What was once considered an expensive luxury is becoming the more cost-effective option.
Freshly-grown meat, produce and home goods at the non-profit Edinboro Market have been available to the local communities for three-and-a-half years, but the high quality usually meant “less affordable.”
However, rising costs of gasoline and storm-damaged crops from the Midwest have caused food inflation that is hitting the wallets of people going to standard grocery stores every week. Meanwhile, the costs of doing business haven’t changed much for the 45 local farmers who sell at the Edinboro Market.
“We set the price that we need [to continue farming],” said Jim Coxson, owner of Strawberry Lane Produce in Conneaut Lake. “When you’re selling into a wholesale market, and [your food] comes from, let’s just say California, where, that’s the salad bowl of the country, that’s a 2500-mile trip of a refrigerated truck. And it’s a 30-mile trip from our farm to here. [It’s] the exact same stuff.”
Coxson said he has only raised the price of his lettuce once in 2019, and he doesn’t see a need for another increase for at least the next three years unless something drastic happens.
Amanda Hines, owner of No Dirt Farms in Fairview, said the prices for her hydroponic produce have been the same since she started three years ago.
“This [market] is going to be one of the few places that you’re going to shop, and your prices are not going to increase,” she said.
How can these local farmers keep their prices steady while other grocery stores have to charge more? A few reasons. Their farms were not affected by storms, so they still have product. And the distance they travel is, and always has been, within 150 miles of Edinboro, so the increased gas prices are not currently digging into profits.
Selling product from farms in the area was the plan of Market president Marti Martz and her husband, Curtis Hals, when they started this non-profit in 2017.
“[Customers] might come in and purchase two pounds of tomatoes that are grown for flavor, rather than the ability to travel 1,000 miles,” Martz said. “That product was picked hours ago or made hours ago. It’s nutrient-dense, so it will never be better for you.”
Since the non-profit began, the Edinboro Market has sold over $570,000 in local products, and 80 percent of that has gone back to the farmers. With their early success, Martz said more farms are reaching out to sell their goods in her store. So, the couple is currently looking to expand.
In the meantime, farmers like Garrett Gleeson, owner of Fat Hawk Farm in Mills, are keeping costs low for any customers who are looking for a healthier option. He carpooled to the Market the day we interviewed him and brought produce from other farms to Edinboro, while they did the same for him elsewhere.
“We’re just neighbors and buddies,” Gleeson said, “so it works out.”