Defining farmers markets as only seasonal promotions to draw crowds into under-used downtown districts to buy veggies is to miss the point entirely. These events are modern versions of business incubators for the farmers and surrounding small business merchants. That means your business!

  • A 2010 study of the Easton Farmers Market in Pennsylvania found that 70% of farmers market customers are also shopping at downtown businesses, spending up to an extra $26,000 each week.
  • At the Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans, 32% of market shoppers spend money at nearby businesses, resulting in $3.2 million in projected gross receipts and an annual contribution of $151,621 to local sales tax revenue.
  • Boise, Idaho’s Capital City Public Market generated an estimated $4.5 million in economic activity for the local economy in 2011.

Does your community mount a farmers market? ‘Tis the season right now! For example, in Salem Ma, the call has gone out for local farmers and food vendors to participate in the 2020 Salem Farmers Market  which will run Thursdays from June 11 through Oct. 15.

“The Salem Farmers Market has truly become a destination for the community for over a decade now – it’s a gathering place as well as an opportunity to get fresh, local produce and other one-of-a-kind goods,” explains Kylie Sullivan, executive director Salem Main Streets, which produces the event. The Salem Market typically draws more than 2,000 shoppers a week!

And among those shoppers are SNAP users. Did you know that in 2017 over $22 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars (formerly known as food stamps) were redeemed at farmers markets across the country?

“We are so proud of our market vendors, and we hope to see many returning, but we’re also always on the look-out for the next up and coming business, especially those with farm-grown products,” adds Sullivan. “This is the perfect opportunity for newer small businesses looking to get to the next level, as well as established businesses looking to reach a new audience.”

(Anyone wishing to sell their products at the Salem Farmers Market must submit an application for consideration by March 6. Applications can be downloaded from http://salemfarmersmarket.org.) 

Data from USDA’s Local Food Marketing Practices Survey shows that in 2015, $711 million in food was sold to consumers by over 41,000 farms at roughly 8,600 registered farmers markets. That is a great deal of disposable income attracted to downtown districts. Is your Chamber of Commerce or Downtown Business District Organization capitalizing on this incubator for business in your community?