Farmers gather at markets to sell their products—fruits, vegetables, meats, and more—in parks, vacant parking lots, and empty fields on a regular basis, typically weekly, and sometimes even year-round. Farmers markets happen all over the world. They can host anywhere from three to four farmers to 1,700 farmers at the largest farmers market in Tokyo, Japan. Farmers are able to cut out the middleman (such as a supermarket) and sell directly to the consumer. This increases their profits and builds a relationship and loyalty with the consumer.
What do farmers sell at a farmers market? Products that are grown, raised, caught, brewed, pickled, canned, baked, dried, or smoked by their own hands.
You typically find vegetables, fruits, baked goods, meats, local fish, flowers, dairy products, jams and jellies, eggs, honey, and pastas at farmers markets. Some markets allow crafts, and you may also find artisan candles, soaps, wood products, and fiber products.
Types of Markets
Some markets are year round, while others are seasonal. While most are weekly, some are once a month or bi-weekly. Some markets are strictly organic, and others are deemed fresh and local.
Markets are set up in parks, vacant lots, empty fields, church parking lots, college campuses, hospitals, and even right on the farm. The US Davis Market was one of the first campus markets in the US. Kaiser Permanente decided to promote health and prevent illnesses by opening its first farmers market, and now has 35 markets either on hospital grounds or sponsored at other locations. This makes complete sense because people come to hospitals for health care!
The farmers market is one of the oldest forms of direct marketing by small farmers. The American modern-day farmers market has roots stemming back several decades to the informal markets of the early settlers in Jamestown.
In 1979, The Gardena Farmers Market was the first officially-termed farmers market to open in southern California. It started a revolution that changed our relationship with food and how American agriculture is driven. Since then, we have come full circle: from traditional farming to industrialized agriculture and now back to the focus on local, sustainable farms.
Farmers Markets support good health, sustainable agriculture, and build stronger communities. They bring the very best fruits and vegetables—once only available to the best chefs in the county—to low income neighborhoods.
Farmers markets provide fresh produce that’s as good for your brain as for the rest of your body.
Farmers markets are big social events for communities. It’s been observed that people have up to ten times as many conversations at farmers markets than at grocery stores. Looking in the eyes of the person who grows your food is a fundamental right, and builds trust and healthy relationships.
Farmers markets have grown by leaps and bounds since the USDA started counting them. In 1994 there were 1,755 markets nationwide. By 2013, there were 7,864!.
There are a number of online resources providing information about farmers markets. Local Harvest provides an alphabetical list of farmers markets. The USDA National Farmers Market Directory is a searchable listing you can use to identify markets within a certain distance of your zip code.
The Farmers Market Movement
The farmers market movement is expected to keep growing as consumers become more aware of choices. New York and California are leading the way with the most markets. The demand for locally grown food has fueled extraordinary growth in farmers markets across America and around the world.