Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Local Foods Memo - Farmers' Markets: Farmers' Market Season is Fast-Approaching

Customers line the vendor stalls at the popular farmers' market in the small city of Sonora in Northern California's Gold Country foothills region. It's a social market as well as a farmers' market. [Photo courtesy of ianandwendy.com.]

Farmers market season is fast approaching in the U.S., as well as elsewhere in North America and the world.

The end of March and first of April marks the opening (although some have already opened) of thousands of farmers markets throughout the U.S., where local farmers and other food purveyors sell their fresh produce and artisan foods directly to consumers.

The farmers' market season is part of spring, that time of renewal in all things lifestyle.

The farmers' market movement in the U.S. has been growing super-fast over the last decade, and even picking up more steam in just the last few years, as new open-air markets open in cities, suburbs and small towns throughout America. There are thousands of farmers markets operating in the U.S. today.

What makes farmers' markets a unique format for fresh produce and artisan-specialty-natural foods retailing are essentially five key elements:

>In most cases the vendors grow all of the produce they sell at the markets. In states like California and a number of others, "state certified" farmers' markets exist in which all of the sellers must also be the growers. Non-growers-sellers can sell at non-certified farmers' markets but consumers like the certified markets because it ensures they are buying directly from the farmer.

>Most of the fresh produce sold at farmers' markets in the U.S. is "locally grown," coming from a distance of generally no more than about 100 miles from the market location.

>Organic fruits and vegetables abound. Since many of the growers-sellers at farmers markets are on the cutting edge of farming, the fresh produce they offer is in many cases organically-grown. Much of it also is biodynamic. For many farmers who sell at the markets doing so is more about saving money by not buying chemical fertilizer, pesticides and fungicides than it is a marketing tool. It's also about being conservationists of their land.

>Price is generally good. The prices on both conventional and organic fresh produce at local farmers markets are generally as good or better than supermarket prices. Even in the cases when the prices are a bit higher, the value often is better because the produce tends to be fresher and of higher quality. There's also the added benefit of supporting local farmers.

>Farmers' markets are a social event. Farmers' markets allow consumers to get closer to the food they eat. As mentioned, most of the sellers at farmers' markets also are the growers. This allows for interaction between the farmers-vendors and consumers. Farmers' markets also provide a forum, centered around food, in which residents of a community can interact, visit and network. It's community at its best.

Since farmers' market season is fast-approaching, Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) decided to search the web and choose a selection of stories and articles about farmers' markets in the U.S. (and one in the UK at the bottom of the list) for our readers. (We will have more about Canadian and UK farmers' markets in upcoming posts.)

Below are links to the articles we've selected. All of the stories are from March 17, 2009:

~Tampabay.com: Tampa farmers markets a boon for frugal food shoppers
~Seal Beach Daily: The beauty of buying local: fresh and fun at the new Seal Beach farmers market
~Valley Courier: Local flavor
~Vernon Morning star: Eating close to home
~California Farm Bureau magazine: Considering organics? Farmers offer advice on how to get started. And: Growth in organic food sales continues, at slower pace
~Boston Globe: Economy of scales
~Christian Science Monitor: Refugee job hopes wax and wane at farmers market
~Minneapolis City Pages: Great news from Chef Shack!
~Hobby Farms.com: Top 10 Ways to Support Agriculture
~WXII12.com: New Farmers Market To Open In Downtown Winston-Salem
~MPNNow.com: Farmers, families like veggie coupons
~Rural Northwest.com: Growing the Farmers' Market
~The Post-Standard: Farmers markets seminars coming up
~Richmond TimesFarmers market in western Henrico opens April 25
~United Kingdom: Liz Hurley to take up stall at Stroud Farmers' Market


Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) will be visiting a variety of farmers markets in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom in the upcoming spring and summer months, bringing first-person reports about local foods' selling and buying, along with photographs, to the Blog. Stay tuned.

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