Source: Patrick McGuigan
Farmers markets are booming in many countries, but is it worth paying the extra to buy directly from the producer of your food? As farmers markets begin to rattle supermarkets, how are they fighting back? Where do consumers really get the best deal? Patrick McGuigan went to market to find out.
It seems strange to talk about farmers’ markets as a new and exciting trend. The tradition of buying locally produced food from outdoor markets stretches back over thousands of years. Yet in several Western countries food production has become so automated, and supermarkets so dominant, that there came a point when it looked like markets were a thing of the past.
But in areas such as Australia, North America and the UK it’s possible to detect a consumer backlash against the industrialisation of food, which has manifested itself in the re-emergence of farmers’ markets. In the UK, for example, there are over 450 such markets, yet in 1997 there wasn’t a single one. In the US, there are over 3,100 farmers’ markets, representing a 79% increase from 1994, while numbers have also rocketed in Canada.
It’s not difficult to work out why people find farmers markets attractive. Food horror stories such as BSE, foot and mouth and E-coli have prompted people to search out foods they feel they can trust. And who appears more trustworthy than the farmers who have grown or reared the product they are selling?