An Interesting Time for Farmer's Markets

Posted on 06/07/2012 at 12:00 AM by Christa Hartsook

Blog article written by Lisa Jore, program manager of The Food Industry Center at the University of Minnesota and AgMRC contributing writer.

It is an interesting time for farmer’s markets. There is clearly growing enthusiasm to offer fresh produce and other products in the community. At the same time, there is a growing movement by health insurance companies, local food policy councils, and public health officials to implement and expand the usage of Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) and EBT benefits at farmer’s markets locations. Meanwhile, local food policy councils are incorporating the promotion of farmer’s markets visits into their economic development and food access planning documents as a means of providing easier access to more fresh foods and economic development opportunities to their constituencies.

Between 2010 and 2011, there was a 17 percent increase in the number of farmer’s markets in the United States, totaling 7,175 markets in 2011 according to the Agricultural Marketing Service.

A recent article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press by Andy Greder has drawn attention to a predicament in the efforts to increase utilization of farmer’s markets. The May 9th article points to a growing saturation of producers and markets in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.  According to one producer featured in the article, she needs to sell at more and more markets in order to make a profit due to smaller consumer turnouts at each market. As explained by economist and University of Minnesota Professor Robert King, as more farmers’ markets spring up and the number of consumers stays the same, producers must travel to more markets to make a profit.

In a separate interview with Dr. King, the saturation of famer’s markets is a national trend, however, the reasons may be locally based.  He noted that in the excitement around farmers’ markets expansion, it is important for groups to be aware of a sufficient customer base to meet the supply of new markets. Ultimately reminding us that farmers’ markets, too, are subject to the laws of supply and demand.

Minnesota: Too Many Farmers’ Markets?, Andy Greder, May 8, 2012.
Farmers’ Markets and Local Food Marketing, Agricultural Marketing Service, ERS, retrieved, May 11, 2012.