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Monday, June 21, 2010

Are There Just Too Damn Many Farmers' Markets?

Posted By on Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 5:54 PM

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At Salon today, Riddhi Shah probes the dark side of the boom in U.S, farmers' markets. Sure, weekly food fests like the Wednesday Castro market are a boon for city folk, but how much do we really know about the communities where our farmer buddies harvest? By hauling prime produce to the glut of urban markets, are farmers neglecting the regional food system, causing residents of farm country to be deprived of the very food we stuff into our market baskets? In "The Dark Side of the Farmers' Market Boom," Shah interviews Linda Aleci, a historian and researcher who thinks there needs to be more coordinated planning of regional systems, so food is distributed more fairly. Aleci:

There is a growing discussion as to whether we should be developing local or regional food systems.... I don't think we should automatically be skipping over the local for the regional. Instead, we need to see how both the systems can mesh together.

Meanwhile, in Seattle magazine, Rebekah Denn wonders how many markets are too many for any city to support.

Seattle has 18 summer farmers' markets this year (S.F.: 16). After years of sales growth, sales at Seattle markets tanked last year. Blame the Great Recession, yes, but there's a growing sense of oversaturation in Seattle and beyond. Denn:

A report last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) questioned whether markets were growing too rapidly and dividing the customer pie into ever smaller slices. In the Bay Area, which has fewer markets per capita than Seattle ... "residents now have so many to choose from that some markets don't draw the critical mass of buyers that farmers need to turn a profit," reported The Wall Street Journal.
Are we setting ourselves up for another market crash?

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