Farm Marketers Discuss How Farmers’ Markets — And Consumers — Have Changed
When American Farm Marketer published an article mulling over how farmers’ markets have changed (after reading an article on the topic by The Washington Post), and asked if fruit and vegetable growers needed to change how they sell as a result, it struck a nerve in the industry.
Growers posted their own thoughts on the topic. Some discussed how changing markets affected how they operate. Others gave specifics on changes in their own local farmers’ markets. And others felt the article did not dig deeply enough to reflect what is happening.
How Farm Markets Are Reacting To Changes At Farmers’ Markets
Here are some not fully developed thoughts about this:
1. We sell at three farmers’ markets in Wichita, KS. We make decent money at those markets, but also use that time with customers to strongly promote our you-pick orchard/pumpkin patch 30 minutes away.
2. We try to stagger both orchard crops and vegetable crops so we don’t need to sell to people who want to purchase bushels of fruit. Though we offer volume discounts.
3. Bulk buyers are older and more price conscious and are only reached through print media. Small volume buyers are younger, more easily reached through social media marketing and are less price conscious and more interested in the experience of the farm or market and in the relationship with the grower. Therefore, we hardly even use the term “bushel.” None of our target customers really even know what it means!
Our family started the farmers’ markets in Chicago over 40 years ago, and they have certainly changed. Volume was key back in the day, until almost every suburban town had a market during the week and on weekends. That changed the amount sold, and the containers. No one cans or freezes today, a lost art. We still offer the freshest produce they can find, but quantities are down.
In reply to Highwaybum.
I just got certified for the Master Preserver’s class, along with about 25 other women this past May. However, we were all older women and one older man. We buy by the bushel or grow our own. Even here in the small state of New Hampshire, we can find a market almost every day somewhere. Myself, I prefer to go right to the farm stand. But they have also added wine tasting, etc., in my town. It is different than just a few years ago. Also, only certain farms are allowed to sell. I was surprised how clicky it is.
Why The Article Falls Short
I think this piece missed the mark. This is an issue I’ve researched and understand well. It’s not about farmers responding to customers or not. It’s about culture. Fewer people cook!
In reply to Johnny.
Totally agree with your statement. They don’t cook from scratch — they buy produce already peeled cleaned and chopped for them. Add an already prepared dressing in a bottle and call it a salad.
The reality of the growth of farmer markets is much more complex than this article describes. We are in our 15th year as a market in Kenosha, WI, with the volume of fresh, raw produces growing each year. It is not a level playing [field]. Winners and losers change regularly — it’s called competition. We have been socialized by media and the processed food industry to not cook fresh, but the trend is in reversal. But this trend also means more fresh products are moving to the restaurants and now the grocer. The trend is based upon health and will continue to grow with time.
How Some Grower’s Local Markets Have Changed
These towns that hold farmers’ markets think that farmers are making lots of money. Then the following year they will charge you for each tent that will be setting up, and then new people come in to run the market, and you’re told you’re no longer welcome there, even after you have been doing their town market for eight years. It’s called greed.
Too many farmers’ markets are on Saturday, the busiest day at our farm stand/pick-your-own operation. As a small family [business], the added cost of manning a booth in addition to transportation and packing up time makes it a lot simpler and stress free to stay home. Our customers know where they can find the best fruit in the area and come to us.