WASHINGTON, D.C.—Recently, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne L. Alonzo announced the results of the 2014 Farmers Market Manager Survey. 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.
“There are over 8,400 farmers markets in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, and this survey shows that they are thriving and expanding as they provide healthy, local fresh fruit and vegetables to America’s families,” said Alonzo. “The survey will help market managers continue to succeed by giving them a better understanding of the local foods marketplace.”
In 2014, AMS surveyed farmers market managers listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market 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 Nutritional Education – Most farmers markets (81 percent) feature healthier eating programs, such as distributing healthy-recipe cards to customers and sponsoring healthy-themed cooking demonstrations.
Fresh Produce Dominates, Strong Organic Presence – Virtually all market managers surveyed sold locally grown fresh fruits or vegetables at their markets. Nearly two-thirds of market managers (66 percent) 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 Using 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.
AMS manages the National Farmers Market Directory, one of four USDA Local Food Directories that provide the public with convenient access to information about farmers markets and local food enterprises across the country. AMS also supports farmers markets around the country through grants, technical assistance and applied research.
USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) initiative coordinates USDA’s local food efforts. In the past two years alone, USDA has made over 500 investments in food hubs, local processing facilities, and distribution networks. USDA is committed to strengthening the local food sector, making sure it is a healthy and thriving part of the broader marketplace.