What is a Farmer's Market
Local markets and farmers markets are becoming more and more popular all throughout the United States. The number of available markets has grown considerably in recent years. According to the USDA Farmers Market Directory, the number of total markets grew from about 2,000 in 1994 to more than 8,600 today. Not to mention, that number continues to grow and the creation of these markets has really started to pick up over the last few years.
What Makes a Farmers Market Special?
A farmers market is a name for a gathering, community or assembly of local farmers and food sellers. Generally, they meet in a public area like a park or parking lot at a scheduled date or time. For instance, the market near you may meet every Friday or Saturday.
The local markets may happen in a building, park, fairground, lot, or somewhere else entirely - like someone’s home. There are no restrictions on where a farmers market can be held, only on who participates and how.
What sets farmers markets apart from grocery stores and supermarkets is all the sellers had a direct hand in growing and harvesting it the goods they offer. In other words, these are local farmers selling organic foods directly to customers.
This ensures local farmers receive more money from shoppers, and in turn, those shoppers receive the freshest foods. If those same farmers were to sell their goods to a grocery store or food chain, they would have to deal with middlemen - the store facilitators. That means, not only would they have to share any profit from selling their food, it takes longer to get to customers. Plus, any money the farmers make at a local market is rolled back into the community and local economy. It’s simple economics.
What Makes a Farmers Market Local?
Farmers markets have a set of limitations and restrictions, which prevent sellers from traveling long distances to sell their wares.
The definition of “local” or valid distance differs from market to market, as each sets its own restrictions. Some may allow farmers from the entire state, while others may only allow farmers and sellers from a smaller area.
The reason for this is it keeps the agriculture confined to local crops, which guarantees the food being sold is fresh. Food and wares are always seasonal too, so at certain times of the year, you won’t be able to find certain foods or crops.
These markets contribute directly to the local economy and any money exchanged keeps farmers sustained. They make more money selling directly to customers. Plus, all participating farmers are free to choose what and how much food they produce.
Believe it or not, these restrictions protect farmers and customers alike. That’s another reason why local markets are becoming so popular. Customers know they can find the freshest and most delicious foods at a local market, as opposed to larger stores. If you know the quality is always going to be better, why would you shop at a supermarket or department store, after all?
What Foods and Goods Will I Find at a Local Market?
Unlike a large store or supermarket chain, farmers markets are confined to local entrepreneurs and what they choose to grow. This is also why many of the prices you see will seem higher. The farmers are free to choose their prices, which often reflect the labor and time they put into producing the goods.
What foods you will find at a local market depend on your region’s season and climate, what crops are most profitable, the quality and quantity of a harvest, and more.
For instance, if many of your local farmers had trouble producing a certain type of crop because of inclement weather - or even a drought - then that food will likely be scarce in your region. What you do find will be priced higher, naturally, to make up for the low yield.
The restrictions set forth by market owners prevent out-of-staters - and anyone who isn’t local - from selling imported goods. This protects the participating farmers and the customers. It keeps competition fair between sellers, but it also prevents anyone from taking advantage.
Let’s say a farmer were to come from out of state with a crop that the local market doesn’t usually offer because it’s not in season. They could jack up their prices because they are the only one carrying said goods. This would force customers to pay more - maybe even outrageous prices - and it would take money away from local farmers and the community. The restrictions are put in place to prevent exactly this scenario from happening.
If a Supermarket Carries Goods Out of Season, Why Shop at a Local Market That Doesn’t?
There’s nothing stopping you from going to a supermarket or department store, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it either. So, it’s not like you should feel ashamed.
But there are definitely some things you should consider before doing so.
Have you ever had a strawberry - or another fruit - out of season? They suffice, but are never as ripe, delicious, or hearty as when they’re meant to be consumed. This is because in season foods are grown in optimal climates and conditions. It’s also why so many food chains import their goods from other areas of the country. Ripe and fresh is always better, guaranteed.
Naturally, if you shop at a local market and purchase in season goods you are already getting better quality items, but even more so because they were produced under optimal conditions. You’re getting more bang for your buck, so to speak.
If you really, really need or want a certain item out of season then, by all means, head to the supermarket. Just know that the food you are buying is often of lower quality and the money you spend will not be rolled back into the local economy or community.
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.
The question then becomes more about who you would prefer to support? Local entrepreneurs and farmers who support your community or a food chain that imports their inventory and spends profits elsewhere?
Where Can I Find a Market Near Me?
There are many ways to locate markets near you using our site. Using our home page search, you can search by the following methods.
- Search by zip code
- Search by city name
- Search by market name
- Use our Farmer's Market directory