December 31, 2008

Farmer's Markets Booming

by Brent Warner,

If you want to get a handle on just how hot local food has become, look for the ATM at a farmers’ market.
In Saskatoon, I’ve seen customers lined up a dozen deep, many already loaded down with purchases. They’ve come, spent their cash and now they are lining up for more. ATMs at larger markets will dispense tens of thousands of dollars on a Saturday, but it’s a scene played out on a smaller scale in markets across the country.
There’s one farm family at the Saskatoon market that began selling artisan bread a few years ago. They’ve now upped their production to 700 loaves and still sell every loaf they bring. At up to $5 a loaf. In two hours or less. There’s another fellow at the same market who began selling his Angus beef four years ago. When he started, a box of beef would last him the day. Now he has eight freezers and slaughters up to 10 cows a month
I have been observing farmers’ markets for nearly 30 years and the last few years have been like nothing I’ve ever seen. There is a tidal wave of consumer interest in local food and farm-fresh products, and markets across the country are scrambling to find enough farmers to meet the demand. more


Patrick said...

It's funny, our local farmer's market in Amsterdam also has unreal lines at the ATM on market day. A year ago we had 1 ATM, now we have 3 and the waiting times aren't really any less.

The crazy thing too is until a few months ago the ATMs only dispensed €50 notes! That's a value of around US$70 right now.

The farmers market would open at 9am, and everyone would be standing around trying to buy their vegetables without any small change.

anne said...

Its a weird contrast really an ATM and a farmer's stand. My favorite transactions have always been carrots for bread or salad for cheese, etc. Thats why I like the CSA economy, where the farm is supported by cash or trade or work, in exchange for seasonal food.

Sarah said...

I love the Saskatoon Farmers market and the new location which is in a building designed just for the market with walls that open to the outside in summer. It is in a great location, on the river bank, close to a bike path and on a bus route. A lot of the vendors have been there for years. Now I no longer live in Saskatoon I really miss them.
I would also like to point out that it sells so much more than I got in a CSA share. Great bread, jams and jellies made from local fruit, fish from up north, all types of meats, sausages, jerky, herbs, bedding plants as well as all the regular vegetables are available all from local farmers. I don't think there is an ATM but I could be wrong.

anne said...

Saskatoon is in a really beautiful setting. Can you buy grains at the market?

Patrick said...

In Amsterdam at least, all we have is the polar opposite of a CSA, called a 'vegetable subscription'.

Certified organic factory farming is big business here, and the company that offers the vegetable subscription goes around at the end of the week and buys all the leftover unsold vegetables from local farms and makes distribution bags from them.

Since this is so much cheaper than any CSA could be, and most of the potential CSA distribution points in the city are mostly dominated by big agriculture, CSAs just can't make inroads into the city.

There are some CSAs available outside of the city, and I've thought about trying to start my own distribution network, but I have so many other things to do and I don't think it would be easy to get something like this going.

anne said...

Hi Patrick,

CSA is dear to my heart, as you can probably see. They took quite a blow here too with the introduction of the box scheme/organic delivery, but these haven't filled the appetite for local food security and the intimacy of a small farm. Inspiring new farmers, educating city folk, and the stability of income are advantages. I am going to sell at the market this year as its my first year on the new farm...I may start a CSA next year, after I've had a season to introduce myself and my food.