Farmers' markets/stands

A farmers’ market is a multiple vendor market, where producers sell goods directly to consumers at a specific location. Farmers’ markets most often sell fresh fruit and vegetables; meat, dairy, grains, prepared foods, and other items may also be available. 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased access to fruits & vegetables

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased healthy foods in food deserts

  • Increased fruit & vegetable consumption

  • Strengthened local & regional food systems

  • Improved local economy

  • Reduced emissions

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that farmers’ markets increase access to healthy foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables (, , , , ). Establishing farmers’ markets or stands is a suggested strategy to increase fresh produce in food deserts (CDC-Food deserts, UW IRP-McCracken 2012) and to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption (CDC-Fruits and vegetables 2011, CDC DNPAO-Farm). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Farmers’ markets can increase fruit and vegetable consumption in low income communities (, , ), and among low income diabetics (). In many studies, farmers’ markets have been associated with increases in fresh produce purchases and self-reported increases in fruit and vegetable consumption (Cromp 2012, Blanck 2011, Alberti 2008, , USDA-Ragland 2011, USDA-Brantley 2002). A study of low income women in Los Angeles, for example, finds that participants shopping at a farmers’ market have a greater increase in fruit and vegetable consumption than grocery store shoppers and non-participants (Herman 2008). However, education efforts may need to accompany markets to substantially affect consumption (); relatively little is known about the effects of environmental change alone on eating patterns (, ).

Starting and sustaining farmers’ markets in low income areas may reduce disparities in access to healthy foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables (PolicyLink-Flournoy 2005). Studies suggest that prices at farmers’ markets are often lower than supermarket prices (Swenson 2012). In North Carolina, shopping at a farmers’ market resulted in an average savings of 18% for all produce items ().

Zoning that supports farmers markets, street food vendors, and other public markets may strengthen local food systems, enhance local economies, and contribute to a livelier pedestrian environment (). Shopping at farmers’ markets that offer seasonal, locally grown foods may reduce fossil fuel energy used to produce, process, and transport food (CCAFS-Campbell 2012), and can reduce the energy intensity of an individual’s diet if more plant-based foods are consumed in place of animal products (Harvard Ext-Adamkiewicz 2016).

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

As of 2013, at least 17 states and Washington DC enacted legislation to support local food production, marketing, and consumption, including farmers’ markets and local food distribution (NCSL Winterfeld-Obesity prevention 2014). Various state and local policies can encourage farmers’ market establishment (NCSL-Farmers market). For example, in Fresno, CA local zoning ordinances establish zones where farmers’ markets are an approved land use, and in Minneapolis, MN streamlined permitting processes support small farmers’ markets (ChangeLab-Land use and FMs).

Vermont, Wyoming, Iowa, and New Hampshire have more than 7 farmers’ markets per 100,000 state residents, while the national average is 2.5 (CDC-State indicator 2013). Various databases offer search functions to find local farmers’ markets (USDA-Farmers markets).

The US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) operates the Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program, which distributed about $15 million in 2014 to support farmers’ markets and other direct to consumer retail outlets (NCSL Winterfeld-Obesity prevention 2014, USDA-FMPP).

Implementation Resources

ChangeLab-Farmers markets - ChangeLab Solutions. Farmers’ markets.

USDA-FMPP - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Farmers market promotion program (FMPP).

US DHHS-Healthy food financing - US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS), Administration for Children & Families (ACF). Healthy food financing initiative.

USDA-NIFA - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Community food projects competitive grant program (CFPCGP).

PolicyLink-FMs 2008 - PolicyLink. Equitable development toolkit: Farmers markets. 2008.

USDA-Farmers markets - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Farmers markets and direct-to-consumer marketing.

OMC-Maring 2006 - Maring P, Scanton J. Kaiser Permanente farmers’ market resource guide. Oakland: Oakland Medical Center (OMC); 2006.

CDC DNPAO-Data - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO). Nutrition, physical activity and obesity: Data, trends and maps online tool.

PolicyLink-HFAP map - PolicyLink, The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), The Food Trust. Healthy food access portal (HFAP): Research your community interactive map for healthy food access.

LHC-Rockeymoore 2014 - Rockeymoore M, Moscetti C, Fountain A. Rural Childhood Obesity Prevention Toolkit. Leadership for Healthy Communities (LHC), Center for Global Policy Solutions, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 2014.

CDC-HFR 2014 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Healthier food retail (HFR): An action guide for public health practitioners. 2014.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Young 2011* - Young C, Karpyn A, Uy N, Wich K, Glyn J. Farmers’ markets in low income communities: Impact of community environment, food programs and public policy. Community Development. 2011;42(2):208-20.

Sallis 2006* - Sallis JF, Glanz K. The role of built environments in physical activity, eating, and obesity in childhood. Future of Children. 2006;16(1):89-108.

USDA-Ragland 2011 - Ragland E, Lakins V, Coleman C. Results of DOT survey: USDA outdoor farmers market. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS); 2011.

USDA-Brantley 2002 - Brantley L, Bragg E, Klotz JCV, et al. Improving and facilitating a farmers market in a low-income urban neighborhood: A Washington, DC case study. Washington, DC: Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Transportation and Marketing Programs, Wholesale and Alternative Markets (WAM), US Department of Agriculture (USDA); 2002.

McCormack 2010* - McCormack LA, Laska MN, Larson NI, Story M. Review of the nutritional implications of farmers’ markets and community gardens: A call for evaluation and research efforts. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2010;110(3):399-408.

Herman 2008 - Herman DR, Harrison GG, Afifi AA, Jenks E. Effect of a targeted subsidy on intake of fruits and vegetables among low-income women in the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children. American Journal of Public Health. 2008;98(1):98-105.

UW IRP-McCracken 2012 - McCracken VA, Sage JL, Sage RA. Bridging the gap: Do farmers’ markets help alleviate impacts of food deserts? Madison: Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP), University of Wisconsin-Madison; 2012: Discussion Paper 1401–12.

CDC-Food deserts - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A look inside food deserts.

CDC-Fruits and vegetables 2011 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Strategies to prevent obesity and other chronic diseases: The CDC guide to strategies to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS); 2011.

PolicyLink-Flournoy 2005 - Flournoy R, Treuhaft S. Healthy food, healthy communities: Improving access and opportunities through food retailing. Oakland: PolicyLink; 2005.

Freedman 2011a* - Freedman DA, Bell BA, Collins LV. The veggie project: A case study of a multi-component farmers' market intervention. Journal of Primary Prevention. 2011;32(3-4):213-24.

Blanck 2011 - Blanck HM, Thompson OM, Nebeling L, Yaroch AL. Improving fruit and vegetable consumption: Use of farm-to-consumer venues among US adults. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2011;8(2):A49.

CDC DNPAO-Farm - Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO). Farm-to-where-you-are programs. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); 2010.

Racine 2010* - Racine EF, Smith Vaughn A, Laditka SB. Farmers' market use among African-American women participating in the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2010;110(3):441-6.

Ruelas 2012* - Ruelas V, Iverson E, Kiekel P, Peters A. The role of farmers' markets in two low income, urban communities. Journal of Community Health. 2012;37(3):554-62.

Evans 2012* - Evans AE, Jennings R, Smiley AW, et al. Introduction of farm stands in low-income communities increases fruit and vegetable among community residents. Health & Place. 2012;18(5):1137-43.

Freedman 2013* - Freedman DA, Choi SK, Hurley T, Anadu E, Hebert JR. A farmers’ market at a federally qualified health center improves fruit and vegetable intake among low-income diabetics. Preventive Medicine. 2013;56(5):288–92.

Fitzgerald 2011* - Fitzgerald N, Hallman WK. Effectiveness of a farmers market intervention to improve the food access and intake in an urban setting. Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. 2011;25(98.6).

Cromp 2012 - Cromp D, Cheadle A, Solomon L, et al. Kaiser Permanente’s Farmers’ Market Program: description, impact, and lessons learned. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. 2012;2(2):29–36.

Alberti 2008 - Alberti P, Hadi E, Cespedes A, Grimshaw V, Bedell J. Farmers’ markets - Bringing fresh, nutritious food to the South Bronx: A neighborhood report from the Bronx District Public Health Office. New York: New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; 2008.

Swenson 2012 - Swenson PJ. Paired price comparisons of farmer’s market and supermarket produce in San Luis Obispo County. San Luis Obispo: California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly); 2012.

McGuirt 2011* - McGuirt JT, Jilcott SB, Liu H, Ammerman AS. Produce price savings for consumers at farmers’ markets compared to supermarkets in North Carolina. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 2011;6(1):86–98.

Morales 2009* - Morales A, Kettles G. Zoning for public markets and street vendors. American Planning Association. 2009;25(2):1-8.

CCAFS-Campbell 2012 - Campbell B. Is eating local good for the climate? Thinking beyond food miles. Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), CGIAR Research Programs. 2012.

Harvard Ext-Adamkiewicz 2016 - Adamkiewicz G. Buying local: Do food miles matter?. Harvard Extension School. 2016.

Larsen 2009a* - Larsen K, Gilliland J. A farmers’ market in a food desert: Evaluating impacts on the price and availability of healthy food. Health and Place. 2009;15(4):1158–1162.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

ChangeLab-Land use and FMs - Wooten H, Ackerman A. From the ground up: Land use policies to protect and promote farmers’ markets. Oakland: ChangeLab Solutions; 2013.

USDA-FMPP - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Farmers market promotion program (FMPP).

NCSL-Farmers market - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Farmers’ market.

CDC-State indicator 2013 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO). State indicator report on fruits and vegetables, 2013. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS); 2013.

USDA-Farmers markets - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Farmers markets and direct-to-consumer marketing.

NCSL Winterfeld-Obesity prevention 2014 - Winterfeld A. State actions to reduce and prevent childhood obesity in schools and communities: Summary and analysis of trends in legislation. National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL). 2014.

Date Last Updated

Nov 2, 2017