Linking supply and demand: increasing grower participation and customer attendance at local farmers' markets



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Farmers' markets in the United States have experienced a dramatic increase since the 1970's. In the past three decades the number of farmers' markets has increased from 340 in 1970 to 3,617 by 2006. This interest in farmers' markets has not been felt everywhere, though. The purpose of this study was to investigate the supply and demand sides of farmers' markets, farmers and customers, in order to increase both segments at farmers' markets in Bryan and College Station, Texas. Interviews were conducted with farmers within a 100-mile radius of the two towns, to determine characteristics of potential farmers' market vendors and factors influencing market outlet choice. Bryan and College Station residents were surveyed at different market outlets to establish their knowledge of and interest in farmers' markets. The two primary themes found for farmers' reasons for growing were family and enjoyment, with enjoyment an especially important theme among older growers. Factors influencing market outlet choice were farmer status (part-time or full-time) and volume grown, with time, volume and risk being the primary considerations for most of the younger farmers interviewed. Almost 90% of respondents said they had been to one of the local farmers' markets, but this could be attributed to many of the respondents' misperception of a farmers' market. Farmers' markets will need to increase residents' understandings of what a farmers' market is. The best communication channel to reach residents appears to be the newspaper as 35% of respondents said that is where they get their local news. The primary reason for not attending farmers' markets was inconvenient times. Those that chose inconvenient times as a reason for not attending preferred Saturday afternoons.