Debating the Meaning of ‘Farmers’ Market’
By Tom Ryan
Some supermarkets are selling fruits and vegetables in front of
their doors and describing the events as a "farmers’ market." That’s
upsetting those who believe the term should be reserved for farmers selling
directly to the public.
An article in The Wall Street Journal noted that
in June several Safeway stores in Seattle posted signs with the term "farmers’
produce displays in front of their doors. When local farmers’ market groups
complained, the signs were changed to "outdoor market." The items
included mangos, which aren’t suited to Washington’s climate. A Safeway spokeswoman
told the Journal that
the chain has no plans to call its outdoor events "farmers’ market" in
Over Labor Day weekend, about 200 Albertsons stores in Washington,
Oregon and Idaho put up "farmers’ market" signs in front of outdoor
produce stands. Despite hearing similar complaints, Albertsons kept the wording
because all the produce advertised came from local farmers. A spokesman for
Albertsons’ parent, Supervalu, said Albertsons stores may repeat the events
if they prove effective. The Journal also noted that "farmers’
supermarkets" have "popped
up from time to time in other regions as well."
While applauding local
produce sales in supermarkets, farmers’ market advocates worry about the overuse
of the name and that mimicking the concept may dilute events where farmers
sell their wares directly to the public. Farmers’ markets are said to be much
more profitable for farmers than selling directly to stores.
"These very large corporations are recognizing the power of these words
— the power of local and the power of farmer — and are trying to co-opt
Michael Pollan, who has written several books about sustainable eating.
problem is the vague definition. The trade group, Farmers’ Market Coalition,
defines a farmers’ market as any event consisting "principally" of
farmers selling directly to the public. But some successful ones also include
craft sellers, snack stands and buskers that appeal to a wider mix of customers.
Advocates are also seeking to stop flea markets and events dominated by produce
resellers from using the name.
There are more than 6,132 farmers’ markets nationwide,
up 16 percent from 2009, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey.
Discussion Questions: Do you think it’s okay for grocers to use the words
"farmers’ markets"? In what ways should supermarkets be looking to capitalize
on the popularity of farmers’ markets?