The Importance of Farmers Markets
By Anna Hogarth, Summer 2022 Intern

It’s no secret we love farmers markets. The fresh produce. The local wares. The community. To us, farmers markets are… un-beet-able.

And we know you love farmers markets too. Is it because you want to buy healthy products from farmers you can meet face-to-face? Or is it because you want your food to have a smaller environmental footprint coming from local businesses that use sustainable practices? There’s no reason too big or too small to celebrate all the ways farmers markets enhance our society.

August 7th – 13th is National Farmers Market week. In celebration, we’d like to share some lesser known reasons why farmers markets are so important:

Farmers markets build local food economies. 

  • According to the USDA, farmers and ranchers only receive 15.6 cents of every dollar that consumers spend on food. However, at farmers markets, farmers can make a bigger profit because they pay fewer costs of shipping, storage, processing, and marketing while selling directly to the consumer.

  • What’s more, farmers markets offer low-barrier entry points for new farmers and food entrepreneurs to start small and test their products. Thus, they serve as stepping stones for local businesses to get off the ground.

  • By supporting growers of local food, we help create more local jobs. For every $1 million in revenue earned, growers selling locally create 13 full-time jobs, whereas growers not selling locally create only 3.

Farmers markets get you talking more. 

  • Let’s face it. When you go to the grocery store, you don’t talk to anybody. No one is raving about how orange the carrots look or bonding over the exciting events that happened in the neighborhood. 

According to Project of Public Places, a customer only has about 1 to 2 social interactions at a grocery store. At farmers markets they have 15 to 20! Here, the joyful music and outdoor vibes are meant to encourage lingering. Farmers markets provide the opportunity to talk to people we don’t often get to talk to, increase social engagement in the community, and bridge the gap between city people and rural farmers. 

Farmers markets are an inspiration for children. 

  • When I was young, I did not engage with farmers about their work very much…and I grew up in Kansas! I did, however, go with my family to the farmers market each week. There, I could see what a farmer’s job looked like and get a glimpse into their livelihoods. According to the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, 72% of American consumers know nothing or very little about farming or ranching. Therefore, farmers markets are opportunities for children to learn more about the people who grow their food. There are so many unique role models at markets, too: farmers, community organizers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and more.

Farmers markets are an important tool for reducing food insecurity during the pandemic. 

  • Earlier in the pandemic, when supply chain shortages left grocery isles empty, most states (Connecticut included) declared farmers markets to be essential services. Not only have markets stayed present to provide fresh produce during food shortages, but they have become increasingly more affordable for lower-income consumers. 

According to Farmers Market Coalition, markets across the country reported dramatic increases in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) purchases from 2019 to 2020. 572,769 SNAP households made at least one purchase at a farmers market or direct marketing farmer in 2021, an increase of 42% since 2020.

In fact, farmers markets have been integral in expanding food access during the past few years. Since 2017, farmers market and direct marketing farmer redemptions of SNAP have increased by 162 percent. The growth of SNAP transactions at farmers markets has been helping individuals and organizations understand  their potential as places for reducing food insecurity and increasing access to fresh healthy food. 

Can you think of any other unique reasons why farmers markets are valuable spaces? What new roles could farmers markets play in our community to encourage social interactions or create opportunities? As we approach National Farmers Market Week, I hope we can continue to expand and bring awareness to the possibilities that farmers markets have in our communities.

What possibilities do you see? Stop by one of our markets this week and lett-uce hear your ideas!