May 07, 2022
Melissa signed up this year for a stall at our local farmers’ market. The market is open in the town center on the first Saturday of the month throughout the summer. While several stores in the area sell individual succulents, they are rarely offered in an arraignment of different types. Melissa thought this might provide an appealing niche. Over the last month we have worked on gathering the necessary equipment to be a vendor at the market. That meant the tent, table and chairs, and display stands, not to mention the succulent arraignments themselves. The mayor of the city used some of the covid relief money provided the city to cover the vendor fees for the market (thank you!). There were 20 different vendors, including three food trucks, crafts, fresh eggs, vegetable plants, and flowers, along with Melissa’s succulents. As summer continues fresh fruit and vegetables will also be featured.
When I looked online, I found the USDA defines a farmer’s market as: “a multi-stall market at which farmer-producers sell agricultural products directly to the general public at a central or fixed location, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables.” Vendors also sell prepared foods, plants, flowers, baked goods, and craft items. While there may be a requirement that all products sold must be “local”, the term is subject to interpretation. Food is the most important commodity sold at a farmer’s market, and the idea behind the markets is to cut the middleperson (grocery store) out of the supply chain. You can buy fresh produce directly from the growers. The vendors for our market were all from within several miles of town.
The first recorded farmers’ markets date back over 5,000 years to Egypt when farmers along the Nile would come together to sell their produce. The first market in the US opened in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1634. Other markets soon followed in larger New English cities like Hartford (1643), New York City (1686), and Philadelphia (1693). The popularity of farmers’ markets grew over the next 200 years, but interest began to wane in the early 1900’s with the rise of the local grocery store. It was not until the health consciousness of the 1970’s that the farmers’ markets returned to popularity. The appeal of farmers’ markets took another boost between 1994 and 2008, when the number of markets rose 300% in 14 years. Farmers markets have continued to expand in numbers, although they were curtailed sharply by restrictions during 2020 and 2021.
THOUGHTS: Today’s farmers’ markets are as numerous as the community grocery store. They can range in size from three or four vendors to hundreds of farmers. Tokyo boasts the largest farmers market in the world with over 1,700 stalls. Food deserts, or areas where residents find it difficult to find healthy, affordable foods, are a problem in many urban areas. Farmers’ markets have emerged as one approach to improve food accessibility in these areas. The food available in the deserts is often “fast” or highly processed food with little focus on nutrition. The markets provide accessibility to a local population that would otherwise have none. Availability of food should be a right, not a privilege. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.