Farmers in pockets of the country say the number of farmers’ markets has outstripped demand, a consequence of a clamor for markets that are closer to customers and communities that want multiple markets.
John Spineti started selling plump tomatoes and shiny squash at farmers’ markets in the early 1970s and saw his profits boom as markets became more popular. But just as farmers’ markets have become mainstream, Mr. Spineti said business has gone bust.
“It’s a small pie — it’s too hard to cut it,” said Mr. Spineti, who owns Twin Oak Farms in Agawam, Mass. Mr. Spineti said his profits were down by a third to a half over the last few years.
Some farmers say small new markets have lured away loyal customers and cut into profits. Other farmers say they must add markets to their weekly rotation to earn the same money they did a few years ago, reducing their time in the field and adding employee hours. And densely populated areas seem to be where the problem is most acute.
Nationwide, the number of farmers’ markets has jumped to 7,175; of those, 1,043 were established this year, according to the federal Agriculture Department. In 2005, there were just 4,093 markets across the country.
In some places, new or small-scale farmers who cannot get into existing markets create their own and siphon off customers. Other communities do not have enough farmers to keep up with all the new markets that are opening. According to federal agriculture officials, there are approximately 2.2 million farms nationwide; in 2006, there were 2.09 million.
What do you think? Have we gone past ensuring that all areas have access to fresh food and crossed over the point of saturation?