Farmers markets are a great place to shop for locally grown organic food. In many cases they are not true farmers markets in that farmers are not always the people standing behind the stalls. If it is not the farmers, at least there is usually only one middle person between you and the producer. This means that farmers are going to receive 80-90% of the food dollar instead of the meagre 8-10% through normal marketing mechanisms. Ideally farmers markets provide the opportunity for us the consumers, to meet and talk directly with the producers of the food we are buying. This direct connection is important to our sense of connection to food and place, and is one of the basic tenets of the slow movement or slow food.
Farmers markets also provide a great opportunity for farmers to get to know what their customers want and need to know about the food they are buying. Farmers markets are usually centrally located so, both farmers and consumers, spend less on transport.
What organic farmers markets do provide that is outside the delivery of food is the sense of community. The marketplace within the community means that you will be seeing locals – and seeing them regularly. This provides a wonderful opportunity to ‘catch up’ and slow down. Markets provide a great place to meet new people in your local area. Many organic farmers markets now include organic food and drink outlets and the opportunity to sit and while the time away with other people.
Farmers markets are not likely to change the way the majority of farmers do their business. They are at risk because they are no answer for bulk commodities, nor will they substitute for contract sales to manufacturers and retailers.
When you shop at a farmers market you can be reasonably confident of the origin of the food you buy. If it is certified organic this will be advertised – if it isn’t certified, but is claimed to be organic, you have the opportunity of finding out just what is meant by the claim eg no sprays, or every criteria met but not the seeds.
In Australia, the growth of organic farmers markets is remarkable. They first appeared in 1996 in Sydney and have grown in popularity since then to be a common site in most Australian cities and large towns.