markets are more popular than ever. According to the USDA, there are 8,144 farmers' markets across the
from 1,755 in 1994. While the explosive growth is good news for foodies and
farmers, the bounty of choices can make it harder for markets to stand out.
Here are seven markets across the country that are
breaking the mold with fresh ideas that can be adapted to your local market.
1. Wild Food + Herb Market
When the Wild Food + Herb Market opened
in 2013, it was the first foraged food market in the nation. The market is held
on Sunday afternoons from March to November, and vendors include a mix of
herbalists, foragers and wild-food cultivators selling products not found at
traditional markets. To educate market-goers about wild-food identification and
foraging, the market hosts workshops and cooking demonstrations. In addition to
cash transactions, the market encourages trading.
Selling offbeat offerings like foraged foods and medicinal herbs alongside meat
and produce helps farmers stand out from other market vendors. Niche products
often command a higher price, improving the bottom line.
2. Boulder County Farmers’ Market
it was founded in 1986, the Boulder Farmers Market has expanded to become one
of the largest markets in the state. More than 150 vendors sell at the market
on Saturday mornings between April and November and Wednesday evenings from May
to October. The size of the market means shoppers can choose from a variety of
foods, turning the market into a mini grocery store for local foods.
The more, the merrier. A large market with a diverse selection of vendors
becomes a destination, attracting shoppers from around the region who see the farmers’
market as a viable alternative to the supermarket.
3. Logan Square
On Sundays from May to October, farmers set up
in Chicago’s picturesque Logan Square, selling farm-raised meat and produce alongside
value-added products like baked goods and sauces. Shoppers can pay with cash
but several vendors also accept alternative payments, including SNAP and WIC.
At the end of the market, vendors can donate their excess produce to a food
pantry through a partnership with a local ministry program.
A market with a social mission can have a significant impact on farmers and the
community. Accepting SNAP and WIC payments improves access to fresh foods and
expands the customer base; donating market excess allows farmers to claim a tax
With just 15 vendors, the Morningside Farmers
Market is one of the smaller markets in Atlanta, but its focus on organic
produce helps set it apart. To sell at the market, which was established in
1995, farmers must provide proof that products ranging from fresh produce and
pastured meats to baked goods and cut flowers are Certified Organic.
Lesson: In cities with multiple farmers’ markets,
establishing a niche is a point of differentiation. A farmers’ market that
bills itself as a destination for organic foods can attract a loyal following
of shoppers who share those values.
Paul Farmers’ Market
Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.
This market, one of the oldest in the U.S.,
hosts 21 farmers’ markets throughout the Twin Cities. The locations, times and
vendors differ between markets, but
the nonprofit St. Paul Grower’s Association that manages the markets has a rule
that applies to all locations: No resellers allowed. All of the products sold
at the markets were grown, raised or produced by the vendors.
As the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food,” movement gains momentum, shoppers
want to know the products sold at their favorite farmers’ market are truly
local. Organizing a producer-only market creates connections between farmers
and consumers, building lasting relationships that are good for business.
6. Santa Monica
Southern California market offers year-round access to farm-fresh foods, but
its full schedule of educational programming is another reason that the
Wednesday evening and Saturday morning markets are popular with residents. Events
range from weekly cooking demonstrations featuring seasonal foods and gardening
seminars to scavenger hunts and school fieldtrips.
Lesson: A market that hosts workshops and special events can attract
shoppers who might not typically visit the market, boosting attendance and
sales. Events may also attract the attention of the media, generating great
buzz for the market.
7. Greenfield Farmers
Sundays between June and October, 50 vendors gather for a well-attended weekly
farmers’ market. Several of the vendors selling eggs, meat, produce and
specialty food products also participate in other local markets. The market is
so popular with vendors there was a waiting list for the 2014 season.
hours are good for business. Most markets are held on Saturdays; opening on
Sunday draws a new crowd and gives farmers another opportunity to sell to the
the Author: Jodi Helmer is a North Carolina-based freelance journalist who
writes about food, farming and sustainable living.