There’s nothing like the first bite of fresh fruit picked out from your local farmers’ market on a warm July day. The enigmatic flavours that jump out on your palette are an irreplaceable taste! Knowing just how fresh and nutritious farmers’ market produce is, it’s crazy to think that their popularity had fallen in and out of public interest over the last two centuries—notably making a resurgence in Canadian communities in the 1970s.
After learning the benefits of local grocery shopping during the environmental movements of the 70s, Canadian residents’ interest in farmers’ markets was at an all-time peak. According to a recent analysis by Statistics Canada, there are now over 4,000 farmers’ markets across Canada as of 2021 (what a feat!). Speaking of 2021, COVID was a culprit for yet another spike in farmers’ market shopping in North America when food insecurity became even more of an issue than it already was.
We won’t get into the Covid topic too much (I think we’ve all had enough of that), however it’s important to mention because it’s clear that farmers’ market shopping continuously makes its way back into the hearts, minds and kitchens of Canadian households—whether it’s due to increased public interest or is simply the best option in times of scarcity.
Keep reading to dive a little more into the importance of local market shopping and to hear input from a few Duuo-partnered farmers’ market organizers!
Social and civic impact
Farmers’ markets don’t just provide the best fruits and veggies in town; their presence in local Canadian communities holds much more cultural significance. A reliable and accessible food economy is vital to any community worldwide, and farmers’ markets are unfailingly at the forefront of building and rebuilding them for Canadians.
Not only are they a vital food source, but they also provide a level of education to many. We heard from Communications & Marketing Manager of BC Farmers’ Markets, Evanna K.,
“Farmers’ markets create a positive impact in their local communities, provide a vibrant hub for people to gather, and connect and support local businesses. Many BC farmers’ markets offer free kids’ clubs, teaching children about local food systems, nutrition and the importance of buying local produce, and providing entertaining activities and an opportunity to forge new friendships.”
The level of education farmers’ markets provide, whether that’s through programs or simply attending and engaging with farmers and other community members, is irreplaceable. Learning about different kinds of foods to lead a healthier and more sustainable life is something no ordinary grocery store can typically provide.
There also happens to be a civic quality behind attending farmers’ markets, as they can be an opportunity for community building and engagement by encouraging folks to get involved in volunteering, learn more about issues in the community related to health and food security, and can lead to collaborating with other community members on ways to resolve them.
Farmers’ markets typically happen weekly or multiple times throughout a week, and are vibrant social events that many community members look forward to. People have gone as far as making attending a farmers’ market a tradition with friends and family.
In the current digital age, people can get easily distracted by their screens (whether for work or personal purposes). Farmers’ markets are a great way for folks to unglue themselves from their technology. The social impact here is incredibly important as it encourages people to get outside, forge connections with those around them, and invest their money into not just quality food—but a valuable experience.
“A good farmers’ market should reflect the best of the community it serves. The vendors are proud of their products and the shoppers have a personal relationship with the vendors. Add some sunshine and it’s magic!”
—Catherine C., Executive Director of Farmers Markets Ontario.
Economic and ecological impact
Other than the community and health benefits, these festive food fairs are also important for Canadian economies. Knowing some of the benefits we listed above, it’s important that we keep farming profitable in Canada—and farmers’ markets are incredibly vital to keeping that industry alive.
Throughout the last few years, we’ve seen more communities investing their time and money into shopping from small businesses. More and more Canadian residents are seeing the benefits of shopping locally, and farmers’ markets are just one industry where this interest is growing. Canadians want to know more about healthy living, where their food is coming from, and how shopping locally greatly impacts their own community.
This rising phenomenon helps support not just small Canadian farmers and their families but also essential to food security and quality, and since it’s profitable, ensures folks will continue to take up farming in the future. Additionally, farmers’ market shopping contributes to the general economy:
According to the Farmers’ Markets Ontario website, “For every dollar spent at the market, another two dollars ripple through the provincial economy,” they continue, “In Ontario alone, sales at farmers’ markets total almost $600 million, leading to an economic impact of an astounding $1.8 billion.”
Duuo attended the Public Markets Conference in Toronto last month where we listened in on a presentation by Executive Director of Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia, Justin C. He stated,
“A dollar spent locally is more likely to be recirculated within that community 3 or 4 times.”
It’s statistics like these that prove farmer’s markets are not just important for educational and nutritional purposes but also make a staggering economic impact in local communities.
Did you know shopping at a local farmers’ market also reduces your ecological footprint? As most of us know, grocery stores import food from all over the world, and a lot of food travels thousands of miles just to get into our kitchens. Farmers’ market shopping automatically reduces our carbon footprint because the food is produced and sold right within our own regions.
“Shopping at a farmers’ market involves purchasing directly from the person who has grown or made your food, which benefits farmers and encourages small business growth, and is a sustainable, independent alternative to the large-scale grocery. Additionally, farmers’ markets serve as business incubators for farm and food entrepreneurs, with many BC brands having got their start at their local market.”
—Evanna K., Communications & Marketing Manager of BC Farmers’ Markets.
Other than having the best fresh produce you’ll probably find in your province, it’s clear farmers’ markets have been—and hopefully will continue to be—a beneficial and vital resource for Canadians residents. Whether you’re looking for fresh and affordable veggies, some delicious jams, or a unique handmade craft to put up in your home, you’ll likely find the best options right in the heart of your hometown.
Not sure what farmers’ market to start shopping at? Start with a quick Google search of markets going on in your local area, or check out our list of the top ten farmers’ markets to visit around Canada.
If you want to learn more about how we work with farmers’ market organizers to get vendors covered in time for events, click here!