Fresh, locally-sourced food, economic growth, strengthening rural and urban ties, improving quality of life – farmers markets offer multiple benefits to their communities. How can local governments help to support them and keep them safe for residents?
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Bringing the farm to the people
Farmers markets have long provided a means for independent and small farm growers to sell directly to consumers, increasing profits and helping to build stronger relationships with their urban communities. The transactional simplicity also grants farmers with a sense of immediacy, transparency, and independence that cannot be achieved by selling to wholesalers, food processors, or grocery chains.
Additionally, participating in a market can mean that produce needs less transport, less handling, less refrigeration and less time in storage, saving costs and reducing spoilage.
“Farmers’ markets may be indoors or outdoors and typically consist of booths, tables or stands where farmers sell their produce, live animals and plants, and sometimes prepared foods and beverages. Farmers’ markets exist in many countries worldwide and reflect the local culture and economy. The size of the market may be just a few stalls or it may be as large as several city blocks.”(Wikipedia)
Fresh, local, sustainable
Over the past decade, farmers markets have developed into a critical piece of the nation’s economy, food systems, and communities. Consumers have become more aware of food supply chain issues and how climate change is impacted by distribution practices. And the health and economic benefits of sourcing food locally is increasingly important to consumers.
Most produce in the grocery store is harvested before it’s fully ripe so it can make the trip to store shelves without rotting and can be exposed to chemicals, gasses, or waxes used to preserve food for long-distance transport.
Local food, on the other hand, is generally picked at its peak ripeness, when it is most dense with nutrients. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients within 24 hours of being picked, so fresher produce is more nutritious.
As consumers gain more knowledge about where, when and how their food is produced, they are creating demand for greater access to locally grown products. And farmers markets provide the perfect venue for fulfilling that need.
Economic and engagement benefits
Municipalities often find that farmers markets not only help local farmers, but they can be a boost to the local economy. When properly located, farmers markets draw large crowds that will also shop at surrounding businesses.
Farmers markets also provide opportunities for greater neighbor-to-neighbor interactions. Consumers also benefit from engaging with the vendors and their neighbors. Projects for Public Spaces found that people who buy food at the farmers’ market have 10 times more conversations than they would have at a supermarket.
State and federal regulations
To ensure that consumers and farmers are protected, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed “Rules and Procedures and Operating Guidelines” for farmers markets. Additionally in 2011, Congress signed into law the “Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).” Consideration of these and other regulatory requirements should be taken into account when establishing a farmers market or participating in one.
State laws and guidance vary, including certification requirements. Referencing the Association of Food and Drug Officials website regarding farm markets as well as researching your specific state is vital to cultivating a successful farmers market in your community.
Support at the local level
Municipalities can encourage farmers markets and provide for the safety of their residents through several legislative actions, including:
- Licensing of market organizers
- Zoning areas specifically for farm markets
- Permitting of vendors
- Sanitation ordinances
- Parking regulations
- Hours of operation
- Limiting types of products
Useful examples of farmers markets legislation from the eCode360® Library
If your community is interested in legislating or updating ordinances that regulate farmers markets, here are some useful examples that can be found in our eCode360 Library:
Updating your municipal code is vitally important
Submit your code updates as soon as possible and ensure constituents and local government officials are always referencing and working with the most up-to-date resources. Make it part of your Board meeting close-out process to send your adopted legislative changes to General Code when everything from that meeting is already right at hand.
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- Farmers’ market
- Farmers Markets as Community Centerpieces
- Farmers’ Markets’ Economic and Social Benefits
- Perspectives: Farmers Markets
- Is Eating Locally Grown Food Healthier For You?
- Association of Food and Drug Officials: Farmers Market Laws and Guidance
- Farmers Markets Support Healthy Communities
- Guide to Creating A Community Farmers Market
- Why Are Farmers Markets So Important?
- Operating a Farmers’ Market
- Establishing Land Use Protections for Farmers Markets
- Farmers Markets | Access, Expansion, State Legislation
- eCode360 Library