Would you buy vegetables from social media if they were cheaper? Here’s why some Australians are

There’s more to Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree than vintage furniture and ceramics — there’s also lettuce and other fresh produce.

As Australians watch helplessly, the prices of once-affordable staples are soaring.

Consumers have seen lettuces selling in shops for more than $10.

With no end in sight for fruit and vegetable prices price hikes, some shoppers are looking to an unconventional source of getting fresh produce on the table: social media.

Buying online cheaper than supermarkets for some

Jason, 44, is from Brisbane and started selling fresh produce online at the beginning of 2021.

“While I was growing my own vegetables at home, I decided to sell some of the extras online to help others out a bit,” he said.

Jason advertises homegrown lettuce on social media for $3 a bag and $5 for two bags.(Supplied: Jason Mace)

“Once you find a decent seller on social media, it’s easy to stick with them and go back for more.” 

However, among those who have recently started selling fresh produce online are business owners who have been selling produce there for years. 

Soaring prices just the tip of the ‘iceberg’

Jeremy, 41, from Brisbane, owns a business called Jezs Seedlings, which he advertises online. 

While he has always been a gardener, Jeremy lost his job in early 2020 when the pandemic hit, prompting him to turn his hobby into full-time work. 

Over the past two years, Jeremy’s business grew, as did his customers’ reluctance to buy fresh produce from major supermarkets. 

“The prices are insane. They find it ridiculous,” he said.

A screenshot of a Gumtree post selling lettuce seedlings.
After losing his job in 2020, Jeremy turned his gardening hobby into a full-time job. (Supplied: Jezs Seedlings)

“The customers I’ve dealt with will either go without fresh produce or come to me and buy up a whole bunch of seedlings.”

Jeremy said other sellers on social media did not directly affect his business and that there was “enough room for everybody”.

However, he said, they would mostly be there only temporarily.

“The people selling these vegetables on social media will come and go,” he said.

“You might buy something off a new seller on Marketplace once, but what happens when that person’s patch of lettuce runs out?

“They won’t have anything for months because they don’t have the right resources to maintain produce all year round.”

A screenshot of a Facebook Marketplace post selling lettuce
An online seller advertises “ready to eat” lettuce.(Supplied: Facebook Marketplace)

Are we looking at a lettuce black market?

Two people stand at the end of a dark alleyway. One of them slips the other a $10 note. The other person slowly reveals a plastic bag from underneath their hoodie.  Inside it, is a lettuce.

This isn’t what buying vegetables from social media looks like, in case you were wondering.

Buying and selling produce from platforms such as Marketplace and Gumtree may be unconventional for some, but it’s no different to buying a stranger’s old sofa or their dining table. 

Rebecca Lindberg — from Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition — said it was something we should have expected.

“When fixed costs like petrol, home loan repayments and utilities go up, we know that the food budget is elastic and, hence, is the area where people try to cut down,” Dr Lindberg said.

“This means looking at other, informal outlets. 


Dr Lindberg said the affordability of healthy food not only impacted what people could buy each week but how they could buy it.

“In times of financial and personal crisis, many people cope by bulking out their meals with cheap pasta and rice, using food charities, or even skipping meals so children or others can eat first.”

Her research reveals that only 7 per cent of adults and 5 per cent of children eat enough vegetables.

“These healthy foods are so important for preventing Australia’s biggest causes of premature death and, wherever possible, need to remain affordable to the consumer and purchased for a fair price from the farmer,” Dr Lindberg said.

“Governments have an important role to play here.”

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