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Farmers' Markets 101

Updated on July 31, 2017
Puyallup, Washington Farmers' Market
Puyallup, Washington Farmers' Market

Let my words, like vegetables, be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.

— Anon.

What is your definition

of a Farmers' Market?

  • A trendy fad that will soon fade into non-existence like the pet rock
  • Your go-to place to purchase the Martha Stewart line of produce
  • The bastion of granola eating, soymilk sipping, organic-food craving Portlandians

May I offer another definition...

none of the above. Farmers Markets are not a voguish whimsy, nor are they filled with over-priced designer fruits and vegetables. And, although the Portland Farmers' Market is one of the largest in the United States, it is not a stand-alone eccentricity.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the growth of Farmers' Markets in the last 20 years has been dramatic.

Here's what the dictionary says

A farmers’ market is a seasonal gathering of booths or stands, indoors or outdoors, where foods are sold directly to consumers by farmers. Typical wares are fruits and vegetables, herbs and flowers. Some larger markets also feature home-baked breads, cured meats, preserves, and home-made pastas—one-stop shopping for your dinner.

In contrast, public markets (such as the Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington) are housed in permanent structures and operated year-round. (Pike Place Market is worthy of a hub on it's own, and I'll do that soon. In the meantime, watch the video to see real "flying fish".)

How did this all get started?

Was it one farmer with an over-abundance of peaches? According to historians, the Egyptians began operating open-air markets over 5,000 years ago. Today farmers’ markets are operated all over the world. Many are small, with just a handful of farmers selling their produce. The largest is the Tokyo Central Wholesale Market which stretches 54 acres and contains 1,700 vendors.

Tokyo Farmers' Market
Tokyo Farmers' Market

Why buy at a farmers' market instead of a grocery store?

There are so many benefits to buying at a farmers' market; I hardly know where to begin.

For the consumer, the pluses are:

  • the middle-man is eliminated and overhead costs are drastically reduced
  • goods are produced locally and vendors sell their own products
  • foods are fresher, seasonal, and healthier
  • according to the USDA, 82 percent of food sold at farmers’ markets is labeled organic
  • there is often a better variety of foods—organic produce, free-range eggs, handmade cheeses, etc.
  • the market is a good place to meet neighbors and gain new acquaintances
  • an outdoor walk is good for you

For the farmer, the benefit is quite obvious; farmers are able to take home 90 percent of each dollar earned because:

  • goods sold are handled less and require less refrigeration and storage
  • transportation costs are reduced
  • the middleman (wholesalers, food processors, large retail grocery outlets) is not part of the chain
  • by selling in an outdoor market, the cost of land, buildings, lighting and air-conditioning is also reduced or eliminated.
  • the farmer is in control of goods not sold and can sell excess to canneries or other food-processing firms.

For the community:

  • farmers’ markets bring traffic (as in consumers) to other local businesses
  • help build a unique stamp or character to a town or community
  • increase social ties and a feeling of commonality and civic pride
  • decrease the amount of land dedicated to food storage

Kent, Washington Farmers' Market
Kent, Washington Farmers' Market

What you can do to have a successful trip to the farmers' market

  • Arrive early. All goods will be at their freshest and the selection will be top-notch
  • Bring your own reusable bags. Some vendors don’t have bags, or run out.
  • Bring cash. Easier, faster, and it reduces operating costs for the farmer
  • Buy what you can use in a few days, but no more unless you encounter an amazing deal and plan on freezing, preserving, or canning your purchase

© 2015 Linda Lum


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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      My pleasure, Carb Diva. A local one by me have one every Friday afternoon. But I prefer it to be moved over on the weekends. We'll see.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Kristen - Thank you so much. I live in the Pacific NW and we have certainly been blessed with favorable weather. I hope that climate will allow you to visit and enjoy a farmers market near you soon. Thank you for your support.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub, Carb Diva. I plan to go to my local one this summer, depending on the weather and my weekend plans. I went to one last year with my brother, cousin and SIL. Voted up for useful!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Jackie - Thank you so much! My daughter and I like to cook together, and one of our pleasures during the summer is to buy whatever looks interesting and fresh at the Farmers Market and then plan our dinner around our purchases. The Market in our town not only has produce, but there is a vendor who sells fresh pasta and another one that sells sauces and pesto.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Very interesting info. I love Farmer's Markets and I haven't been this year yet but should be getting to be a good time. I go wild and end up cooking, canning and freezing when I find great deals! Thanks for reminding me to be checking out the locals! Up and sharing.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Torrilynn - thank you for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub. I plan to write more recipes to use from our farmers' market purchases in the near future.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Rachel - You and I are kindred spirits. Thank you so much for your kind words and support. Blessings to you as well.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 2 years ago

      I love going to a farmer's market. every year, around summertime one pops up in the local metro center, where i stay. thanks for the hub. best of wishes.

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 2 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      I love farmer's markets. We have them here locally in the summer and can get different kinds of fruits then in the grocery store. I love to encourage the local farmers to keep up their farms. We also love the farmer's markets in the Amish country in Lancaster PA. They are very popular there. This was a very nice hub, voted up.

      Blessings to you.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Bill. That's just it--I don't see it as a craze, but I also acknowledge that it might not work for a large family. Just sayin' that I love being able to purchase fresh-from-the-field produce. And at the right market I might also be able to get some seafood or fresh pasta. Then I come up with a plan for dinner while I walk home. Not a bad ending to a day.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very cool look at the farmer's market craze. I think we'll be seeing many more in the years to come and I love that we will. Back to basics, my friend, back to basics. Bring it on!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you Melissa, that is my hope as well. The local farmers' market is the place I was introduced to black kale--can't even find it at the local grocery store, and it's delicious. Thanks for your comments.

    • Melissa Orourke profile image

      Melissa Orourke 2 years ago from Roatán, Islas De La Bahia, Honduras

      I enjoyed visiting a Farmer's Market in Marietta, GA last week. The variety was fantastic and my daughter bought lots of fresh veggies! Informative post, hopefully it will get people out to the markets!