Survey Reveals Farmers Market Growth Trends

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Survey Reveals Farmers Market Growth Trends

By Diane Quagliani - 08/24/2015

Does your retailer’s produce department feel a pinch during farmers market season?

Offering local and organic produce, healthy eating resources and opportunities for community engagement can give your store farmers market appeal, suggests findings from the newly released 2014 Farmers Market Manager Survey from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

Based on a survey of almost 1,400 farmers market managers from across the country, the results show that farmers markets continue to grow and serve as popular community gathering places. More than 8,400 farmers markets are listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.

In 2014, AMS surveyed farmers market managers listed in the Directory about the previous season’s activities. The data from the Farmers Market Managers Survey are representative of the U.S. farmers market sector as a whole. The survey identified the following trends:

  • Customer demand remains robust. Of the market managers whose markets had been open at least two seasons, 64 percent reported increased customer traffic; about the same percentage reported increases in the number of repeat customers and increases in year-on-year sales.
  • Markets look to expand to meet demand. Eighty-five percent of market managers wanted to add vendors, with 62 percent looking for vendors selling different types of products. Market managers did not perceive competition between farmers markets as a serious threat to market sales. 
  • Access to nutritional assistance at farmers markets is a win-win. Almost three-quarters of farmers markets have at least one vendor accepting federal nutrition assistance as payment. Programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Women, Infants and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC FMNP) and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition program (SFMNP) expand the customer base for farmers, give recipients access to healthy foods, and encourage the sale of locally-sourced produce.
  • Markets step up nutrition education. Most farmers markets (81 percent) feature healthier eating programs, such as distributing recipe cards to customers and sponsoring health-themed cooking demonstrations.
  • Fresh produce dominates, strong organic presence. Almost all market managers surveyed sold locally grown fresh fruits or vegetables at their markets. Two-thirds (66 percent) of market managers had at least one USDA-certified organic vendor. 
  • Markets strengthen community engagement. Seventy-five percent of markets use volunteers to perform market operations, and 46 percent choose volunteers as managers. Nearly half of market managers offer special programs or opportunities, and most provided market space for special events.
  • Markets serve as an important link in local food business development. Approximately 21 percent of farmers markets helped incubate new agribusinesses by sharing facilities and retail space and/or providing technical assistance. Nearly a quarter of farmers markets were used as a delivery point for community supported agriculture (CSA) enterprises.
  • Markets use web and mobile-based technologies. Most farmers market managers (84 percent) used web and/or mobile-based technologies to communicate with customers, vendors, and their communities. 

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