Benefits of Farmer's Markets
Farmers' markets can offer farmers increased profit over selling to wholesalers, food processors, or large grocery firms. By selling directly to consumers, produce often needs:
- Less handling
- Less refrigeration
- Less time in storage
- Less transport
By selling in an outdoor market, the cost of land, buildings, lighting and air-conditioning is also reduced or eliminated. Farmers may also retain profit on produce not sold to consumers, by selling the excess to canneries and other food-processing firms. At the market, farmers can retain the full premium for part of their produce, instead of only a processor's wholesale price for the entire lot.
Where consumers perceive the farmers' produce as of equal or better quality than produce available through grocers, farmers may retain most of the cost savings to themselves. Some farmers also prefer the simplicity, immediacy, transparency and independence of selling direct to consumers. By contrast, relations with agricultural conglomerates can be burdened with quite complex contractual details.
Among the benefits often touted for communities with farmers' markets:
- Farmers' markets help maintain important social ties, linking rural and urban populations and even close neighbors in mutually rewarding exchange.
- Market traffic generates traffic for nearby businesses
- Buying at markets encourages attention to the surrounding area and ongoing activities
- By providing outlets for 'local' products, farmers' markets help create distinction and uniqueness, which can increase pride and encourage visitors to return.
Reduced transport, storage, and refrigeration can benefit communities too:
- Less land dedicated to food storage
- Lower transport infrastructure cost (roads, bridges, etc.)
- Lower transport pollution
- Lower transport and refrigeration energy costs
A manager of the McClintock Fountains Farmers Market reported that 90% of the money gained at farmers' markets stays in the community. This money also stays in the community longer than money that supports larger corporations. Market owners are often paying clients, 'paying' the local community for the space they use.
Farmers' markets may also contribute to innovative distribution means that strengthen civic engagement by reducing the social distances between urban and rural communities. With fewer intermediaries, the support of independent growers by local community members can enhance local economic opportunities and health and wellness in poor communities.
Consumers often favor farmers' markets for:
- A better variety of foods, such as the following options:
- Free-range eggs and poultry
- Handmade farmstead cheeses
- Heirloom produce heritage breeds of meat
- Many less transport-immune cultivars disfavored by large grocers
- Organic foods
- Pasture-raised meats
- Fresher foods
- Healthier foods
- A place to enjoy an outdoor walk while getting needed groceries
- A place to meet neighbors, chat, etc.
- Seasonal foods
- Reduced overhead: driving, parking, etc.
Helping Your Community
Individuals often favor farmers' markets as a way to personally contribute to the community benefits of reducing transport, storage, and refrigeration.
According to Farmers Markets of America, customers drawn to farmers’ markets shop locally for three main reasons: food quality, better prices, and a great social atmosphere.
Evidence seems to show that overall prices at a typical farmers' market are lower than prices at a supermarket because the process of production is more concise; there is less distance to travel and fewer middlemen.
Based on a figure shown in Farmers Markets of America, the prices at a farmers' market are lower than prices at a supermarket 91% of the time.
Another reason that many shop at farmers' markets is that they provide produce at a much higher quality. Robert Sommer argues in his book that “there is no question that farmers market produce is fresher and more flavorful.”