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Revised February 2022
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 to 8,720, an increase of about 7.07 percent from 2013. 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. All farmers markets are regulated by the state as to what they can sell and how. All farmers markets must be approved by the State Department of Agriculture and they have to follow the state guidelines. But, they can create other guidelines that don’t contradict the state guidelines. The regulations vary a little by locality are provided for each market by the market director. Most markets require that you are local, for whatever region they have identified (by county and maybe including adjoining counties, or maybe anyone can participate). To sell at any farmers market, the regulations of the state and the guidelines of that specific market must be followed. This requires being approved as a vendor, having insurance, and generally paying some sort of vendor participation fee.
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.
- AMS, USDA.
- Direct Farms Sales of Food, 2016. Results from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
- 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.
- 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.