Farmers Markets, Food, Placemaking And Smarter, Stronger Communities

Blog by Anna Brones:
Spend your money at farmers market and the money stays in the community. Spend it at the big box grocery store and it goes elsewhere.

After a lot of road trips in manydifferent places, I have come to a conclusion. When you drive through the countryside and come across a small town, one of two things happens:

1. You think to yourself, “ugh, this place is full of box stores and has no feeling at all. Get me out of here!” You proceed to drive to the next destination on your map.
2. You think to yourself, “ah, look at all these independent stores and quaint streets, I want to live here!” You stay and hang out, grab a coffee, and maybe even stay for lunch.

What is it that makes us have that feeling of “I want to live here”? It’s not just a street full of stores. It’s a sense of community; a feeling that there’s a thread that ties everyone together. So often, that thread is food. Food is essential; it’s what keeps us alive. It nourishes us both in the physical and the emotional sense, and it’s what brings us market

Community doesn’t just come together on its own. It takes work. As we think about how we continue to evolve our communities, and build new ones, some people have started using the phrase “placemaking.”

According to the Project for Public Spaces, “Placemaking is how we collectively shape our public realm to maximize shared value. Rooted in community-based participation, Placemaking involves the planning, design, management and programming of public spaces.”

As our world population grows, we have to think serious about our management of public spaces, and for me, that means thinking about food. Because investing in food and farmers markets has a positive economic impact.

When it comes to farmers markets specifically, there are the direct and indirect benefits. Certainly a farmer benefits when he or she can sell their produce without a middleman, but there are also economic benefits for the community that come from keeping things local.

In 2009, a study found that farmers markets in Oklahoma had generated a total of $3.3 million in direct sales, but $6 million in total economic impact. That’s almost double.

A study done by the USDA found that fruit and vegetable farms engaged in local food sales (i.e. local and regional markets) employ 13 full-time workers per $1 million of sales. Those fruit and vegetable farms that not engaged in local sales (think: big farming)? They only account for 3 full time employees per $1 million of sales. A local food economy creates more jobs.