The Growing Trend of Farmers’ Markets in the United States

AUTHOR

Erica Phillips

CITATION

Erica Phillips (2007). Case Study #6-10, "The Growing Trend of Farmers’ Markets in the United States". In: Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Fuzhi Cheng (editors), "Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies." 13 pp.
URL: http://cip.cornell.edu/dns.gfs/1200428180

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Farmers' markets have surged in popularity in the United States during the past 30 years. Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began collecting information on farmers' markets in 1994, the number of markets increased from 1,755 to more than 4,385 in 2006 (USDA AMS 2007b). It is estimated that more than 3 million consumers shop at these markets, and about 30,000 small farmers and food entrepreneurs earn a partial or full living selling their local products at farmers' markets (PPS 2006).

Farmers' markets are launched and operate owing to a multitude of factors and objectives. Some open in response to demand from the production side, as farmers seek direct-to-consumer outlets for their produce. Other markets open as a result of consumer interest in the perceived benefits of locally grown produce. Finally, some farmers' markets are initiated with the broader goals of supporting the local economy, promoting community food security, revitalizing public spaces or downtown areas, addressing public health and nutritional concerns, or improving disadvantaged populations' access to fresh produce.

Whatever the impetus for starting a farmers' market, all markets have potential strengths and weaknesses. Policy decisions made at the federal, state, and local levels influence the success of farmers' markets. The policy framework within which these markets operate can have powerful impacts on how markets operate, who has access to shopping or selling at farmers' markets, and how well markets are coordinated and connected with each other. Because farmers' markets are located in numerous and diverse locations, they often reflect the interests of the communities in which they operate.

This diversity of farmers' markets, however, has also contributed to a lack of centralized or largescale evaluation of markets. This dearth of information is reflected in scattered studies and poorly evaluated market impacts. Analyzing the effects of market operations and policy issues surrounding farmers' markets, such as economic, environmental, social, and health issues, can help policy makers understand potential policy options for improving and possibly expanding market growth.

Your assignment is to propose the establishment of a local food market from the perspective of a consultant to a community and to identify the most important policy issues for starting and operating farmers' markets, taking into account the diverse goals of various stakeholders.

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