Value of farmers’ markets questioned
A new study finds farmers’ markets aren’t as beneficial to urban communities as widely proclaimed. It found that they are priced higher, offer less variety and aren’t as accessible as local grocers. They also sell too much junk food, according to the survey.
Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center identified and visited all 26 farmers’ markets in the 42 square miles of land in Bronx, NY, an area widely believed to have limited access to fresh produce.
Farmers’ markets had the edge in quality with their produce more often grown organically and more likely to be fresher, but fell short in all other key areas in delivering nutrition and health benefits to Bronx residents.
"Our study casts doubt on the presumed benefits of farmers’ markets in urban environments," said Sean Lucan, M.D., M.P.H, M.S., assistant professor of family and social medicine at Einstein and senior author of the paper, in a press release. "And I suspect that most farmers’ markets in most cities look a lot like what we found."
The study, published online in the journal, Appetite, claims to be the first to itemize farmers’ market products in an entirely urban county.
More favorably for farmers’ markets, a new pricing study from Ryan Pesch, a market coordinator with the University of Minnesota Extension, found the average price of a produce-only market basket during peak growing seasons were lower when purchased at farmers’ markets in west central Minnesota than at big box supermarkets, traditional grocery stores and specialized local food stores.
The Minnesota study did find a significantly wider range of pricing at farmers’ markets, which was attributed to availability and growing methods at individual farms.
A University of Illinois study released last year found higher prices at grocery stores, but also found farmers’ market shoppers ate a greater variety of vegetables and were more likely to choose fruits or vegetables as snacks.
- Price, Variety and Junk Food: Study Finds Urban Farmers’ Markets May Fall Short Compared to Neighborhood Stores – Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
- Urban farmers’ markets: Accessibility, offerings, and produce variety, quality, and price compared to nearby stores – Appetite (purchase required)
- U of M study finds lower average produce prices at farmers markets in region than at stores – West Central Tribune
- Farmers markets inspire WIC moms to eat more veggies, but grocery store produce costs less! – University of Illinois
- Demand grows for farmers’ markets – RetailWire
What roles do you see farmers’ markets playing in the different types of communities they serve? What lessons can stores selling groceries learn from farmers’ markets? How will farmers’ markets evolve in the years ahead?