Are Farmer's Markets Sustainable?
Farmers markets support the local economy and community and are great for the environment. That much is true and you can read all about that elsewhere. While these elements contribute to the overall sustainability of a local market, there’s much more to it.
But to understand why farmers markets are sustainable, you must first understand what this concept means.
What Is Sustainability?
Sustainability or the idea of being sustainable is an incredibly complex concept. Keep in mind, there’s a lot more to it than what we are going to explain, so we encourage you to do more research and read more about it in your own time.
At its most basic level, sustainability is about keeping consumption and production on an even plain. For example, installing a solar power system that generates just as much - if not more - power or energy than what you consume would make you sustainable.
It takes into account the economics, environment, and waste that is a byproduct of living. It’s not always about complete sustainability either, it can be about simply improving processes too.
For instance, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate all waste you would produce. But it is possible to cut down on the harmful waste you produce by making your goods greener. A great example would be using a storage container that’s biodegradable and will eventually break down after its thrown away.
In essence, sustainability is about giving back to the community and environment in some small way by cutting down on the waste and consumption levels you would normally observe.
Of course, the definition is much more complex and widespread as we’ve already explained.
What Is Sustainability for Farmers Markets?
For all intents and purposes, the sustainability of a farmers market has everything to do with the local community and economy.
The money you spend at a local market - and the money farmers market - is rolled back into the local economy. Jobs and opportunities from local farms and market events support local patrons and citizens with work and money.
The goods themselves or food are all grown locally and fresh. They are not imported from remote locations or even countries. And since you are buying directly from a seller, often the farmer who produced the goods you are acquiring, they get more money. This, in turn, makes the farmers who participate in these markets more sustainable. They can continue to support their business and families by growing local foods and selling at local markets.
A series of studies conducted by Civic Economics revealed that for every dollar we spend at a large chain, only 15 cents of it stays local. On the other hand, locally owned enterprises and markets, contribute up to 45 cents.
Then, obviously, there’s the matter of sustainability itself. This is where farmers observe environmentally friendly growth strategies and create a more sustainable production environment.
What Makes Farmers Markets so Community Friendly?
There’s the point that you are interacting directly with members of the local community when you visit a farmers market. You will bump into neighbors, friends, and maybe even family. The farmers also grow and live locally, so you are directly contributing to the economy of your surrounding community.
Plus, farmers at local markets place emphasis on the quality of the goods they offer. So, anything you buy at a local market is of better quality than that you’d find on supermarket shelves or racks. In this way, customers get more bang for their buck. Not to mention, sellers at a local market often offer a single customer larger quantities than supermarkets at reasonable prices; you can buy in bulk.
A series of studies conducted by Civic Economics revealed that for every dollar we spend at a large chain or supermarket, only 15 cents of that money stays local. Locally owned enterprises and markets, for comparison, contribute up to 45 cents locally.
Not to mention, at a local market the money you spend rolls back into the local economy. Those farmers and markets also create local jobs and opportunities for many. So, you’re helping the local community much more when you shop at a market, as opposed to a food chain.
Believe it or not, that is what matters most.
Farmers selling at local markets also minimize the amount of waste and pollution they create. Most, but not all, use certified organic practices, avoiding synthetic pesticides and chemicals which can be harmful to the environment. They may also observe on-site composting to lower the amount of waste they produce. Furthermore, old stock - like foods that haven’t been sold - may be repurposed to alternative goods. Old tomatoes that haven’t been sold but are still healthy, for example, might be turned into organic tomato paste or sauce.
Local Farmers Receive Financial Sustainability
Small to mid-size farmers often participate most at local markets. There are several reasons for this, the most important of which being is a low-barrier entry point for them. They can start a thriving business for relatively cheap, and they are not forced to produce a certain quantity or meet overheads, which they would encounter if they sold to large retail outlets and chains.
They are free to produce what goods and crops they wish, and exactly how much they wish. This also means that most local farmers are more experienced because they work with the same goods. A large-scale farmer, for example, is at the whim of the retailer and must grow the crops they are assigned or expected to, usually. They have little room to deviate and try new opportunities.
Furthermore, customers are buying directly from farmers at a market. So, the money that exchanges hands goes right into the farmers pocket and bottom line, no middlemen are involved. This allows them to pay bills and remain more sustainable financially. It is also what allows them to make a living selling goods, and helps them support their homes, lives, and families. This is even more relevant for farmers and sellers who are producing low quantities of goods, instead of mass producing.
Quality Over Quantity Is the Answer
Wouldn’t you much rather have fresh, delicious goods? Better yet, wouldn’t you much rather purchase from someone directly that you can discuss growth processes with? You can ask farmers at markets what chemicals and methods they use to produce foods. You can see first-hand what kind of food and crops they are able to produce, without synthetic processing methods.
The fact of the matter is, most people that shop at local markets do so because they value quality over quantity. They would much rather have access to fresh, organic fruits and vegetables that are both healthy and beneficial for the local community. You can always visit a supermarket or department store for your goods, but you will be paying more in the long run. Sure, the prices may be cheaper, but you’re getting less for your money. Not to mention the money you do spend is taken away from the local economy.
We challenge you to at least give it a try. Look up a local market near you, pay it a visit, and pick out some vegetables or fruits. You can see just how fresh they are compared to anything you buy in a grocery store.
Most of the goods are harvested and transported directly to the market. Supermarket goods, on the other hand, have a much longer transportation process and come from remote areas of the country or even world.
That counts for everything when you prefer quality and freshness.