Farmers' markets are popping up all over America. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are more than 8,200 farmers' markets operating in the country today, a 76 percent increase since 2008.
Growth of the markets is happening all over the U.S. with every geographic region seeing an increase. California, with 764 markets, has the greatest number of any state, followed by New York (638), Michigan (339), Ohio (311), Illinois (309), Massachusetts (306), Pennsylvania (297), Wisconsin (295), Virginia (249) and Missouri (245).
States seeing the greatest growth in farmers' markets are Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Arkansas, North Carolina, Montana, Florida and Nebraska.
Farmers markets are increasingly being viewed as an affordable option for low-income consumers to get access to more nutritious foods. According to an article on the Smithsonian Magazine website, one in four markets accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. The 2014 Farm Bill allocated $4 million to be used for farmers' markets to add equipment needed for accepting SNAP payments.
The New York Times Magazine's lead food columnist, Mark Bittman, wrote that markets are now participating in programs like Wholesome Wave, which provides eligible customers a double value coupon incentive to buy fruits and vegetables. According to the Wholesome Wave website, the program, which began in California, Connecticut and Massachusetts in 2008, has since expanded to 350 farmers' markets in 21 states and Washington, D.C.
How much of a competitive threat do farmers' markets pose to grocers' produce business?