More and more communities are adding farmers markets, recognizing the benefits they provide: viable regional economies and local farm businesses, increased access to fresh, nutritious food, and stronger social networks that help keep communities healthy.
Farmers markets also serve as business incubators that allow farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs to keep overheads low and test new products and markets.
In a recent newsletter, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition shared some encouraging market statistics:
- Farmers markets are growing—Today there are about 8,500 farmers markets in the U.S. That's 180% growth since 2006!
- Farmers markets help farmers start businesses and stay in business—16% of farmers selling at farmers markets are under 35 and 43% have farmed for less than 10 years.
- Farmers markets stimulate local economies—Growers selling locally create 13 full-time jobs per $1 million in revenue earned.
You can find even more facts and talking points (like the ones below) on the Farmers Market Coalition website:
- Farmers markets increase access to fresh local foods— In 2014, over 5,000 markets and farmers accepted SNAP benefits. Some states that help farmers markets accept SNAP saw a ten-fold increase in the number of markets accepting SNAP between 2009 and 2014.
- Farmers markets support healthy communities—Farmers market vendors educate their shoppers. Four out of five farmers selling at markets discuss farming practices with their customers, and three in five discuss nutrition and how to prepare food.
- Farmers markets promote sustainability—Three out of every four farmers selling at farmers markets say they use practices consistent with organic standards.
Also, USDA Agricultural Market Service released new branding materials for farmers markets week that can download free of charge to create marketing materials such as posters, emails and buttons.
Not surprisingly, Southern SAWG also has some very useful resources pertaining to farmers markets.
Our online course, Choosing Your Markets, covers some details very specific to farmers markets. For instance, in the section titled "Farmers Markets" there are downloadable resources such as: questions for farmers to consider; tips for personal success; and pricing considerations. And on the "Marketing Tips" section, both Jon Taggert and Lynn Pugh share some sage advice. And throughout each page of this course, Lynn and Jon give audio tips on marketing.
We have two videos from our Natural Farming Systems in the South series, that contain good nuggets of wisdom about selling at farmers markets. In the video “From Fields to Market”, you can watch the full video that shows how Joseph Fields Farm markets its produce through several venues: a cooperative, a small CSA, some groceries and restaurants, an on-farm stand and several farmers' markets. And the video "Maple Spring Gardens: Organic Horticulture & Marketing" is primarily about production, but it does cover some of Ken Dawson's marketing techniques and shows him setting up at market.
Of course, at the 2017 Southern SAWG Conference in Lexington, Kentucky this January, we’ll have plenty of sessions on farmers markets. Since farmers markets seem to be popping up on just about every street corner these days, we’ll have a session that helps producers determine which markets will be the best fit for them. There will be other farmers market sessions also, including a session led by Ken Dawson on how to increase your sales at your farmers market, with presentation of products being a piece of that puzzle. Just to whet your appetite, here’s a little time-lapsed video made by the Southern Foodways Alliance of Ken and crew setting up for market.