Are Restaurants Causing the Price of Farmers Market Veggies to Soar?

Have you noticed prices at your farmers market going up slowly yet steadily? Are you wondering why?

On Grub Street last week, writer Felix Salmon explored the current trend of restaurants listing the origin of the vegetables they're serving on the menu, right down to the actual farm. What's going on here is really "an attempt to get customers to value -- and pay premium dollars for -- basic ingredients like Brussels sprouts, shallots, and chestnuts."

And it's good for restaurants. Even more expensive produce is much cheaper than a nice cut of meat, so creating an entire meal around heirloom potatoes and shallots works out for them in the long run. And you may end up paying a very similar price for that potato dish as you would a dish with more expensive animal protein.

So what does this mean for us, the home cooks? It means that with the demand from restaurants willing to pay a premium price for vegetables, you might be paying more of a premium, too. And don't even think about complaining: "The genius of farmers' markets is that they turn thrift into a guilt trip: Anybody looking to pay less money for a pound of carrots must also want to cut the income of hardworking farmers!"

What to do? Perhaps we just sit and wait for this trend to pass. Things that are good for a restaurant's bottom line aren't necessarily good for ours as home cooks. So while I love shopping at the farmers market and firmly believe in supporting my local farmers that I've come to know and love, this weekend I spent $7 for two sweet potatoes. I didn't realize they were $3.50 each until it was too late. Apparently, these are the sweet potatoes all of the high-end bakeries are using for their pies this year. Truthfully, I don't really care. I'd rather go to the grocery store down the street and pay half that.

Related: Great Farmers Market Resources: The New CUESA Website

(Image: Megan Gordon)