By Mike Madison, illustration by Helen Krayenhoff
If you grow rice or wheat or corn or cotton, the price is set in the commodities futures trading markets. When you’re ready to sell, just check on your computer, and there’s the price. But if you grow specialty crops for sale at farmers markets, setting the price is up to you. Should these apricots be two dollars a pound? Four dollars? Six dollars? How do you decide? This question has puzzled me for years, and I’ve talked to a lot of farmers about it. Some have a definite system, most just see what everyone else charges, and set their price about the same.
Half the production of my farm is olive oil (the rest is apricots, berries, figs, melons, and flowers), and for the purpose of this essay, I’ll consider the price of a half-liter bottle of organic, extra virgin olive oil offered for sale at a farmers’ market. I come up with four possible prices.
The Just Price
Consider two customers at the market. The first is a young woman with three shabbily dressed small children in tow. In her hand is a stack of EBT tokens (food stamps). Obviously she’s poor, and her children, considering the likely hardship of their circumstances, are probably more in need of healthful food than anybody.… Read More