March 25, 2010

Should Farmers Markets be more like Wal-Mart?

Joel Salatin, whose Polyface Farm is iconic in some circles, wonders if farmers markets and community-supported agriculture  could learn from the big supermarkets.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m an ardent supporter of farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA). Direct-marketing models linking farmers to buyers are as varied as entrepreneurial ingenuity. Generally, I’m in favor of anything other than nameless, faceless, opaque industrial food–based supermarkets.

But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to move this heritage-based food movement beyond 1 percent market penetration. Our nearest farmers market, founded nearly 20 years ago, has not yet had cumulative sales in its entire history equal to our farm’s gross sales in one year. I’m not bragging—I’m just pointing out how tiny the local food network is. So what’s holding it back?
Or are we dealing with the "hipsters' dilemma" applied to small-scale agriculture: "No one goes there anymore, it's too popular."

(Via Rod Dreher, who is still occasionally crunchy.)

1 comment:

smartdogs said...

Salatin has a point. People are, for the most part, lazy. If they have to drive four extra blocks and [sigh] walk another block to buy fresh produce from three different vendors, most people won't bother.

If the same produce was offered a local supermarket and tricked up with a sexy display - it would sell like hotcakes.

Local produce is offered in season (a very short Minnesota season) in the local box mart (not Wally's) where I usually shop. If the volume of material stocked is an indication of sales - it is hugely popular.