Farmers markets

A farmers market is a multiple vendor farm-to-consumer retail operation, where producers sell goods directly to consumers at a set outdoor or indoor location. Farmers markets usually sell fresh fruit and vegetables, though meat, dairy, grains, prepared foods, and other items may also be available. Markets are usually held once a week and vary in size from a few stalls to several city blocks. Most farmers markets are organized and operated by community organizations, public agencies, or public/private collaborations with volunteer support. 

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 is a suggested strategy to increase fresh produce in food deserts (CDC-Food desertsUW IRP-McCracken 2012). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Farmers markets can increase fruit and vegetable consumption in low income communities (Strome 2016, ) and among low income diabetics (). An evaluation of the Fresh to You partnership program suggests markets can also increase consumption among low income children when discount produce is available (Gorham 2015). Overall, farmers markets have been associated with increases in fresh produce purchases and self-reported increases in fruit and vegetable consumption (, Jilcott Pitts 2015, Jilcott Pitts 2014, , Grin 2013, Cromp 2012Blanck 2011USDA-Ragland 2011). Individuals who shop at farmers markets two or more times per week report higher levels of consumption than peers shopping less frequently (Jilcott Pitts 2017). Education, promotion, and financial incentives may need to accompany farmers markets to substantially affect consumption (NBER-Handbury 2016, , ).

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), but will not fully eliminate disparities in healthy food purchases between families with low and high incomes (NBER-Handbury 2016). Experts suggest that farmers markets in low income, minority communities may have difficulty balancing shoppers’ needs for low cost produce and vendors’ needs for profitability (PolicyLink-FMs 2008). Farmers markets in low income neighborhoods also appear to be smaller and provide fewer fresh fruits and vegetables than typical markets in more affluent communities ().

Prices at farmers markets are often lower than supermarket prices (Valdez 2016, Swenson 2012, ), although prices vary and may be higher in some counties than others ().

High quality produce, produce variety, and lower prices are the most commonly reported reasons for shopping at farmers markets (). Limited transportation options, lack of information about the location or hours of farmers markets, and markets not accepting Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) payment for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are frequently reported barriers to farmers market use (, , Jilcott Pitts 2015, Hood 2012). Increasing transportation options, developing safe routes to healthy foods at farmers markets, expanding market hours and locations, promoting awareness, and offering community health education may support farmers market use (, , Jilcott Pitts 2015).

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 February 2018, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) includes over 8,700 farmers markets in the National Farmers Market Directory (USDA-Farmers market directory). 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). The Produce Plus Program in Washington DC and Gorge Grown Food Network in Washington state are examples of collaborative efforts to support farmers markets in urban and rural areas (Urban-Thompson 2016, GGFN-Mobile market).

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 2014USDA-FMPP). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) provides guidance and funding to state health departments to support interventions promoting access to fresh produce and encouraging healthy eating, including establishing or supporting farmers markets (). 

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.

PAS-Zoning 2016 - Planning Advisory Service (PAS). Planning & zoning for health in the built environment. American Planning Association (APA). 2016.

CDC-Supporting FMs - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO). Current practices in developing and supporting farmers’ markets.

SRTSNP-Safe routes to healthy foods - Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTSNP). Healthy communities: Safe routes to healthy foods.

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.

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.

Jones 2011* - Jones P, Bhatia R. Supporting equitable food systems through food assistance at farmers’ markets. American Journal of Public Health. 2011;101(5):781-3.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Leone 2012* - Leone LA, Beth D, Ickes SB, et al. Attitudes toward fruit and vegetable consumption and farmers' market usage among low-income North Carolinians. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 2012;7(1):64-76.

Hood 2012 - Hood C, Martinez-Donate A, Meinen A. Promoting healthy food consumption: A review of state-level policies to improve access to fruits and vegetables. Wisconsin Medical Journal. 2012;111(6):283-8.

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.

Wheeler 2014* - Wheeler AL, Chapman-Novakofski K. Farmers’ markets: Costs compared with supermarkets, use among WIC clients, and relationship to fruit and vegetable intake and related psychosocial variables. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2014;46(3 Suppl):S65-S70.

Strome 2016 - Strome S, Johns T, Scicchitano MJ, Shelnutt K. Elements of access: The effects of food outlet proximity, transportation, and realized access on fresh fruit and vegetable consumption in food deserts. International Quarterly of Community Health Education. 2016;37(1):61-70.

Jilcott Pitts 2014 - Jilcott Pitts SB, Gustafson A, Wu Q, et al. Farmers’ market use is associated with fruit and vegetable consumption in diverse southern rural communities. Nutrition Journal. 2014;13(1).

Jilcott Pitts 2015 - Jilcott Pitts SB, Wu Q, Demarest CL, et al. Farmers’ market shopping and dietary behaviours among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants. Public Health Nutrition. 2015;18(13):2407-2414.

Singleton 2016* - Singleton CR, Baskin M, Levitan EB, et al. Farm-to-consumer retail outlet use, fruit and vegetable intake, and obesity status among WIC program participants in Alabama. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2016;40(4):446-454.

Jilcott Pitts 2017 - Jilcott Pitts SB, Hinkley J, Wu Q, et al. A possible dose–response association between distance to farmers’ markets and roadside produce stands, frequency of shopping, fruit and vegetable consumption, and body mass index among customers in the Southern United States. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(1):65.

Lowery 2016* - Lowery B, Sloane D, Payán D, Illum J, Lewis L. Do farmers’ markets increase access to healthy foods for all communities? Comparing markets in 24 neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Journal of the American Planning Association. 2016;82(3):252-266.

Gorham 2015 - Gorham G, Dulin-Keita A, Risica PM, et al. Effectiveness of Fresh to You, a discount fresh fruit and vegetable market in low-income neighborhoods, on children’s fruit and vegetable consumption, Rhode Island, 2010-2011. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2015;12:140583.

Singleton 2017* - Singleton CR, Baskin M, Levitan EB, et al. Perceived barriers and facilitators of farm-to-consumer retail outlet use among participants of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in Alabama. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 2017;12(2):237-250.

Di Noia 2017* - Di Noia J, Monica D, Cullen KW, Thompson D. Perceived influences on farmers’ market use among urban, WIC-enrolled women. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2017;41(5):618-629.

Farmer 2016* - Farmer J, Minard S, Edens C. Local foods and low-income communities: Location, transportation, and values. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. 2016;6(4):1-13.

Grin 2013 - Grin BM, Gayle TL, Saravia DC, Sanders LM. Use of farmers markets by mothers of WIC recipients, Miami-Dade County, Florida, 2011. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2013;10(2):120178.

Valdez 2016 - Valdez Z, Ramírez AS, Estrada E, Grassi K, Nathan S. Community perspectives on access to and availability of healthy food in rural, low-resource, Latino communities. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2016;13(E170):160250.

Lieff 2017* - Lieff SA, Bangia D, Baronberg S, Burlett A, Chiasson MA. Evaluation of an educational initiative to promote shopping at farmers’ markets among the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participants in New York City. Journal of Community Health. 2017;42(4):701-706.

NBER-Handbury 2016 - Handbury J, Rahkovsky I, Schnell M. Is the focus on food deserts fruitless? Retail access and food purchases across the socioeconomic spectrum. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). 2016: Working Paper 21126.

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).

USDA-Farmers market directory - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Local food directories: National farmers market directory.

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

GGFN-Mobile market - Gorge Grown Food Network (GGFN). Farmers’ market network uses mobile market trucks to support markets.

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.

Kahin 2017* - Kahin SA, Wright DS, Pejavara A, Kim SA. State-level farmers market activities: A review of CDC-funded state public health actions that support farmers markets. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. 2017;23(2):96-103.

Urban-Thompson 2016 - Thompson M. How DC’s farmers’ markets improve food access and the local food system. Urban Institute. 2016.

Date Last Updated

Feb 16, 2018