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Retailers Should Embrace Farmers Markets

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The explosive re-emergence of the farmers’ market as part of the American food shopping experience is fast becoming a weekly ritual outing for food lovers in communities nationwide. Take a look in the newspaper, or online, and you’ll see that like everything else, spring is prime time for the re-emergence of these popular venues.

fresh_straws.jpgDuring the second half of this century, buying produce and grocery items in the neighborhood greenmarket and surrounding specialty stores took a back seat to visiting supermarkets, as many working people and families found that the convenience of supermarket shopping had a time-saving and economical allure. In recent years, new farmers’ markets have sprouted up like fresh spring grass, providing visitors with not only a chance to buy fresh and local produce, but to sample interesting food products produced by both small batch producers and established food businesses.

It doesn’t hurt that many people who frequent farmers’ markets also consider their trips to be an integral part of their social lives. Shoppers are still spending money at supermarkets, but they are now also spreading the wealth to farmers’ markets.

When you buy at a farmer’s market, you are most likely supporting a local business, and, in fact, a regional agricultural economy. Many state governments have stepped up to the plate to support the rebuilding of local farms that rely on sustainable practices and advertising through local e-newsletters and social media.

The good news is an increasing number of retailers in the supermarket channel are turning to local producers for produce, dairy and specialty items to round out their offerings on shelf.

The farmers’ markets I frequented on a recent visit to New York City afforded me the chance to spot interesting trends in the making. What’s not to like about wandering the greenmarkets and flea markets; sampling a treasure trove of goodies like emu egg mayonnaise or blood orange bourbon marmalade; and patiently waiting in line at a food kiosk to purchase a whole cob of corn, speared with a fat wooden kabob stick, and slathered with a lime/chili/butter concoction?

With the eyes of a product developer, I constantly see the bigger picture. How do products like these find their way to the grocery shelf or frozen food section at a big supermarket? Rather than worry about losing market share, savvy retailers are embracing the offerings of small local producers, and helping them expand their reach by becoming loyal customers of another sort. This is a win-win situation that benefits all involved, and something to be pursued.

[Photo credit: Dan Schumacher]

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