I made my rounds at the Boston-area farmers’ markets last week, checking out prices, and noticed that the two most interestingly-priced items were strawberries (again!) and rhubarb. This made me hungry, wistful (I need to bake more pies), and curious… How much would it cost me to make a strawberry rhubarb pie filling from the farmers’ market.
The answer is anywhere from $7.12-$13.50 (based on an America's Test Kitchen recipe), which is a pretty remarkable spread, given the close proximity of the vendors and homogeneity of the product. So little differentiation, and yet such a wide price gap. Makes no sense, but could have a significant impact on both buyer and seller, depending on how much pie is eaten.
So, what was the price breakdown for each:
Prices for strawberries ranged from $3.50-$5.00/pint with a price dispersion of 43%. The mean (average) price was $4.20; the median price was $4.25, and the mode price was $4.00. It seems that the wild price swings for the start of the strawberry season have leveled off a bit and settled on a $4.00-$4.50 range.
Rhubarb was in another category altogether….
Prices for rhubarb ranged from $3-$8/lb. with a price dispersion of 166% (well done, rhubarb!) The mean (average) price was $4.60; the median price was $5.50; and the mode price was $3.00. Wowza! How much does rhubarb cost? I don’t think anyone could rightly say.
And, before I get to the breakdown of what these price discrepancies mean for growers, I have to go on one small rant. During last week’s farmers’ market visits, I went to one market where 10 out of 24 vendors were selling strawberries (effectively, all of the produce vendors). I visited another market the next day where 0 out of 22 vendors were selling strawberries. As a consumer, amateur economist, and supporter of small growers, all I can say is: This makes no sense and peaves me not a little. </rant>
And now, what the different market prices mean for growers at different volumes: