A farmers' market allows growers to sell directly to consumers at a given location and time. This marketing method has grown in popularity.
Since USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service began tracking farmers’ markets in 1994, the number of markets in the United States has grown from 1,755 to 8,144 in 2013, an increase of about 4 percent from the previous year. The states with the most farmers' markets include California (759), New York (637), Illinois (336), Michigan (331) and Ohio (300). Total annual sales at U.S. farmers' markets are estimated at $1 billion.
Most farmers' markets are operated on a seasonal basis, opening in the spring and closing in the fall. There are year-round markets and they are generally found on the West Coast, southeast and southwest United States.
To participate, a grower, or vendor, pays a fee or percent of sales for booth space. The market has a manager that coordinates vendors and promotes the market. The market is held in a public location, such as a town square or downtown street on a weekly basis. Some markets are open in the mornings and others are open in late afternoon.
A farmers' market allows growers the opportunity to market directly to consumers without dealing with a food broker. Growers can explain how the food is grown and educate consumers on how to prepare it.
Consumers have an opportunity to put a “face” on who is growing the product, which they do not necessarily get from traditional retail food outlets. This form of direct marketing is also regarded as agritourism. Consumers also have the chance to purchase products that originate locally and are promoted as being “fresh.”
Farmers Markets and Local Food Marketing, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), USDA.
- Alabama Farmers' Market, America's Heartland, RFD TV - The Alabama Farmers' Market in West Birmingham is one of the oldest in the country, having originated in 1921.
- AMS, USDA.
- As Farmers' Markets go Mainstream, Some Fear a Glut, New York Times, 2011.
- Best Practices for Sampling at Farmers Markets: A Practical Guide for Farmers Market Vendors, University of Kentucky, 2011 - This manual for farmers and farmers market managers interested in learning the best practices for providing samples to patrons is available online for free.
- Break-even Pricing, Revenue and Units, University of Missouri Extension, 2002 - This publication is designed to help producers understand how to establish the break-even price, revenue and units sold from a cost perspective.
- California Researcher: Farmers' Markets Benefit Local Economies, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program, eXtension.
- Community Farmers’ Markets, Penn State - This page includes rules and regulations, sample bylaws, a farmer-vendor application form and a harvest calendar.
- Community Farmers' Markets, Rutgers Cooperative Extension System, 2009.
- Consumer Demand for Local Produce at Extended Season Farmers' Markets: Grading Farmer Marketing Strategies, Michigan State University, 2009 - Growing season extension methods such as hoop houses offer potential to farmers interested in extending their marketing season.
- Farmers Market Coalition - This nonprofit organization serves as an information center for farmers' markets. The resource library features tools and documents to help vendors, market managers and market sponsors. The coalition also hosts free educational webinars.
- Farmers' Markets, Small Farm Center, University of California, Davis - This site offers a downloadable series of how to start a market, management skills and how to grow and evaluate a farmers' market.
- Farmers' Markets Offer Different Strokes for Different Folks, University of Illinois, 2010.
- Food Safety for Farmer's Market Vendors, University of Nebraska, 2007 - This article discusses factors that cause food-borne illnesses and provides practices for preparing and selling safe food products.
- A Guide to Starting, Operating and Selling in Farmers' Markets, University of Arizona, 1995 - This document reviews location, vendor space, advertising and selling.
- How to Start Your Business at a Local Market: A Vendor Handbook, Project for Public Spaces - This handbook, available in English and Spanish, provides a guide for interested vendors on how to determine what to sell, pick a market, manage their business and set up a stall. The book can be purchased for $15 as a PDF download.
- Is Local Food More Expensive? A Consumer Price Perspective on Local and Non-local Foods Purchased in Iowa, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, 2009.
- Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues; Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA, 2010 - This comprehensive overview of local food systems explores alternative definitions of local food, estimates market size and reach, describes the characteristics of local consumers and producers, and examines early indications of the economic and health impacts of local food systems.
- LocalHarvest - This site provides a nationwide directory of farmers’ markets.
- Locally Grown Foods & Farmers' Markets: Consumer Attitudes & Behaviors, Michigan State University, 2010 - This study reports consumers' perceptions and behaviors around local foods and farmers' markets.
- LocalMarketCALC, University of Nebraska-Lincoln - This Excel spreadsheet helps producers estimate all associated marketing costs.
- Meat & Poultry Buying at Farmers' Markets: A Survey of Shoppers at Four Markets in Oregon, Oregon State University, 2009.
- Organic Produce, Price Premiums and Eco-Labeling in U.S. Farmers Markets, ERS, USDA, 2004 - This research describes the significance of farmers' markets as outlets for organic farmers.
- Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington - This market is also known as America's Favorite Farmers' Market. The website offers a list of which foods are in season. The site also includes an online store and information about getting involved in the market.
- Results of Dot Survey: USDA Outdoor Farmers Market, Washington, DC, 2011.
- Some Thoughts on Selling at Farmers’ Markets, The New Farm, 2004 - This article gives lessons from someone involved in farmers’ markets for about 25 years.
- Vermont Farmers' Markets and Grocery Stores: A Price Comparision, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, 2011 - This study collected price data on locally grown and organic food at farmers' markets, coops and grocery stores.
Links checked May 2012.