Farmers' markets are a way of revitalising urban public spaces. They attract lots of people and create a place of diversity, interest, and conviviality.
As a marketplace in which in is easy and cheap for a new entrant to set up a stall, it encourages the sale of marginal products, and so adds to the variety of what can be purchased, or simply seen, heard, smelt in the urban environment.
As a place for local produce, they reflect the seasons. No out-of-season fruit and vegetables from halfway across the world here.
What is a Farmers' Market?
'A Farmers' Market is a predominantly fresh food market that operates regularly within a community, at a focal public location that provides a suitable environment for farmers and food producers to sell farm-origin and associated value-added processed food products directly to customers.'
1. To preserve farmland and sustainable agriculture.
2. To support and stimulate the profitable trading, viability and business growth of independent primary producers, hobby farmers, community and home gardeners, and associated produce value-adders.
3. To provide customers with regular supplies of fresh food and access to improved nutrition.
4. To contribute to the economic, social and health capital of the host community.
Farmers' Markets are an integral part of the host community and aim to provide various economic, social and health benefits including:
- Support of sustainable agricultural practices
- Food and nutrition education
- Promotion of fresh produce consumption
- Revitalisation of town and public space
- Regeneration of community spirit
- Rural/urban linkages
- Facilitation of community-based food security programs
- Recycling of green waste and appropriate packaging
Farmer's Markets - Economic Benefits
Farmers' Markets Provide $13 Million to Local Economy. Minister for Agriculture. Victoria. 2004.8
Victorian farmers’ markets sell fresh vegetables, fruit, value-added fruit and jam, baked goods, poultry and eggs, flowers, honey, oils, and dairy products. Farmers’ markets had put the spotlight directly on farmers and gave local producers an opportunity to showcase themselves and a chance to expand their businesses. Farmers’ markets are also excellent places for educating consumers about foods, how they are produced, and the farmers’ role. Consumers are spending more than $13 million on these markets because they are able to access the freshest produce, support their local farmers and purchase market goods at competitive prices.
In 1999 Victoria only had one ‘new generation’ farmers’ market in south Gippsland. Victoria now has around 30 farmers’ markets. More than 80 per cent of the Victorian market managers surveyed said they had the capacity to expand their stall-holdings – especially to extend the selling season for the main lines of fruit and vegetables. More than 86 per cent of market managers reported farmers had developed or expanded business sales beyond the market during the past two years.
Farmer's Markets - Benefits
New Generation Farmers Markets in Rural Communities. Max Coster & Nicole Kennon. RIRDC. 2005.8
Farmers' markets can revitalise town and public space, regenerate the community spirit of the host community, make rural and urban links, and benefit health.
Producers can develop their marketing and business expertise through increased networking and learning from other farmers and consumers.
In low income areas:
The product mix should be geared towards affordable basic foods rather than value-added processed foods.
Markets need to be community owned and community organised.
Markets need more financial support at the outset; to keep prices down, market managers can agree to lower stal costs to farmers, or a market in a low-income area may be linked to other markets and subsidised by those markets.
[Market's may need to be smaller to be viable.]
Food is not normally transported long distances to farmers' markets. This contrasts with supermarkets in regional cities where produce may leave the local area, be processed through a central system in a capital city, and then returned to the regional centre from where it came, making a round trip of several hundred kilometres.
Farmers in the USA report that 22% of their crop could not be marketed if farmers' markets were not available, due to supermarkets not accepting produce outside of their specifications. There is also a reduction in the amount of packaging material which can't be used when supermarkets change their packaging specifications.
Consumers can learn more about the produce and so become less concerned with the external appearance of the produce and learn more about flavour and environmentally sustainable growing practices.
Important outlets for farmers selling organic and less intensively produced or processed food.
The markets were in a range of locations: inner city suburbs of the capital cities, regional centres and in small rural towns. While it may be thought that cities are well serviced by supermarkets, some suburbs do not have fresh food and grocery shops. A farmers' market located in one of these suburbs may overcome the difficulty of getting fresh produce. They could have a similar role to community banking services which increase access to financial services in these same suburbs. They may also be the source of valuable off-farm income for small farms.
Most operators of farmers' markets in Australia have some sort of community base and are supported by volunteer organisations or local government. The remainder are managed by private operators. Private operators and regional food groups may manage a number of farmer's markets.
Local Government Support
Local government input to farmers' markets has been variable. Some councils see the markets as an important community innovation and have provided physical facilities, staff, promotional funds and a public liability insurance facility. Other councils have been suspicious of the motives of groups wishing to start a farmers' market and are reluctant to lend their support, fearing criticism from existing businesses and farmers not included as suppliers to the markets.
Market organisers who have had strong backing from their local council appear to be more connected to overall economic development strategies being pursued by their region, and have been more innovative in promotion.
In some areas local government officers need convincing of the economic benefits to their region before making this investment. A risk is that markets may fail due to under-investment and this discourages further local government investment.
Most markets are conducted on a Saturday. Most operate over a four to five hour period and are held in local showgrounds, a park or town square area. Most were charged for using the site.
Most markets had car parking, access to public toilets, electricity available.
Additional facilities can include:
- childrens entertainment.
- visiting chefs cooking food available to the market.
- a village hall available during wet weather.
- parking officials.
- good shade from trees.
- water taps, umbrellas, table cloths, tables and chairs.
- solid ground surface, riverside location, access to public transport, signage, tent hire and advertsing.
- cafes and information stall.
- tourist information.
- farm activities (eg milking and shearing).
- local schools providing BBQ breakfast.
Farmers' Market Santa Fe
Santa fe Farmers Market. Earthbeat. ABC. 2001.12.22
The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market is exclusively grow-your-own, and up to 75% of the produce is organic.
The Farmers’ Market is a way for farmers to sell directly to customers, where consumers can meet the farmer and find out how their food is grown. We have about 200 members, farming family members. Our biggest Saturdays here at the height of the summer during August and September, we’ll have about 110, 115 vendors. It’s one of the events of Santa Fe summer. We have probably 4,000-5,000 customers on a Saturday morning between 7 and noon.
There’s no re-selling allowed. You cannot bring in commercial food that you don’t know where or how it was grown. We’d like for our customers to be able to meet the farmer, find out how exactly the food was grown and if there were any chemicals used. It’s one of those few interactions left on the earth where you get to meet your producer.