Bill McKibben shows that Farmers Markets are inefficient

You know the supermarket: you fall into a
light $uorescent trance, visit the Stations of the Cross around the
perimeter of the store, and somehow #ll your cart with the same
things as the week before. When they followed shoppers at the
farmers market, they found that they were having ten times as many
conversations per visit.

\”What\’s this?\” \”How much?\” \”Dear Lord, you c\’n fuck off n\’all, not paying that for a bloody turnip\”.

Farmers\’ Markets thus require 10 times as much effort as supermarkets. That\’s one way to increase leisure time, eh Bill?

19 thoughts on “Bill McKibben shows that Farmers Markets are inefficient”

  1. But the economics are interesting.

    Assume the farmers market prices reflect the cost of getting the goods to market. It does make you wonder just how much we’d be paying for our food if the likes McKibben, WWF and Greenpeace had his way and supermarkets and large scale farming were a thing of the past.

  2. Marksany: And they’re welcome to it, but they’re not forcing me to get my shoes muddy.

    Tim, what’s happened to all your ligatures?

  3. Surely the only people farmer’s markets benefit, are farmers? They cut out the middleman and they get to charge the premium that a certain type of person likes to pay to know the provenance of the food.

  4. If I’ve travelled 5000 miles and I know how I feel when I stagger off the plane, that’s how the tomato feels too.)

    This is supposed to be reasoning not just from adults but from adults who insist they are wise enough to demand we live our lives to their rules?

    Fuckwits. I’m sorry to swear on an (as yet) Arnald-free thread but utter, pig-sodding-ignorant statist fuckwits.

  5. Surely the only people farmer’s markets benefit, are farmers?

    But you yourself do mention one other beneficiary – your ‘certain type of person’. And the landowners for the market (usually, up here, the local council) benefit from stall rents. As will the evil oil companies because of the reduced transportation efficiency. I’m sure we could think of others.

  6. Farmers’ Markets are part of the luxury food industry. They won’t feed the world. What they will do is preserve some genetic diversity, ensure high welfare standards for some animals, and provide the very top end of the market with exceptionally high-quality food.

    They also provide lifestyle benefits for people who choose them, as producers or consumers. These can include more standing round chatting than is usual in supermarkets.

  7. Ah, the bourgeois view of what is good for people.

    “You should shop and eat slowly. Enjoy life. Buy the kinds of items I like: artisan bread and cheese, hand-made sausages, micro-brewed beer. I know it takes more time and is a leetle bit more expensive, but it’s soooo worth it.”

    Patronising idiot.

    I made ham-hock soup and home made bread last week. Took two hours, but I work from home so can do that. I fed the builders who are doing my extension. But how, with their 9 hour day, kids pick-ups from school, and manic supermarket runs are they supposed to ‘take time’ to have conversations in every shop???? They thought I was mad.

    I remember my nana telling me of her joy when the first supermarkets opened in the 60s. She could finally get all her shopping done in one place and didn’t have to deal with a succession of annoying shop keepers.

  8. Philip Scott Thomas

    SE

    I’m sorry to swear on an (as yet) Arnald-free thread..

    LOL. That’s brilliant. Thanks for the chuckle.

    There is, however, another type of person who benefits from farmers’ markets: foodies, or more specifically, me.

    We have a farmers’ market in the city centre on the first Friday of the month. It’s the one place I can count on to find game, non-standard cheeses, pies, mutton and so on.

    I’m not saying these things are any better than what I can get from my supermarket, mind. Only that it’s a chance to try something different from the quotidian stuff.

    Yes, I probably have to pay somewhat over the odds for the stuff, and I have learnt the hard way that there are some things, such as bread, that are better elsewhere, but it’s really just another another entertainment expense. Some people go to the cinema and pay to see the latest blockbuster; I go to the farmers’ market and pay to try out a new cheese.

  9. Philip,

    I like them too. You get some nice bacon and venison and, up here, lamb actually cheaper than the supermarkets. But, as you say, in the UK a luxury good.

    But we do need to realise that farmers’ markets _do_ feed the world. Not as efficient as Walmart, not as scrupulously clean as Waitrose. But all around the world, civilised or un (exempting the US, of course), similar places are the hub of the nacent or burgeoning agricultural industry.

  10. Philip,

    There is, however, another type of person who benefits from farmers’ markets: foodies, or more specifically, me.

    We have a farmers’ market in the city centre on the first Friday of the month. It’s the one place I can count on to find game, non-standard cheeses, pies, mutton and so on.

    The problem is that a lot of foodies can’t just see this as an individual choice. It’s not enough that there are small shops and markets providing them with quince jelly or well-cured bacon, they consider there’s something wrong with others who might prefer supermarket food and to spend their money on Call of Duty or 50 Shades of Grey.

    What many of these foodies don’t even realise is that all this progress was good for foodies. Read Elizabeth David’s books and she recommends going to chemists for olive oil because the supermarkets didn’t sell it. I used to bring couscous, roquefort and dried sausage back from France because there was nowhere to buy it, but you get those in Tesco now. Livarot and merguez are about the only things I find tricky to get hold of.

  11. Philip Scott Thomas

    Tim Almond

    I couldn’t disagree less; you’re quite right.

    There is a certain type of foodie who confuses individual taste with moral righteousness.

    A prime example can be heard (nearly) every Sunday on BBC Radio 4 at 12:30. What was once a programme exploring the best of British foods is now a moral campaign against salt, fat, supermarkets, school dinners, global producers, blah, blah, blah.

  12. Not to mention that for many people, farmers markets are impossible to get to.
    Daytime hours, during the week – gosh, thats when a lot of people work.

    Haven’t been to a farmers market in about 6 years. Interesting (and expensive) stuff. There’s interesting and usually cheaper stuff in the supermarkets – places open when I’m free to shop, with free parking near the door, and a trolley to take the purchases to the car.
    Did see one place selling some mead one time on a farmers market. £14.50 a bottle, not as nice as the £4 bottle Morrisons have.

  13. I guess farmer’s markets increase leisure time for the sort of people that enjoy driving halfway across town to spend the morning argueing with a dozen different shopkeepers over the price of produce.

    I lived in a small town in Italy for 3 and a half years and was damn annoyed just making 3 stops from the corner market, the produce shop, and the butcher shop.

  14. Peter Risdon // Sep 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    “. . .What they will do is preserve some genetic diversity, ensure high welfare standards for some animals, and provide the very top end of the market with exceptionally high-quality food.”

    How in the world do they preserve genetic diversity? They’re growing the same stuf the large farms are.
    You can already get “free-range” and the equivalent for other types of meat in the supermarket already.
    My local Walmart and the chain supermarket stock produce as good as anything I’ve seen in a farmer’s market – Heck even the little market I go to (half market, half hardware store) because the other two are 10 miles away has just as fresh stuff – they just can’t stock at the same level of variety.

    And keep in mind that the supposed freshness of the food there is largely a myth. These guys aren’t picking fruit out of the orchards in the night and then bringing it straight in for the morning.

  15. Surreptitious Evil-

    ‘Sorry to swear on an (as yet) Arnald free thread’

    Absolutely superb! I think someone must be force-feeding Arnald tranquillisers as he’s been here much less frequently. Long may it continue!

  16. Huge advantage of a certain Sunday FM in central London: it encouraged the adjacent Waitrose to stay open all that day.

  17. Agammamon: “How in the world do they preserve genetic diversity? They’re growing the same stuf the large farms are.”

    No, they’re not. The local FM here has stalls selling rare breed beef, lamb and pork. Rare breed farmers depend on FMs.

    And the meat is noticeably better. For one reason or another, we’ve been test-tasting recently.

    Oh, and the veg people DO pick the day before where possible. They don’t have access to the inert gas packaging that slows spoilage.

  18. Farmers Markets are something of a leisure industry in that an interest in food, primarily cooking and eating it, can be a fun and enjoyable thing to do. Rare breed produce and ‘artisan’ bakers come at a price, however; they are unlikely to feed the rank and file, nor most 20-30 somethings who are still in their fried chicken and nachos stage.

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