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Oversaturation of Farmer's Markets

Oversaturation of Farmer's Markets
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  • Oversaturation of Farmer's Markets

    Post #1 - July 17th, 2017, 1:41 pm
    Post #1 - July 17th, 2017, 1:41 pm Post #1 - July 17th, 2017, 1:41 pm
    Your thoughts?
    https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/2017071 ... y-too-many
  • Post #2 - July 17th, 2017, 2:31 pm
    Post #2 - July 17th, 2017, 2:31 pm Post #2 - July 17th, 2017, 2:31 pm
    There's definitely truth to the oversaturation argument. As is the case with virtually all trends, they go beyond the sustainable level before constricting to the proper balance.

    The farms should be exerting more leverage in the situation described, which is demand outpacing supply. It may go against the spirit of antitrust laws, but I don't think they're in actual violation by working together to most efficiently capitalize on the existing market (ie. market of farmers markets). Farms above a certain size should come to an agreement on the sustainable number of markets (x), and only do business with the largest x markets. Allowing hyper-local micro-growers to supply any excess demand in the low-attendance markets would be better than cannibalizing themselves trying to be everywhere at once with exponential growth in overhead costs.

    They don't have a monopoly on the product, so the potential agreement to artificially cap supply shouldn't be shut down by regulators. They could easily stymie growth by pricing out small markets by requiring a fee to come. These local politicians and neighborhood groups want to feel cool, tell them to put their money where their mouth is.
  • Post #3 - July 17th, 2017, 2:46 pm
    Post #3 - July 17th, 2017, 2:46 pm Post #3 - July 17th, 2017, 2:46 pm
    Interesting article.

    The health of farmer's markets is a topic near and dear to my heart. On average, I go to two every weekend. I have been going to the Evanston Farmer's market for over a decade - even though it is not in my neighborhood. It is still going strong.

    I used to really enjoy my local neighborhood market as well (Logan Square). In the last year, I have noticed a few key farm departures. It seems to me that new entrants are more likely to be prepared food vendors rather than farmers and the mix of offerings is slightly shifting. That said, it still has a good number of produce vendors and I'd consider it above-average for the area.

    When I think of farmers markets -and particularly those that l those that I love - it is all about fresh fruits and vegetables. Ideally, there is both depth and variety. I like to walk around and see whose looks look fullest or whose blueberries are the firmest. I realize that some people appreciate prepared food vendors, but that's not really a farm-related market to me. I shop for ingredients and cook at home. If including them helps make a market viable and fills a public need, all for the better. But I can certainly empathize with a farmer who feels the need to attend multiple markets (often on the same day) to meet sales goals.

    This weekend, I went to Green City Market (Lincoln Park) for the first time in years. The article says it gets 10,000 visitors on a weekly basis, which I am sure is the highest total in the region. The foot traffic was evident almost immediately because the number of vendors and the quality and variety of the produce basically blew other markets out of the water. I remembered it was a good market but the difference of how much better it was surprised me. Vendors I see elsewhere had more items and more of them.

    I imagine that Logan is still a healthy market. I have not spent much time at the smaller neighborhood markets because A) they are not my neighborhood and B) they rarely seem to offer anything I can't get at one of the markets listed above.

    Convenience is nice and if all things were equal, I'd love to be living within walking distance of the best market around. However, I value selection more than anything and I am willing to travel to the markets I consider best. I will probably try to get over the Green City more often since it is really first rate. That being said, there is no reason in my mind why GCM should be so much bigger and better than anywhere else in the city other than by its reputation. It's not like it is in the most population dense area of the city or that its neighborhood is particularly accessible to those from all over (it isn't). But I think when the article talks about new markets cannibalizing business of others it is Green City Market-excepted. And I'm trying to figure out why that might be.

    I could see an argument for having fewer markets that are better attended, but it would be hard to convince any neighborhood to give one up if the residents have grown use to it.
  • Post #4 - July 17th, 2017, 3:00 pm
    Post #4 - July 17th, 2017, 3:00 pm Post #4 - July 17th, 2017, 3:00 pm
    bweiny wrote:There's definitely truth to the oversaturation argument. As is the case with virtually all trends, they go beyond the sustainable level before constricting to the proper balance.

    The farms should be exerting more leverage in the situation described, which is demand outpacing supply. It may go against the spirit of antitrust laws, but I don't think they're in actual violation by working together to most efficiently capitalize on the existing market (ie. market of farmers markets). Farms above a certain size should come to an agreement on the sustainable number of markets (x), and only do business with the largest x markets. Allowing hyper-local micro-growers to supply any excess demand in the low-attendance markets would be better than cannibalizing themselves trying to be everywhere at once with exponential growth in overhead costs.


    It's a good article, and something I've said for a long time. While I think the abundance of markets is bad from a marketing perspective--not the least it makes the local food scene look weaker than it is--the bigger issue is not demand outpacing supply but way more supply than demand.

    On one hand, the local food scene in the Chicago area is better than ever. Markets like Green City and Logan Square, Evanston and Oak Park are better than ever. The types of things available, meat, grains, syrups, foraged foods, exotic vegetables, has never been greater. Beyond markets, there are way more places to get local foods, co-ops like Sugar Beet and Dill Pickle, delivery services like Irv n' Shelly, and a whole local foods supermarket called, nicely, Local Foods. Yet, on the other hand, I think a lot of the thrill is out of the movement. It's time has passed. I like to think locavores are like cigar smokers. :)
  • Post #5 - July 17th, 2017, 4:00 pm
    Post #5 - July 17th, 2017, 4:00 pm Post #5 - July 17th, 2017, 4:00 pm
    I can see how from the farmer's perspectives more markets is a troubling development. If you've invested time and energy in developing a steady presence at a farmer's market, another one opening up near by will inevitably hurt your sales. There is little short term benefit to losing sales and having to expand your salesforce and learn about the shopping habits of a new client base.

    However, as a consumer, I am thrilled about the expansion of the farmer's markets across the city. I live very close to the Low Line Market that happens Thursdays at the Southport Brown Line Station. When it first started I was frustrated by the lack of good produce and general lack of vendors. What I didn't realize is that it takes time for the market to grow and build a client base. The Low Line Market has grown larger every year and now I have personal relationships with both a meat vendor and a produce vendor. I guarantee the total amount I spend at the market is much higher because it's convenient and I can interact directly with the farms so I can communicate what I'm looking for.

    I've visited Green City many times over the years and I've found it frustrating both because it's crowded, and therefore difficult to speak with the people working there, and also because it's a challenge to get my haul back home. I still enjoy visiting, but more as an entertainment than as a market where I actually plan to shop.

    Recently I stopped by the brand new Ward 47 farmer's market that happens Saturdays near the Paulina Brown Line. The market was poorly attended and the few vendors that were there weren't offering much variety. It's hard for me to tell if this market will grow larger over time or if it will fade away due to lack of interest. Time will tell.

    I think the expansion of farmer's markets will go through a natural life cycle, but eventually the markets near a strong client base will thrive and those that struggle to build a following will die off. The farmers should look at this trend as an opportunity to reach a much broader audience and adjust accordingly. The city is investing a lot in farmer's markets, I don't see how that's bad for local farmers in the long run.

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