Monday, July 28, 2014

Secret Agent

I suppose it’s time to make a confession.

I am a spy…a secret agent…gathering information from the “competition” on a regular basis.

While I will never claim to be as dashing as 007 and lack all of his amazing gadgetry, I can honestly say I am not as bumbling as Maxwell Smart.  (I hope)
I REALLY hope I don't look like this!

I suppose this all needs a little explanation.

One of the ways that we decide how to price our products is to research local prices.  This means I go to the grocery, pen in hand and take notes.  Recently, I went “high-tech” and started taking pictures and notes with my phone.  This adds to the whole secret agent persona. You should have seen the look I got from the lady at Food Lion!

I’ve done these price checks for years. 

I started when we were baking and I needed to know the cost of the materials in order to calculate the price of the finished loaves of bread. I often chose ingredients based on the lowest price point. But, I also needed to know what consumers expected to pay for bread.  That is how we were able to make the decision to end the baking business and focus on vegetables.  The price of flour tripled in the course of a week. (!)  At the time, we were buying at least 500# of flour a month…so it was a sizeable investment. …and we really couldn’t triple our own prices…  Although the price has dropped considerably since, once our focus shifted, we decided to stay with vegetable production. So, now I check vegetable prices. But, I digress…

T.Leighton Womack Photography Image

There is a misconception among some shoppers that Farmers’ Markets are exclusive and expensive. Many think that only “yuppies” shop the Market, and that the grocery stores MUST be a better deal.  When someone made a statement of this type to the Boss, only to have him counter the comment with…”well, you’re wrong there…we do price-checks all the time and KNOW that we are competitive”, the original speaker seemed more than a little astounded.  Of course, I don’t think the commenter had ever done any grocery shopping…he probably never set foot in a grocery store, but that’s probably not fair of me to say. (and I am digressing yet again…sorry)

T.Leighton Womack Photography Image

We would be short-sighted and just a little foolish not to be informed as to the prices charged by others in our line of business and/or what the public is willing to pay. While we do not generally concern ourselves with the prices that other vendors charge at the Market, (that one may be worth a blog post of its own) the public’s perception of the Market as a whole is a great concern. So, I do my little reconnaissance missions and know what is available AND what price is acceptable. I also make notes of the quality of the produce and the seasonal availability.
Sometimes the produce is nice...

There are a lot of things to consider when shopping for produce. Every week, there is at least one produce price that is set very low in hopes of luring shoppers into the store. These loss leader items are often funded by much higher prices elsewhere in the store.  Low price should not always be the deciding factor.  Shoppers should consider the freshness, quality and seasonality of the purchase.  Often, the produce has travelled long distances…sometimes coming from foreign countries.

Sometimes, it's NOT!

This corn is only 10cents an ear...but who would buy it?

...and these potatoes are green

While there are special little signs in some grocery stores, informing the shopper how to pick THE BEST produce, often the produce itself doesn’t measure up in any way.  I have seen absolutely awful looking vegetables in every single store in town. I’ve also found real good deals in unexpected places. Yes, I check prices in all the stores…not just the “high end” groceries or “organic” venues. I can also tell you that many of the stores get their produce from the exact same outlets, despite a wide disparity in price and perceived values. You can learn a lot in the grocery store!
Making deliveries around town

I must ask...
who else would pick produce?
Auto mechanics?

My little trips to the grocery assure us (and our customers) that our produce and other farm products are superior in quality to that available at the store. And, for the record, this does NOT necessarily mean more expensive. Quality assurance, price checks, and a little subterfuge add some fun and excitement to my grocery adventures. Did you read this one?

Just don’t blow my cover!


  1. Barbara - when I look at the shelves in the supermarket and then look at your produce at the Farmers' Market, there is absolutely no point of comparison. Your stalls win hands down every time.

  2. Dear 99,
    Well, that last sign explains why I found a head of lettuce under the hood of my car the last time it was in the shop.
    Over and out, m & jb

    1. I'm 99? I thought you wonder there has been a breakdown in communication.
      Be glad it was a mechanic and a head of lettuce. Imagine what sort of chaos would ensue if some other profession was involved in food harvest. (or auto repair) haha