Competition Fierce, Local Farmers Markets Boom Plateauing

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Photo of the Bala Cynwyd Farmers Market courtesy of Pete Bannan.

There are signs that the recent, national boom in farmers markets – they have nearly doubled since 2006 – might be plateauing.

Farmers’ overall sales at markets, after climbing dramatically, declined about one percent from 2007 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

A few markets in the region have even closed, writes Samantha Melamed of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Farm to City, a Philadelphia-based program with a goal to unite communities, families, and farmers year-round through good locally grown food, has shut down two markets in the city and placed its Bala Cynwyd Farmers Market on hiatus this year while organizers look for a more conducive location.

In Whitemarsh, Ben Bergman has been busy reshuffling the lineup for the second year of the Spring Mill Farmers Market.

“We have yoga in the morning, and we’ve brought in some different vendors that we think would interest the millennial crowd: wine, gourmet cheese, high-end sausage,” he said. “But the jury’s still out.”

According to Melamed, Bergman started working at markets in 2010, after reading the Michael Pollan book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. “I was like, ‘Wow, our food system is kind of messed up,'” he said.

He started his own business, Greener Pastures, in 2013. He took over the Ambler Farmers’ Market, which he calls a success.

“You need support when you first start a farmers’ market,” he said. “You really need to have the community behind it. And if the vendors aren’t making enough, then it’s not going to be worth it to them to keep coming back.”

Jon Glyn, the program manager at Farm to City, said the business has been maturing.

“I feel like we’re hitting the second wave of the farmers’ market movement,” he told Melamed.

“For 10 or 15 years, we’ve had a lot of interest in farmers’ markets. Every neighborhood wanted their own, and even old-school farmers that gave up on farmers’ markets in the ’80s and ’90s are now coming back. Some of our markets are on their 10th year, and they’ve actually inspired this new generation of young people who are getting into farming. But they’re having trouble finding spots at farmers’ markets that already have established vendors, and everyone is fighting for the same dollars.”

Click here to read more about the competition farmers markets are facing in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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