University of Illinois Extension

Community Benefits of the Modern Farmers Market

Farmers markets are certainly nothing new. However, they have changed through the years and now the benefits of these events reach far beyond the farmer’s pocketbook. While it is still common for a group of farmers or at least an agriculture related group to organize the local farmers market, others are increasingly interested in the development, and success of these events. While the goals of the non-farmers are different than that of the farmer, these goals are usually very complimentary.

Included in the group of non-farmers interested in the modern day farmers market is the local Chamber of Commerce, the Main Street Committee and yes, the consumer. For an increasing number of health and quality conscious consumers, the farmers market is becoming the source of choice for fruits, vegetables and even meats in some cases. These customers are increasingly willing to pay top prices for fresh, farm raised products and will gladly forego the convenience of the grocery store to make these purchases at the farmers market. This is great news for the farmers and commercial gardeners who utilize these marketing venues. However, in a growing number of situations the farmers market is being developed into a weekly mini-festival that provides benefits to individual farmers and consumers but also downtown business owners and the community as a whole.

Where farmers markets were once given access to out of the way parking lots behind City Hall, many times to keep them out of the way of “progress”, the events are now more commonly held on Main Street or even on the Court House lawn. The more prominent positioning has helped to bring attention back to many downtown areas and the increased traffic drawn by fresh produce has also increased sales for many downtown businesses. These benefits have gained the attention of Chambers of Commerce, local Main Street Committees and other similar organizations that have become more and more active in promoting the development and growth of these events to maximize the complimentary benefits that often result. While the spin off effects associated with farmers markets are variable, there seems to be an opportunity for communities to work together to develop these markets into viable community and economic development opportunities.