- Caroline Glagola Dunn, MS, RD/LDN
- Martie Gillen, PhD
In recent years, local food systems have grown dramatically alongside increasing consumer demand for local goods in traditional grocery stores, community supported agriculture (CSAs), and in particular at local farmers markets. According to data from the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, there are 8,489 certified farmers markets in the United States, an increase from 1,755 in 1994. Currently, 251 of these markets are registered in Florida.
While fruits and vegetables may still be the “bread and butter” of farmers markets, there are strong demands for additional agricultural goods and other items at markets in the Sunshine State. Respondents to a recent survey of Floridians* who have attended a farmers market in the last year reported seeking numerous types of goods at local markets. In addition to fruits and vegetables, which 97.2% of respondents reported generally purchasing at the farmers market, half of respondents purchased food products including honeys, jams, and prepared food items other than baked goods. Other, less frequent, food purchases included eggs (25.6%), cheese (21.7%), baked goods including bread (21.4%), meat/fish (20.6%), and milk (11.7%).
Although food items were the most popular purchases at the farmers markets, residents also frequently shopped for plants (34.9%) and other miscellaneous goods including locally made craft items such as soaps, jewelry, and clothes (13.9%).
Figure 1. Goods most frequently purchased at farmers markets
The demand for local farmers markets isn’t simply confined only to the purchase of goods. To better understand consumer’s motivations for visiting local farmers markets, researchers asked them to provide the number one reason they shopped at the market. While 39.5% of respondents reported frequenting farmers markets because of the freshness and taste of products, 20.6% said that the most important reason for them was to support local agriculture. Of individuals citing “other reasons” for making frequent purchases at farmers markets (5.5%) over half cited concerns over conventionally grown non-organic produce and GMOs.
Figure 2. Respondent’s reasons for shopping at local farmers markets
Information provided from this survey can help growers and market organizers grow markets and better serve current customers by providing more of the goods and services that entice attendance. However, with little over half (54.6%) of individuals initially surveyed reporting that they had shopped at a farmers market in the last year, it is equally as important for growers, organizers, and sellers to understand what drives consumers away from market purchases. The major responses given for not shopping at farmers markets, too far from home (55.8%) and the desire to purchase all food at the same time (45.2%), suggesting that the desire for convenience in food purchasing is the leading detractor of shopping at these markets.
Figure 3. Respondent’s reasons for not shopping at farmers markets
While individuals who already shop at farmers markets seem satisfied with the variety and quality of goods that they purchase, improvements can be made to increase access and attendance. Because it appears that convenience, or lack thereof, plays a major role in a consumer’s decision to forego shopping at local markets, organizers can work with community members to develop strategies for enhancing the convenience of markets while still providing high-quality local goods to consumers
*These questions were asked as part of the February 2015 Florida Consumer Sentiment Index survey, which interviewed 498 Florida adults by cell phone.