh English peas there, a slice of just picked radish on top and a few mushrooms on the side all drizzled with olive oil? I don’t know what to call it but I want more!
Chef Dale Hawkins returns to the Market this week and will be offering up a fresh chicken salad croissant, a wonderfully spiced chopped Thai chicken salad, and a crunchy lentil salad with feta and roasted tomatoes. And I’ve mentioned it here a couple of times this season but it’s worth repeating since Dale’s supply of ramps has to be nearly exhausted. Be sure to pick up a few Ramparoni rolls before calling it a Market day. Is it possible for a food to reek more of West Virginia heritage than that?
Stay tuned here for some exciting news on a new food offering at the Market next week. This will be a first for Bridgeport and a truly unique vision of the future of food!
Until next week, Stay Fresh!
The Bridgeport Farmers Market Association is the seven member all volunteer board of directors that governs the Bridgeport Farmers Market. It is supported by a wonderful group of community volunteers who help in the setup and maintenance of the market. For more information on the Farmers Market or to see how you can help please e-mail us at or, better yet, LIKE us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. You can also check out the Market’s own YouTube channel: or for more BFM video content you can now go to

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