Boris Mann’s Personal Blog

Jun 2010

The dark side of the farmers' market boom

But what if there's a little-known dark side to the farmers' market boom? What if the ruddy man in overalls actually came from hours away, where local residents don't have access to the vegetables grown near their own backyards because farmers prefer selling their produce to city dwellers at nearly triple the price?

Linda Aleci, a historian and co-founder of the Local Economy Center at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, undertook a three-year study of the farmers' market in her city. Her findings suggested that the local farmers' market -- serving a poor, food-insecure community -- was suffering from the growth of markets in the Philadelphia metro region and in Lancaster County.

So, the problem here is treating food / food growing as a purely economic endeavour. I can see "local" markets (in quotes, because the very phrase "local" is problematic -- it's not the only value that is important) needing to work with farmers AND buyers to encourage a great local ecosystem.

Do we drive out and buy from the farmer's gate? Can local stores stock produce from local farmers? (I'm thinking, here, of a suburban / rural area that has farmers / farmland as part of the community).

Or should farmers go full steam ahead, and sell in urban farmers markets if it means higher prices for them?