What's next after the flagging farmers market?
Juniper Hill's farm stand in Saranac Lake. What comes next for farms to continue to grow? Photo: David Sommerstein.
Here's a good read to start your week.
The vast growth and expansion of farmers markets over the last decade is a huge feel-good story for local agriculture. Since 2003, the number of farmers markets in the USDA registry has doubled to 8,144 nationwide. That's a lot more opportunity for small farmers to reach out to consumers looking for local meat, fruits and vegetables.
Problem is, those markets haven't attracted a commensurate growth in the number of people shopping at those markets. The result: farmers are earning less than they used to, and some markets are actually seeing declining sales.
According to Orion magazine:
“Farmers’ markets aren’t sexy anymore,” is how Jean Hamilton, the longtime market development coordinator for the Vermont chapter of the National Organic Farmers Association (NOFA), puts it. “The problem is that we were really good at launching farmers’ markets, and we launched a whole bunch of them, and we gave them just enough rope to hang themselves. So now there’s all these farmers’ markets that have really low capacity.”
Rowan Jacobsen's article argues the next step for the locavore movement is food hubs, filling the distribution middle between farm and plate. As the article indicates, Vermont is up and running with food hubs.
So are some parts of New York, and last winter, Governor Cuomo invested $3.6 million in food hub projects:
“These four new food distribution hubs are an important investment in our state’s agricultural sector and economy,” Governor Cuomo said. “Not only will more than 150 jobs be created through these new projects, the hubs will also be essential resources for local farmers by providing services like branding, processing and storage. Above all, they will help distribute products, expanding consumer markets for New York farmers while improving access to healthy, fresh and locally-produced food for our families – a real win-win for the state.”
I know the North Country/St. Lawrence County food hub project is stalled because the grant covered less than a third of the project plan. I haven't checking in with the others.
What's happening food hub-wise in your community? Do you feel farmers markets are stalling out? Or is yours just fine, thank you very much?
Tags: agriculture, business, economy, farmers market, farming, local, sustainability, usda