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Arkansas Farmers' Markets

Chart showing the increasing number of farmers every two years from 1994 through 2012.The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that in 2007 a little over three percent (3%) of Arkansas' forty-nine thousand farmers engaged in direct sales of agricultural food items. This figure represents a slight increase since 2002 with total estimated sales valued at $8,161 thousand. Almost all of the 1,657 direct marketing farms used farmers markets as a primary marketing channel. Across the U.S. farmers markets are an increasing their influence in the marketplace as a viable marketing channel. This is a growing trend as producers explore ways to capture higher marketing margins and consumers search for ways to better understand and connect to the sources of their food. Advances and technology have fueled this momentum allowing for cost effective and transparent frameworks for buyers and sellers to not only engage for transactions but also connect building relationships and a deeper understanding of agricultural product offerings.

Direct marketing activities are experiences strong increases across the country. Farmers' markets are just one of many direct marketing outlets which also include internet sales, buyers' groups, and farm stands. According to USDA statistics the number of farmers' markets operating within the U.S. has increased 69 percent over the last five years with almost 7,900 markets operating in 2012. Figure 1 details the strong growth in farmers' markets since 1994. The data show an increase of over 150 percent for the last decade.

USDA data also reports over eighty markets operating within Arkansas in 2012. Arkansas has followed the national trend with increases over the last decade that has more than doubled the number of markets.  

What is a Farmers' Market?

Red tomatoes, yellow squash and okra on a table.A farmer's market is a form of direct marketing in which producers from preferably a local area gather for the purpose of selling their own produce directly to the consumer. By selling directly to consumers, producers are able to sell their products at the retail price level. Additionally, the direct to consumer social connections that are facilitated by farmers' markets allow producers and consumers to build relationships that are mutually beneficial to both in terms of understanding and satisfying each others needs. Producers can interact with customers to understand specific customer needs or wants in the marketplace and/or changes in taste and preferences. Conversely, consumers gain additional satisfaction from purchasing food produced locally and like knowing not only who produced their food but also the manner in which their food was produced. The ultimate winner is the local community which is enhanced by the multiplier effects of the relatively higher proportion of the dollars spent on local purchases recirculating in the local economy.

Farmers markets offer a host of benefits including ranging from an enhanced sense of community to support for local businesses and basic economic development. Some specific benefits include:

Small farm operators: Those with less than $250,000 in annual receipts who work and manage their own operations meet this definition (94% of all farms). A number of these operations are diversified specialty crop operations offering a variety of product offerings. The farmers markets allow them a single market place to distribute a wealth of products.

Farmers and consumers: Farmers have direct access to markets to supplement farm income. Consumers have access to locally grown, farm fresh produce and the opportunity to personally interact with the farmer who grows the produce.

The Community:Farmers markets help to promote nutrition education, wholesome eating habits, and better food preparation, as well as boosting the community's economy.

Resources: 

MarketMaker
This free online resource allows farmers to register to promote their operations and product offerings. The searchable database allows consumers to easily locate markets and farm businesses.

National Ag Law Center
The Center provides a wealth of legal resources to assist those interested in understanding the liability and regulatory issues of local food marketing.

Food Science Department
UA Food Science offers a wealth of resources to assist growers in understanding value added processing options as well as food safety issues including recommended production practices to reduce the risks of food safety incidents.

Farmers' Market Vendor Guide

Farmers' Market Guides

Locally Grown Produce

Support Arkansas Agriculture