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Farmers Markets

A couple more quotes from "Field that Dream"

As an additional to my earlier post about Jenny Kurzweil's "Fields That Dream," here are some facts about local foods and farmers' markets from her book:

  • In a recent survey, 19,000 farmers reported selling their produce only at farmers' markets.
  • Shoppers spent $584.6 billion for food produced in the United States in 1998, with farmers earning only a 20 percent share of the food dollar.

Similarities and Differences Between the Grinnell and Fairfield Farmers' Markets

A statistical analysis of the data I collected from the Grinnell and Fairfield Farmers' Markets. See my more detailed write-ups of the two markets ("A profile of the Grinnell Farmers' Market" and "A profile of the Fairfield Farmers' Market) in earlier blogs for more information.

The Vendors

Total number of stations:

  • Grinnell: 27
  • Fairfield: 23

Total number of vendors:

  • Grinnell: 34
  • Fairfield: 37

Gender of Vendors:

  • Grinnell: 41% male, 59% female

A Profile of the Fairfield Farmers' Market

The Fairfield Farmers' Market is held every Wednesday from 3:30 PM to 7:00 PM, and every Saturday, from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM. The market season starts on the first Saturday of May and end on the last Saturday of October. Like the Grinnell market, most vendors at the Fairfield market sell produce and baked goods, with a few selling homemade crafts, flowers, jams, etc. Unlike the Grinnell market, foods to eat on site (Crepes, egg rolls, wraps) are an important part of Fairfield's market. This is part of a crucial difference between the two markets: the Fairfield market is a social place. Whereas at the Grinnell market, buyers immediately leave after finding what they want, shoppers at the Fairfield market tend to stick around. Many shoppers buy lunch at the market, and sit down to eat it while chatting with fellow buyers. Many children play on the playground next to the market while the parents shop and socialize. Shopping at the Fairfield farmers' market can be seen as much more of an entire "experience" than shopping at Grinnell's market.

A Profile of the Grinnell Farmers' Market

The Grinnell Farmers' Market runs every Thursday, May 27 to October 14, 3-6 PM, and every Saturday, June 5 to October 9, 8:30-10:30 AM. A wide variety of goods are sold at the Grinnell Farmers' Market, including many different types of produce, baked goods, homemade crafts, berries, and even kettle corn. The Grinnell Market attracts buyers and sellers from many miles away; according to one vendor, Grinnell Market presents the best opportunity for sales in the area. Grinnell's Farmers' Market constitutes a large portion of the local food economy. Many vendors are dependent on their farmers' market sales; according to another vendor, "most people's sales are over after the farmers' market season."

Radius of Impact for Iowa Farmers' Markets

I have a few pieces of information from work done by Dr. Daniel Otto and Theresa Varner that relate to the question of "radius of impact" of Iowa Farmers' Markets (how far sellers and buyers travel to reach markets). I will post more information regarding this question as I find it.

  • Consumers traveled an average of eight miles to get to a market
  • The attached file entitled "Radius of Impact Table" contains a table listing the number of visits to and the miles traveled to farmers' markets, based on their size, from a sample population from Dr. Otto's survey.

The nine counties surrounding Grinnell and Fairfield

There are nine Iowa counties of interest in this project. These include the four counties surrounding the town of Grinnell (Marshall, Tama, Jasper, and Poweshiek), and the five in the vicinity of Fairfield (Wapello, Jefferson, Davis, Van Buren, and Henry).

A map of the state of Iowa with the two regions outlined is shown in the attached file entitled "Outline of Two Regions."

Grinnell Region
Total Farmers' Markets: 7
Total Number of Residents: 113,442
Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 6.17

Marshall County:

  • Population: 39,311

Notes from a study of Iowa Farmers Markets

The following are some interesting pieces of information from an article entitled "Consumers, Vendors, and the Economic Importance of Iowa Farmers' Markets: An Economic Survey Analysis," by Dr. Daniel Otto and Theresa Varner, Iowa State University (March 2005). All figures are from a 2004 survey.

  • Approximately $20 million in total Iowa Farmers Market sales were estimated through consumer reporting, while a more conservative estimate of $9.8 million originated with vendor reports.
  • An estimated $31.5 million of gross sales and $12.2 million of personal income effects were directly or indirectly related to farmers' market activity.

Information I would like to get from buyers and sellers at Farmers Markets

Things I would like to know about sellers:

  • Why they sell at Farmers Markets
  • What they see as the main benefits of selling at Farmers Markets
  • How consistent and reliable their sales and customers are. Does the Market offer a constant source of income?

Things I would like to know about buyers:

  • Why they shop at Farmers Markets
  • What they see as the main benefits of buying at Farmers Markets
  • What they see as the main benefits of buying locally produced foods
  • What they see as the drawbacks of locally produced food

My Research Into Iowa Farmer's Markets

Having been unable to find any information on Iowa's Farmers Markets beyond a simple listing by city, date, etc., I did some data analysis of these Markets myself.

First, using a blank map of Iowa, I created a green circle to represent each of the 174 Farmers Markets in Iowa. That map is attached to this post under the name "Farmers Market Map." These circles do not represent the sizes of the markets (information which I could not find), nor do they point to particular cities--only the counties they are in.

Next, I found the population of each Iowa county (US census estimates for 2003 populations were the best available data). I entered these numbers into a Microsoft Excel file, along with the number of Farmers Markets in each county. I then divided the number of Farmers Markets in each county by the population of that county, and multiplied the result by 100000, to get a number that is easier to work with (for example, 12.623 instead of 0.00012623). This number--in column D in the spreadsheet 'Sheet 1'--represents the number of Farmers Markets in each Iowa county per 100,000 residents of that county. A higher number indicates a greater number of Markets per capita, while a '0' indicates that the county has no Farmers Markets. A graph of this information is available in 'Chart 1' in the same document.


Questions for Farmer's Market Participants

This entry will contain an evolving list of questions to be asked of buyers and sellers at Farmer's Markets. By the time I visit the Fairfield Market (July 22), I hope to have a satisfactory list--though my experiences at the Fairfield Market will surely influence the questions to be asked in the future.

To be asked of buyers:

  • How do you value locally produced foods compared to goods produced elsewhere?
  • How important is the price of the food that you buy?
  • If local grocery stores sold locally produced food, would you buy it?

To be asked of sellers:

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