This piece in the New York Times suggests that there may now be too many farmer’s markets. I wonder if this is the case because too many communities want them to boost economic development:
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.
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…
Nationwide, the number of farmers’ markets has jumped to 7,175 as of Aug. 5; of those, 1,043 were established this year, according to the federal Agriculture Department. In 2005, there were 4,093 markets across the country.
While the main argument here seems to involve supply and demand, I’ll throw out another possible factor. More and more communities (or city neighborhoods) desire farmer’s markets because they are relatively easy ways to attract residents and visitors to a community. Because they usually don’t require buildings (with good weather being a helpful feature), can easily be moved around, can make use of unused or underutilized parking lots (a common suburban issue), and can offer some goods that are more difficult to find elsewhere, farmer’s markets can be a “quick fix.” This has developed as a popular strategy in nearby suburbs where such markets bring in people to an older downtown that might not typically come otherwise. Before such markets became popular, these could help a certain community apart from others. If we think about it in reverse, perhaps it is not only communities or neighborhoods that drive this trend: residents could desire a farmer’s market not only for convenience but for status.
It is not uncommon for communities to adopt similar economic strategies but this sounds like one where not everyone may be able to win. Any chance that some national regulatory board or group might develop to help space out farmer’s markets?