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Farmers Markets and CSAs in the United States

Updated on January 8, 2011
A weekend farmers' market in session.  Photo courtesy mediaboytodd via Flickr
A weekend farmers' market in session. Photo courtesy mediaboytodd via Flickr

Introduction

Although farmers' markets have a rich and long history, the "new age" of farmers' markets really took shape in the northeastern United States. Farmers' markets began as a social trend to support local agriculture whilst reducing dependence on distant suppliers. There is a direct correlation between increases in civic agriculture and reduction in food dependency from other locales; "An accumulating body of research has begun to assess the benefits of small enterprises on the level of civic and community welfare" (Lyson, 1). In turn, as local agriculture is supported more so--there is a greater distribution of funds (and thus profits) among residents in a community. Farmers' markets promote equity among local supporters and customers. Although difficult to grasp this new (yet in reality old) phenomena, this is my best attempt at describing farmers' markets through the lenses of locality and region.

The Importance of Locality

Local is local is local. No that was not a typo--farmers' markets in their purest form are about locality both directly and indirectly. The resources that support farmers' markets' produce & crafts should be from the surrounding region. Obviously, the skilled craftsperson or farmer should create or synthesize the product in the area, henceforth. Correct civic agriculture caters to smaller quantity and thus higher quality. This creates a small market where both supply and demand can be met more accurately and more precisely as well. Local tastes and local variety are served well, though non-native produce and crafts may not be well served--but this is inherent with farmers' markets.

Civic Agriculture and CSAs

Farmers' markets and civic agriculture excel at teaching both young and old how to recreationally create crafts and produce. Community & school gardens provide keen insight on the labor and pride that is created when sustainability is exercised. For those who are not as interested in creating crafts and/or produce, community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs) are often available depending on the locality. These "CSAs" provide a proverbial stock market in the township. CSAs give the local consumer leverage over their food supply whilst supporting the farmer with initial start-up funds every season. In turn, CSAs behave like banks, yet they are more favorable to the farmer than taking a loan from a bank. Occasionally some CSAs will donate a portion (or just extra) food to low-income members and/or non-members of a community CSA. This creates a bond between the citizens and reduces the amount of wasted food created per season. This action creates a "just food system" (Lyson 6), an interesting concept based on justice in society when bread is under lock & key.

Bridging The Gap

Farmers' markets create a bridge between formal and less formal sections of a local economy. As stated before--craftspersons, among others, join with farmers to create a farmers' market. Home based manufacturers and artisans frequent selling at farmers markets. A farmers market is simply a local marketplace in its most sustainable terms. There are full-time, part-time and recreational farmers, craftspersons and artisans present at farmers markets. The price, quality and safety of the products are directly judged by the consumer and the merchant is able to change their product accordingly. Networking and advertising is an important part of the market, since business also takes place outside of the formal setting as well.

Conclusion

The amount of benefits enacted by successful farmers' markets directly benefits a locality both directly and indirectly. The ideas of equality, sustainability and community-supported economics blend harmoniously at these phenomenal meeting places. Middle men are cut out, and advertising is nearly free. The consumer is directly able to keep a farmer in check via CSAs or simply by choosing not to purchase a product for the reasons of price, quality and safety, among others. The inherently small(er) farmers' market can more accurately access the needs of an area and thus can change accordingly quicker. This miraculous system has a plentiful and diverse line of natural methods to ensure harmony between citizens, nature and the locality in which all live.

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