What is a Farmers Market?

Reading time:  2 minutes
Takeaway: The Piedmont Triad is bursting with farmers markets. Our robust network of markets reflects the national trend of increasing market numbers. Farmers markets offer consumers a chance to know where their food comes from and the opportunity for farmers to lower their selling costs and increase their interaction with the community.

Last week we learned a bit about the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market in downtown Greensboro. To my delight, quite a few people still hadn’t yet visited the market (have you been yet?) which made me think that perhaps a post about what a farmers market is, how they may differ from each other and information about finding nearby markets might be interesting topic for a post.

What is a Farmers Market?

Glad you asked. As with many things, there isn’t a firm answer. In general, we can rely on this definition from the Farmers Market Coalition:

“A farmers market is a public and recurring assembly of farmers or their representatives, selling directly to consumers food which they have produced themselves.  More specifically, a farmers market operates multiple times per year and is organized for the purpose of facilitating personal connections that create mutual benefits for local farmers, shoppers, and communities.”

Map of farmers markets registered with the USDA. The circles contain the number of markets in that area. Red circles indicate a high density, yellow is medium and blue is low. Source: http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/googleMapFull.aspx

Map of farmers markets registered with the USDA. The circles contain the number of markets in that area. Red circles indicate a high density, yellow is medium and blue is low. Source: http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/googleMapFull.aspx

Farmers markets have been on the rise in the United States. Check out this graph of the number of markets registered with the USDA:

Even with this growth in outlets for local food, we Americans still only spend about 1% of our grocery dollars on locally-produced foods. I think the logistics of our international food supply is impressive, and I’m not planning to stop buying my Fair Trade bananas from Ecuador anytime soon, but I still find it surprising, although believable, that 99% of our grocery dollars go to food produced more than 100 miles from our homes.

Daniel and his Nimby Gardens crew at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market

Daniel and his Nimby Gardens crew at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market. Photo credit: Doug Mokaren

 

Who grew it or made it?

At our local market in Greensboro, the goods are grown or made by the person behind the table selling them to you or by someone that person works for or with. At other markets, that relationship may not be the same. For example, at the farmers market in Iowa we used to shop at, one half of the market sold produce purchased from farmers or distributors that may or may not have been local, while the other half was locally produced goods. If knowing that the person selling to you had something to do with the production of what you’re buygin, the best thing to do is just ask a few questions about how they produced the items.

Where to find local markets:

Link to a cool interactive map of the United States allowing you to see all the 8000+ markets registered with the USDA:

http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/googleMapFull.aspx

Link to a North Carolina search list for markets listed with state government:

http://www.ncfarmfresh.com/farmmarkets.asp

Farmers markets in the NC Piedmont region registered with the USDA. Source: http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/googleMapFull.aspx

Farmers markets in the NC Piedmont region registered with the USDA. Source: http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/googleMapFull.aspx

P.S.

And then there’s this, a subjective list of the “world’s best” markets: http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/17/travel/worlds-best-fresh-markets/

Local farmers markets are one of my favorite destinations! Do you have a favorite?

Veronica Mbithi, a Kiva borrower and farmer in Tala, Kenya, at the local market with her produce.

Veronica Mbithi, a Kiva borrower and farmer in Tala, Kenya, at the local market with her produce.

 

 

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