Farmers Markets & Low-Income Communities

“Will we ever get a Farmers’ Market here in the Round Lake area?”

We hear that question a lot, and will continue to explore that over several posts like this one, which deals with a common mis-perception about the cost of goods purchased at Farmers’ Markets.

“In 2009, the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), in partnership with Columbia University, undertook a study to examine what market characteristics successfully attract low-income shoppers. The study also explored the obstacles that may prevent low income individuals from shopping at a farmers market when one existed nearby.

We were able to identify two key trends.

– First, we found that price is not a barrier. Among the survey sample, almost 60% of farmers market shoppers in low-income neighborhoods believed their market had better prices than the grocery store. Among those who did not shop at farmers markets, only 17% cited price as a barrier to shopping at their local farmers market.

– Second, we learned that information is key. Unlike a grocery store, markets typically lack permanent structures and are therefore more ephemeral by nature. Shoppers need better access to information about schedules and seasonal changes in order to become more regular market shoppers.”

It is the first finding that gets us motivated on the idea of establishing a Market here. Once it gets going, a substantial portion of the customers believe they’re getting more for their dollars at their Market; that certainly can drive the repeat business which is vital to keep the vendors returning.

– Our area contains the second-poorest demographic in Lake County (behind Waukegan/N. Chicago), the ability of our low-income residents to purchase fresh,  healthy food with minimal travel expense and at-or-below grocery store prices would certainly be a win/win: we get a multi-use “place” (even if only for 4-hours/week), another “destination” is created for shoppers coming to our villages, local growers have an outlet for their goods, and residents get affordable, healthy food!

Farmers Market

Farmers Market

There were four main recommendations based on the findings in this study (which you can download  [.pdf] and review for yourself). A major consideration for setting up a Market in our area is:

Location, Location, Location A common reason cited by non-market shoppers for not patronizing a farmers market was the need to complete their shopping at one location… market operators who are serious about long term sustainability turn their market into a DESTINATION. The market should not only be a place to buy produce, but should incorporate programming that integrates the market into the fabric of the surrounding community.” [Sounds like Place-Making, doesn’t it?]

We love the idea of establishing a Farmers’ Market in the Round Lake area. It does need to be placed somewhere with easy access, ample parking (but no more than a short walk TO the market), and the difficult part: a reason to be where it is, someplace where life happens and people would already be active (or, if it is done correctly, could be the spur to drive the creation of such a place).

“Markets are wonderful public gathering spaces that put an emphasis on community health. They make it easier for people to make better dietary choices, while simultaneously bringing neighbors together to form the strong, supportive social networks that are critical to success in leading healthy lifestyles in the long term.”

Link to: “New Report on Farmers Markets & Low-Income Communities

Link to .pdf report: “Farmers Markets as a Strategy to Improve Access to Healthy Food for Low-Income Families and Communities

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This entry was posted in Economics, Farmers' Markets, Local Food Production, Planning. Bookmark the permalink.

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