The rural roads connecting cities in Ventura County, especially in the Oxnard Plain, are dotted with produce stands. There are at least ten farmers’ markets in the area every week. All grocery stores1 have their own fruit and vegetable prices. Not only do prices vary, but how produce units are sold is different place to place! (For instance: one banana for 19¢, one pound of bananas for 49¢, or one bunch of bananas for 99¢.)
It is not reasonable to go from seller to seller noting prices2—any ultimate savings would disappear in gas and time. I want to know, and I want you to know, if $1.50 for an organic orange bell pepper at Sprouts is a deal, or if sweet potatoes for $2.79/lb is overpriced at the farmers’ market.
How can we equip ourselves to be “empowered consumers?”
How about the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service!?
They provide a Fruit and Vegetable Market News Report every Friday at this permanent link: http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/fvwretail.pdf.
The report provides weighted average3 prices for a wide range of different produce. Charts in the report list the commodity, variety, unit, and then the weighted averages for the current week, the previous week, and a year ago. There is a national summary and regional breakdowns (Northeast4, Southeast5, Midwest6, South Central7, Southwest8, and Northwest9). Standard and organic produce have different sections.
Next time I go out shopping, I’ll either write down some prices beforehand or pull the pdf up on my phone. (I may be down to design an app for it using USDA’s Application Programming Interface.)
Thanks, United States Department of Agriculture‘s Economic Research Service! Follow them on Twitter: @USDA_ERS. Check their main Market News page for more.
Bonus tip! Use the USDA’s Farmers’ Market Search to, well, find Farmers’ Markets.
How is the data collected? From a footnote in the report:
Fruit and Vegetable Market News surveys more than 200 retailers, comprising over 21,000 individual stores, with online weekly advertised features