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National Public Radio’s The Salt has a story about farmers’ markets around the country are facing two problems - too few farmers and too few customers.

According to the story, “Nationwide, the number of farmers markets increased from 2,000 in 1994 to more than 8,600 in 2019, which led to a major problem: There are too few farmers to populate the market stalls and too few customers filling their canvas bags with fresh produce at each market. Reports of farmers markets closing have affected communities from Norco, Calif., to Reno, Nev., to Allouez, Wis.

“Markets in big cities are hurting too. The Copley Square Farmers Market in Boston reported a 50 percent drop in attendance in 2017. In Oregon, where 62 new markets opened but 32 closed, the researchers of one multiyear study concluded, ‘The increasing popularity of the markets is in direct contrast with their surprisingly high failure rate’.”
KC's View:
Farmers’ markets may seem vaguely counter-culture and an alternative to more commercially focused stores, but the scenario behind the competitive issues is very similar - big farmers markets are more attractive to vendors who can sell more of their wares there, which steals the oxygen from the smaller markets that have been cropping up.

It is a fact of life that the fittest will survive, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It seems to me that what the best of farmers’ markets offer - and what traditional retailers ought to emulate - is a sense of discovery, freshness, adventure, and connection to where food comes from. That’s invaluable.

For me, the Saturday farmers’ market at Portland State University in Oregon usually serves as a touchstone for my adjunctivity there each summer … a remarkable gathering of farmers and shoppers that yields some terrific products, and where I can get an amazing breakfast burrito.