Farmers’ Markets as Economic Engines

Last week was National Farmers’ Market Week – and we were impressed by the information shared by the Farmers Market Coalition to celebrate Farmers’ Markets as economic engines.

Please enjoy their news release, Farmers Markets Grow Economies and Jobs:

While unemployment hovers at high levels this summer, entrepreneurship is thriving in unexpected places.  With little fanfare, the nation’s several thousand farmers markets are growing jobs and strengthening local and regional economies.

United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 5-11, 2012 as National Farmers Market Week.  Since 2000, the number of recorded farmers markets has grown over 170%, from 2,863 markets in 2000 to more than 7,800 in 2012.  As demand grows for fresh local food, and shoppers seek relationships with the farms that make such food possible, farmers markets represent an important retail option that bolster local economies in communities large and small.

  • Boise, Idaho’s Capital City Public Market generated an estimated $4.5 million in economic activity for the local economy in 2011.
  • A Virginia Cooperative Extension report showed if households in Southern Virginia spent 15 percent of their weekly food budget on locally grown food products, $90 million in new farm income would be created for the region.
  • A 2010 study by USDA’s Economic Research Service compares producers selling salad mix, blueberries, milk, beef and apples locally with producers of the same products selling to mainstream supply chains. “In all five cases, nearly all of the wage and proprietor income earned in the local market chains is retained in the local economy”.
  • In Iowa, thanks to the efforts of the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, sales of local food by farmers in northeast Iowa rose from less than $10,000 in 2006 to over $2 million by 2010. It is estimated that the increase has brought 26 new jobs to the area.
  • A series of case studies by Civic Economics shows that for every dollar we spend at a large chain, about 15 cents stays in the area, while locally owned enterprises like farms trap 30 to 45 cents.
  • Twenty-six Mississippi farmers markets created a total economic impact of $1.6 million, 15.88 part-time jobs, $213,720 in wages, and $16,000 in state and local taxes.

Research shows, too, that farmers markets spur spending at neighboring businesses.  A 2010 study of the Easton Farmers Market in Pennsylvania, for example, found that 70% of farmers market customers are also shopping at downtown businesses, spending up to an extra $26,000 each week.

The 52 producers of the Williamsburg Farmers Market in Virginia generated an estimated $48,969.84 in state sales tax in 2011, supporting the state economy.  Thirty-two percent of Crescent City Farmers Market shoppers in New Orleans report spending 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.

A 2011 Economic Research Service report found that fruit and vegetable farms selling into local and regional markets employ 13 fulltime workers per $1 million in revenue earned, for a total of 61,000 jobs in 2008. Comparatively, fruit and vegetable farms that are not selling locally employed only 3 full-time workers per $1 million in revenue.

“Farmers markets are the ultimate green sector of the economy,” says Bernadine Prince, President of the Farmers Market Coalition.  “They are stand-out successes in and spurring sustainable economic development.  During Farmers Market Week, FMC encourages everyone to spend at least $10 at a local farmers market, and celebrate the power of farmers markets to incubate entrepreneurship and nourish both rural and urban economies.”