Farmers Markets are not Free Markets

Many fine friends visit us at the Oakland Grand Lake and San Rafael  (Sunday) market in Marin County. Both of these markets are run by AIM the Agriculture Institute of Marin. Free Markets an economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses apparently hurt farmers. AIM manufactures scarcity and ensures farmers have a place to sell their goods.

AIM Manages the farmers by approving each and every item a farmer can bring to the market. Annually they also visit the farm and verify that the farmer actually grows the products they bring to the market. While farms compete to provide locally grown food, the AIM markets manage what items are available to the consumer.


Seed Garlic (c) Rick Wesson

You must wonder what tools AIM uses or how many economists they have on their advisory board. You might expect they check local pricing and have their own version of the CPI. Luckily none of these are levered to manage [farmers] markets. A farmer is only allowed to bring and sell what the market managers decide. It is their job [to decide] which requires no training in economics. Just a bright bushy sense of self.

All a farmer needs to do is request that they bring in a particular crop or  product and the managers consult a list of other folks that want to bring in products. In our case we grow 400 verities of organic seedling any one of which we could plant a acre of.

When we asked to bring in fruits from our crops we met significant resistance. Bringing in 400 cops would mean competing with everyone at the market. Turns out they don’t want too many farmers competing with each other. Too much competition brings all kinds of discomfort to established and entrenched players.

We are now allowed to bring Garlic, Shallots and Onions to the market. Woot. Those crops take on average over 200 days to be marketable. So next August we will get some crops to the market we will be allowed to sell

We have only one out and that is to give away free produce — the produce we aren’t allowed to bring to the market and sell. We will be back in early February at both the Grand Lake market in Oakland on Saturday and the Sunday market in Marin with our seedling starts. I’ll bring some free items and set up my version of a free market. It is a recursive thing a free market within the farmers market…

Come See us under the yellow tent!

-Rick & Vernay

Categories: Food

1 reply

  1. If this system doesn’t work for the farmers, then what are the impediments for the farmers creating a coop for themselves that does?

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