Farmers’ Markets’ Economic and Social Benefits

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by Susan Kelly

Farmers’ markets are a place for entrepreneurs to test products and for community members to gather. An important direct-marketing venue for producers, they have become the subject of research, articles, studies and initiatives. As one of the most sought-after activities in every American downtown, they bring vitality and dollars to local communities.

Small and mid-sized farmers may use farmers’ markets as the first point of entry into a market for their products. They can incubate their businesses, develop and test products with instant feedback, and earn reliable income. Selling directly to consumers allows the farmer or artisan to capture the entire selling price without investing in infrastructure (store or farm stand), distribution or a middleman.

Consumers benefit by receiving access to fresh, locally produced foods and goods. They can develop face-to-face relationships with the farmers who grow their food, and can contribute directly to local farm viability. Consumers also benefit from engaging with the vendors and their neighbors. For example, Projects for Public Spaces found that people who buy food at the farmers’ market have 10 times more conversations than they would have at a supermarket.

Finally, a farmers’ market can help a community create a robust local economy, and provide the opportunity to buy fresh food in neighborhoods that otherwise lack a fresh food supply. Economists use the term “multiplier effect” to calculate the recycling effect of dollars spent at the market back into local community. Neighboring businesses also benefit from a thriving farmers’ market as shoppers are drawn to the area.

Harder to measure but equally important are the benefits of a community that consumes healthier food and has an improved quality of life and an enhanced image of that place.

The Richmond County Farmers Market Association has been organized for many years. It supports the Rockingham Farmers’ Market along with the city of Rockingham and the Richmond County Extension Office. The market opens in late April and is held each Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon in Harris Square and each Tuesday from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at 125 Caroline Street. Produce, crafts, eggs, honey and plant vendors are preparing to meet twice a week to provide the best market possible to the community. Why not join them and spend part of your weekly food budget at the farmers’ market during the season? The producers and the community will be glad you did, as will you and your family when you taste the picked-ripe and handmade quality and uniqueness of farmers’ market products.

For vendor applications or more information about the Rockingham Farmers’ Market, contact Nancy Power, Commercial Horticulture Agent of the Richmond County Cooperative Extension at 910-997-8255 or nrpower@ncsu.edu.

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