H-CENTRAL COAST

Nov 3, 2011 9:50 PM by Carina Corral

Farmers' Market vs grocery stores: which gives you more green for your buck?


Farmers' Markets are happening places. They are becoming, by their own right, cash crops. So, what is the draw?

At a Farmers' Market in San Luis Obispo one Saturday morning in October more than $9,000 of produce an hour were sold. And on a Saturday in September it was a record $10,000.

"I enjoy the feel of it being homegrown, close in our own area," said San Luis Obispo Resident Jane Buffuna when asked what keeps her coming back weekend after weekend.

Most of the growers are locals and if they are not, they did not come from too far away because this is a certified Farmers' Market, so the produce has to be California grown and sold here by the farmers.

And the freshness of the produce really cannot be beat because much of it was hand picked the night before or day of market.

The variety is also second to none. For example, See Canyon has 17 different apples for sale.

What about the cost? Is it cheaper to shop Farmers' than grocery stores?

"Pricing? I think we're a little bit cheaper on prices cause we can buy more," said Matt Weeks, the produce manager at Spencer's Market in San Luis Obispo.

He also said when it comes to freshness, Farmers' may win, but not by much. "Maybe an hour, I mean we get it right out of the field to our store," said Weeks.

He said all produce that is in season, just like See Canyon apples also on Spencer's shelves, were grown locally.

If it is not in season, they do get it from out of state, even out of the country, but at the same time Farmers' will not sell it if it is not in season, which is also what brings shoppers into grocery stores.

"{ I } went to get some corn, they didn't have any corn at Farmers' Market and wanted a head of lettuce, couldn't find any there yesterday," said Jim McMeen who was shopping at Spencer's.

And then there are those who fill up their carts without a worry of where it came from or when it got there.

"Well, I've always bought my groceries at the grocery store, my produce here. I don't really notice anything too different. They wouldn't sell it if it weren't fresh," said Spencer's Shopper Julissa Jimenez.

We chose locally owned, homegrown Spencer's Market to shop at as to compare apples to apples.

As far as the bigger chains, their produce is shipped, trucked and off loaded to the stores sometimes taking days to hit stores shelves.

For example, VONS Fuji apples right now cost $1.79 a pound and are grown in Washington.

At Spencer's, they are $1.69 a pound and grown in San Luis Obispo County.

At Farmers, they will cost a bit more at $2.00 a pound and are also locally grown.

So when it comes to shopping Farmers' you might do it to support our local growers, you might even do it just for the environment, but just know when you do it you are not saving any green.

It should also be noted that Farmers' Markets organizers and shoppers agree produce there is not always cheaper than the stores, but argue it is better because it is fresher.

Click here for a list of Farmers' Markets in San Luis Obispo County.

Click here for a list of Farmers' Markets in Santa Barbara County.

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