Farmer’s Markets Provide Economic and Social Benefits

— Written By and last updated by Leeann Crump

An important direct-marketing tool for producers has become the subject of research, articles, studies and initiatives and is one of the most sought-after activities in every American downtown. Farmers’ markets are the place for entrepreneurs to test products and community members to gather. They bring vitality and dollars to communities that provide the support that is needed to maintain a good market.

The number of farmers’ markets has grown from 1,755 in 1994 to 8,268 in 2014. With 217 established markets, North Carolina was ranked 10th in the country for number of markets. The total annual sales at farmers’ markets in the U.S. exceed $1 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.Who benefits from a farmers’ market? According to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, direct benefit is provided to the producers, the consumers and the community. Small and mid-sized farmers use farmers’ markets as the first point of entry into a market for their products.

Farmers’ markets allow producers to 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 being engaged with the vendors and their neighbors.

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, thriving neighborhoods and often provides those with less access to fresh food more opportunity to buy it. Economists use the term “multiplier effect” to calculate the recycling effect of dollars spent at the market back into local community. Neighboring businesses benefit from a thriving farmers’ market as shoppers are driven to the area.

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

The Richmond County Farmers Market Association has been organized for many years and supports the Rockingham Farmers’ Market along with the city of Rockingham and the Richmond County Extension Office. This market will open April 25 and will be held each Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon and each Wednesday from 3:30 to 6 p.m. in downtown Rockingham.

Produce, craft, egg, 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 a percentage of your weekly food budget at the farmers’ market during the season? The producers and the community will be glad you did.

For vendor applications or more information about the Rockingham Farmers’ Market, contact Susan Kelly of the Richmond County Cooperative Extension at 910-997-8255.

Susan A. Kelly is extension director at the N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Richmond County Center.