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Growth in Farmers Markets Slowing

10/08/2018

According to USDA statistics, the number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. increased from approximately 4,000 in 2007 to 8,600 in August 2017. This growth was stimulated by grants and assistance from the USDA under the previous Administration. During the last past year growth in the number of markets was static, attributed to saturation of a relatively thin market represented by an urban demographic committed to perceptions of health, sustainability and local production.  The degree of over-supply of venues can be appreciated in Madison, WI which has a population of 200,000 served by 11 farmers’ markets. A similar situation exists in other college towns.

A study conducted on the clientele purchasing from the Dane County Farmers Market in Madison WI, revealed:

  • Shoppers were more affluent than average purchasers of food
  • The clientele of food markets is twice as likely to have completed a baccalaureate degree and three times more likely to have completed graduate or professional training
  • Average age is younger than the U.S. population
  • Household size of visitors to the Dane County Farmers Market was two persons compared to 2.5 in the general population.

It is clear that the data derived from the Dane County Farmers Market study is heavily biased by the presence of the University of Wisconsin at Madison with 45,000 students. The market is one of the oldest in the U.S. established 45 years ago.

More extensive published studies have shown no significant difference in education, age or income between shoppers at farmers’ markets and conventional food stores both in the state of Michigan and in the United States.