In recognition of National Farmers Market week (the first full week in August), we decided to take a closer look at where farmers markets are doing the most good in their local communities.
By providing a space for direct to consumer sales of freshly grown local vegetables, both farmers and shoppers benefit. We realize every farmers market has a positive impact on a community, and we wanted to see where farmers markets are going above and beyond - by accepting WIC credits, SNAP dollars, providing fresh foods to lower-income elderly populations, and including more than just farmers in the micro economies but also contributing cultural value as a place for artists to showcase their arts and crafts.
We also wanted to boost cities with more farmers markets by population.
###Trends and Takeaways
- 80% of the top 25 cities are in traditionally “blue” states
- Cities in coastal states fared better than cities in the middle of America
- The number of farmers markets has quadrupled since 1994
- More than 2,000 new farmers markets have popped up since 2010
The Top cities where farmers markets support local communities**
- Worcester, Massachusetts
- Lansing, Michigan
- Berkeley, California
- Rochester, New York
- Columbia, South Carolina
- Tacoma, Washington
- Everett, Washington
- Green Bay, Wisconsin
- Portland, Oregon
- Cleveland, Ohio
- Flint, Michigan
- El Cajon, California
- Peoria, Illinois
- Vallejo, California
- Rochester, Minnesota
- New Haven, Connecticut
- Bellevue, Washington
- Concord, California
- Shreveport, Louisiana
- Las Cruces, New Mexico
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Warren, Michigan
- Seattle, Washington
- San Francisco, California
A Closer Look at the Top Ten
Worcester, Massachusetts: Worcester has several community-focused markets. One notable market, Main South, offers SNAP matching, WIC and Senior Farmers Market coupons. IN 2014, SNAP, WIC and SFMNP coupons made up 48% of all sales - a key indicator that the market is proactively helping lower-income residents access wholesome, nutritious food.
Lansing, Michigan: Lansing City Market offers a unique combination of fresh produce, boat rentals, free wifi and specialty foods to its market-goers all in one place. Market vendors offer special deals to senior shoppers on Wednesdays and on Tuesdays students get deals - plus the market helps people shopping with SNAP and WIC dollars stretch their food budget with their Double Up Food Bucks program.
Berkeley, California: Berkeley’s Ecology Center offers three year-round farmers markets in the heart of Berkeley. Like many of the other top farmers markets in our study, Berkeley’s offer Market Match - a healthy food incentive program that doubles customers’ federal nutrition assistance benefits at farmers markets like CalFresh.
Rochester, New York: Rochester hails a 100 year-old Public Market. Open 3 days a week 52 weeks a year. It’s SNAP-friendly, convenient and really affordable according to online reviews.
Columbia, South Carolina: Columbia hosts the State Farmers Market campus where consumers get to shop for fresh produce 52 weeks a year, though they note the peak time for produce is from April to early October.
Tacoma, Washington: The Tacoma Farmers Market has been serving the local community since 1990. They double EBT up to $10 per market - helping people stretch their food budget and access even more, healthy, nutritious locally-grown produce. They also offer a series of delicious recipe ideas on their website to help people put the foods they buy together and try to bring in local artisans to perform and showcase their work.
Everett, Washington: Open May to October, the Everett Farmers Market offers women, children and eligible seniors discounted access to delicious healthy produce. The market has an active and beautifully written blog where they feature local vendors and offer recipe ideas to shoppers.
Green Bay, Wisconsin: The Farmers’ Market on Broadway is every Wednesday in Green Bay from June through October in the city’s historic Broadway district. Shoppers can enjoy great affordable produce, sunshine and live music.
Portland, Oregon: Portland has an incredible farmers market website. Featuring all their locations and hours in a clear, elegant format that explains what vendors sell what and teaches people about their SNAP matching program - Fresh Exchange.
Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland is home to the famous and beautiful West Side Market which dates back to 1840 - before formally opening in 1912. It’s open four days a week almost all year round. Today, more than 100 diverse vendors sell everything from produce to ready-to-eat meals and candy.
Lowest Scoring Cities
- Santa Ana, California
- Henderson, Nevada
- Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- San Bernardino, California
- Amarillo, Texas
- Garden Grove, California
- Aurora, Colorado
- Port St. Lucie, Florida
- Pomona, California
- Naperville, Illinois
- Dallas, Texas
|Rank||City and State||2014 estimate||# of farmers markets||Farmers Markets / 10k people||Each City’s average F.M. Score||Overall Score|
|4||Rochester, New York||210,532||16||0.76||0.56||71.9|
|5||Columbia, South Carolina||131,686||19||1.44||0.09||71.1|
|8||Green Bay, Wisconsin||104,868||3||0.29||0.83||68.8|
|12||El Cajon, California||101,435||1||0.1||0.9||64.8|
|16||New Haven, Connecticut||130,741||8||0.61||0.55||64.3|
|20||Las Cruces, New Mexico||101,047||2||0.2||0.8||62.5|
|21||Baton Rouge, Louisiana||230,058||7||0.3||0.73||62.5|
|22||Grand Rapids, Michigan||190,411||9||0.47||0.59||60.6|
|25||San Francisco, California||825,863||27||0.33||0.66||58.8|
247 cities were included in the study. For clarity, we only included a table of the top 25. If you’d like to see your individual city’s scores, please email us
Farmers Market Trends
The presence, availability and trend of shopping at farmers markets has been on the rise since for the last 20 years. With buying food directly from farmers becoming more trendy, more younger consumers are choosing to shop at markets as supermarket alternatives. With renewed focus on the importance of nutrition, eating seasonally, and eating unprocessed locally grown organic foods has also increased. According to national farmers market directory data from the USDA, the number of farmers markets has quadrupled since 1994. More than 2,000 new farmers markets have popped up since 2010.
Why did we do this?
Purchasing food directly from farmers leads to better health. So it’s no surprise, farmers markets have a positive effect on communities. Our analysis shows where farmers markets are having the most positive health effects for some of the nation’s lower-income residents. When farmers markets accept SNAP, WIC and SFMNP benefits they help include lower-income residents in the nutritious community. Diseases like Diabetes are linked to lower socio-economic status. By providing an avenue for lower-income folks to buy fresh, nutritious produce farmers markets are helping some people improve their health and possibly avoid chronic conditions. Farmers markets also combat food deserts. A food desert is “a geographic area where affordable and nutritious food is difficult to obtain, particularly for those without an automobile,” according to Wikipedia. They generally are found in rural areas and lower-income communities. So farmers markets that incentivize lower-income attendance and involvement can have a bigger, more positive impact on consumer health.
Why is shopping at farmers markets good?
Nutrition.gov does a great job covering this question on their website. The top ten reasons to shop at farmers markets?
- Freshly picked, in season produce is at its peak in flavor and nutrition
- It supports your local farmers and community
- Fresh fruit and vegetables are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients
- It’s a great way to get your kids involved
- Supporting your local farmers market strengthens your community
- Farmers markets offer foods that align with MyPlate guidelines
- Farmers often have recommendations for preparing their products
- You can try a new fruit or vegetable
- SNAP and WIC benefits are accepted at some farmers markets
- Farmers markets are easy to find
We collected two main sources of data: one about farmers markets, one about city’s populations. The farmers market data included market names, locations, hours, dates and specific factors like whether they accept SNAP, WIC, and or WIC cash as payments, sell organic produce, and whether or not they sell crafts.
Accepting WIC could earn a city up to 20% of its overall market score, WIC cash acceptance was rated at 10%, SNAP at 20%, the Senior produce program at 30%, Organic availability at 10%, and crafts from local artisans at 10%. We scored every farmers market individually, then grouped farmers markets by cities.
We then averaged each city’s farmers market scores to get rating per city. In another sheet, we counted the number of farmers markets by cities, and divided the number of farmers markets by 2014 census estimates by city. We used this number as a score for the prevalence and accessibility of farmers markets. Finally, we combined the average city market scores with the accessibility scores.
We weighted the market scores at 70% and the accessibility (or number of markets per 10,000 residents) at 30%. We sorted the scores from highest to lowest.
Why top farmers markets should be proud
Farmers markets in the cities at the top of our lists excelled at providing more accessibility to fresh fruits and vegetables for lower-income populations by accepting, SNAP and WIC dollars and providing food to low-income seniors under 185% of the federal poverty level. They also had relatively high prevalences of farmers markets compared to their overall population.
Farmers markets also got a few extra points if they included sales of crafts from local artisans in a direct-to-consumer fashion too. Shopping at farmers markets allows people to eat fresh foods seasonally. It also allows for communities to come together over food, and lets consumers develop relationships with their farmers. Farmers, in turn, get to know their communities and get to take home a larger share of their profit as there are almost no middle-parties scraping money away in the form of produce distributors or delivery costs.
How to move up from a low ranking
Cities with lower scores would do well to be sure all their farmers markets are reflected in the USDA’s national directory of farmers markets. For established, documented farmers markets, a good way to improve your rating is to expand to take SNAP and WIC dollars, as well as consider selling crafts.
Accepting SNAP and WIC credits includes lower-income individuals in the nutritious marketplace and helps them gain access to really healthy foods. It also expands the potential consumer base for farmers showing up to sell their goods - helping them increase their profits.
Farmers markets that focus only on foods can also consider expanding to include artisans in the local marketplaces. Allowing live performances of local music, letting people sell their CDs, and or pieces of art helps stimulate the hyper local economy and connects artists to residents.
Data and Exclusions
We used data from the US Department of Agriculture’s National Farmers Market Directory. The data was last updated April 3, 2015. To calculate the number of farmers markets per 10,000 people, we used data from the US Census’ estimates of cities populations in 2014 based off of the 2010 Census.
What the Experts Say
“I always encourage my patients tobuy whole, unprocessed local vegetables and fruits. Who knows where the big supermarket chains are getting their fruits and veggies from, often times their produce comes from another country, and trying to figure out when they were actually picked, or what exactly they have been treated with is playing roulette with your health conscious dollars.
Locally grown fruits and veggies are a fantastic benefit for all, first of all, you know they are only growing seasonal vegetables and fruits, you can actually speak to the growers to find out what the products of been treated with, when they were picked, what they recommend and why they recommend it.
Additionally, those who suffer from allergies, locally grown fruits and veggies are a tremendous compliment to your immune system when dealing with allergies from high pollen counts in your local area reducing your body’s production of histamine as well as enhancing it’s immune response with vibrant vitamin and antioxidant rich properties filled in these locally grown foods.” - Dr. Tim Ramirez, MD
“The first and most important thing I recommend to my clients is to eat whole, unprocessed local fruits and vegetables and stay away from processed packaged foods as much as possible. It’s no secret that eating whole foods provides the body with a wide variety of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.) that it needs to maintain health and balance. On the other hand, processed foods not only lack any nutritional value, but they are also filled with chemicals, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors that can do us harm.
Farmers markets are a great way for people to purchase high quality whole foods, supporting local businesses and learning where their food is actually coming from. Local vegetables and fruits are always much more fresh and nutritionally dense than foods that have spent a long time during transportation.
Plus, when buying local foods that are in season you can often get them at a much better price at farmers markets than anywhere else.” - Mitra Shirmohammadi, Registered Holistic Nutritionist