Farmers’ Market Q & A

Q: Why shop at farmers’ markets? 

A: Only decades ago, 90% of Canadians were involved in agriculture, now it is less than 4%. Farmers’ markets reconnect people to farmers and farming, soil, land, water, animals and ultimately where their food comes from. They are also a key element of relocalizing the economy and ‘transition towns’. 


Q: Why do prices seem to be higher at farmers’ markets?

A: Prices at the markets are generally low. People have a bad habit of comparing prices with loss leaders in newspaper flyers. Those products are produced on a monster scale with chemicals, multimillion dollar machinery, government subsidies and slave labour. 


Q: Why is food so expensive?

A: This is a myth. Our food in North America, relative to income, is cheaper now than it has been in 200 years. Canadians spend just 9 cents of every dollar on food, whereas Europeans spend 18 – 35 cents, while Turks and Vietnamese spend 85 cents. We, North Americans, have become addicted to convenience and low price regardless of the true costs to all of us, our earth and every living thing.


Q: How much food is grown on Vancouver Island? 

A: Less than 5%; that means, more than 95% of our food is imported.


Q: How many days food supply is there?

A: On Vancouver Island, two days fresh, then one more day of processed foods.


Q: Why do we grow less than 5% of our food?

A: First of all, western countries, like Canada, benefit from a cheap food supply produced in other countries using slave labour, no environmental laws and toxic chemicals. Additionally, our cultural values dictate a focus on a higher education to achieve a higher paying job in order to acquire more material possessions, including a large house and two car garage. This then over inflates land values for housing and in turn, under-values land for food production. Ask yourself, who has more status at a cocktail party – a lawyer or a farmer? 85% of farmers in Canada have an off-farm job in order to make ends meet. Most farmers make so little that they have no savings, pension, or retirement – except to sell their land. The average farmer in Canada is over 55 years of age, and their children, for the most part, are not interested in farming.


Q: Then how much do farmers make?

A: The average is about $3.00 per hour.


Q: Why does farming pay so poorly?

A: Our society is upside down. We overvalue some things and undervalue others. We under pay people who raise our children, like daycare workers, we over-pay lawyers and we gladly give millions to movie stars, rock stars and hockey players, while every day in Canada, more farms are auctioned off. What does that say about our value system?


Q: Why is the farmers’ market not year ‘round?

A: When it rains, is windy, is hot or cold, vendors’ income for those markets is usually cut in half. Furthermore, currently about 1% of the population shops at Farmers’ Markets and in Nanaimo, it is less than 1%.


Q: Why do some Farmers’ Markets seem better than others?

A: The most successful Farmers’ Markets in Canada are ones created and managed by farmers. The successful ones have food, farming, farmers and their products as the central theme. Artisans and crafts are then added for variety. This is very different than some “farmers” markets which should actually be called “craft” markets (with “some” food products).