While it is essential to understand the laws which govern certified farmers’ markets’, it is equally important to know why you may want a farmers’ market so you are able to build something that not only meets the legal definitions, but also responds to your community’s needs.
- Food access. Farmers’ markets are centered on food and can provide communities with access to fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables that might not otherwise be available within the community. The design of farmers’ markets, with portable equipment and setups that can typically be assembled in less than two hours, allow them to launch without the more expensive infrastructure requirements of traditional brick and mortar stores.
- Community gathering space. Because food is a universal need, it can serve as something which brings people together. The atmosphere of farmers’ markets, outdoors and centered in the community, can make them attractive community gathering spaces. When a community embraces a farmers’ market as a community asset, it is not uncommon to find people lingering within the market and warmly greeting friends and neighbors that they encounter as they shop. This can be a real boon to communities that face a lack of cohesion due to issues such as class or race. A farmers’ market can provide a platform where providers and community members can connect so that neighborhood services are fully utilized, and the community can come together.
- Market place for small farmers. In today’s business climate many marketing and distribution systems seem to be geared towards generating large amounts of identical products while reducing the costs of inputs as much as possible. This is true in the food industry as it is in other industries. For small-scale farmers, selling directly to consumers at a farmers’ market is the most cost-effective marketing channel available. Farmers’ markets in urban communities have become life lines for many small farmers’ in the states’ rural areas.
- Incubator for small businesses. Small businesses face similar challenges to small farmers of finding outlets for their products which are more unique or based on development in small batches versus mass production. Many small scale food artisans and other businesses have found success selling through farmers’ markets. Adding these types of businesses adds an additional layer of regulatory complexity to planning and operating farmers’ markets, but they also add additional variety to the markets. For more about including food artisans in farmers’ markets, see “Nonagricultural Products” in Section 2 of this guide.
- Classroom to teach about food, nutrition and agriculture. Today consumers receive messages continually about what to eat. Food advertisements are on television and in the movies. They are on bus benches and billboards. These messages, which are most often driven by the marketing of a food product rather than by the sharing of health information can mislead and confuse consumers. Farmers’ markets, with a simpler product mix that is almost exclusively fresh and healthy can serve as sources of simple and effective health and nutrition messaging. In much the same way, farmers’ markets can help consumers to understand where, and from whom, their food comes. This connection can engage consumers to support a food system that keeps these fresh and healthy foods accessible and affordable.
- Whatever else you can dream of. Once you bring your community together there is little that you can’t achieve. Farmers’ markets are used to help revitalize communities, as a sign of community life in opposition to blight or violence, and many other purposes. You are limited only by your imagination.