The Benefits of Farmers Markets.

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Farmers markets have been around for ages and they can be found all over the globe. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers markets in our country have grown by almost 400% in the last twenty years, from 1,755 farmers markets in 1994 to 8,268 in 2014.

However, according to the US News and World Report, the rate of growth of farmers markets is slowing, as the annual growth trends for the last five years indicate:

 2010       16.3%

 2011       17.0%

2012       9.6%

2013       3.6%

2014       1.5%

The slower rate of annual growth of farmers markets in our country may be the result of market saturation – the ‘low hanging fruit’ of establishing markets in densely populated areas has been realized; future growth in farmers markets may have to develop in untapped areas that may be somewhat less profitable.

At its most basic, a farmers market is a temporary location where local farmers convene to sell their farm-grown vegetables, fruit, and meat, directly to consumers. Farmers markets vary in terms of the breadth of what is included for sale. Some farmers markets go beyond produce and meat to include products made from farm ingredients. Other farmers markets greatly expand the definition to include items like flowers, art, and clothes and they may incorporate music and children’s entertainment into their settings.

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Both the farmer and the consumer benefit from the establishment of a farmers market. The farmer benefits by having direct access to the consumer, rather than having to primarily sell to a middleman (e.g., a grocery store) who buys in bulk, at lower cost. The farmer also benefits by reducing the costs associated with activities like transportation, handling, refrigeration, storage, and infrastructure.

The consumer benefits by obtaining easy access to fresh produce and meat that promote healthy, nutritious meals. Prices are usually lower than those found at the grocery store, although sometimes people are willing to pay a premium at a farmers market in exchange for higher quality and freshness. The consumer also benefits from a greater variety of fresh goods, the social experience of a farmers market, and the light exercise provided by walking amongst the various tents and tables.

Local businesses can also benefit from a nearby farmers market. The market draws people into the area, some of whom may stay to shop in the adjacent stores.

There are a number of farmers markets in Oakland, including:

  1. Fruitvale Farmers Market
  2. Grand Lake Farmers Market
  3. Jack London Farmers Market
  4. Kaiser Hospital Farmers Market
  5. Montclair Farmers Market
  6. North Oakland Children’s Hospital Farmers Market
  7. Old Oakland Farmers Market
  8. Ordway Farmers Market (seasonal)
  9. Temescal Farmers Market & adjacent Freedom Farmers Market

Here are a few tips to consider when attending a farmers market:

  • Arrive early to access the freshest and greatest variety of goods.
  • Arrive near closing time to get the best bargains.
  • Bring cash (many farmers market vendors do not accept credit cards).
  • Bring a large, reusable bag or a cooler to store your purchases in.
  • Take advantage of the free samples to help you with your selections.
  • Have fun and eat healthy.

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It would be great to see farmers markets expand into some of our less affluent Oakland communities, where the need for healthy, affordable food is greatest. We’re fortunate to have so many farmers markets in Oakland, but a number of our neighborhoods are currently unserved. All Oakland residents should be able to easily obtain fresh, affordable meat and produce for their families.

Keeping Oakland Beautiful (and healthy) is everybody’s business.

We encourage you to share your thoughts in the reply section. We welcome the dialogue and learning of others’ perspectives.

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