Farmers' markets are big business



    ST. CATHARINES, ON, Feb. 18 /CNW/ - Farmers' Markets Canada (FMC)
unveiled the results of the National Farmers' Market Impact Study 2009 Report
at their first annual conference and annual general meeting on Feb. 16-17 in
St. Catharines, Ontario. Farmers' markets from every province participated in
the survey, which is the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted
in North America.
    The 2008 study examined 508 markets and confirmed the economic force that
farmers' markets have become in the Canadian economy and their hosting
communities. The markets play a key role in selling agricultural products with
estimated sales of $1.03 billion, and an economic impact range of $1.55 to
$3.09 billion annually. That is the purchasing power of approximately 28
million shopper-visits that spent an average of $32 per visit.
    The popularity of farmers' markets as a 'community shopping experience'
has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years as consumers seek out an array
of food and non-food items, and the opportunity to interact with local
farmers. The study confirmed that consumer demand and interest is closely
aligned with support for local farmers and fresh, healthy, food choices.
    "The success of farmers' markets can be attributed to a number of
factors," explains Robert Chorney, Chair of FMC. "Consumers have expressed a
clear desire to return to healthier, fresher, locally produced products. They
have a strong belief in the integrity of shopping within their community. And,
over 60 per cent of shoppers indicated that buying their food directly from a
local farmer is extremely important to them."
    By helping themselves, consumers are also helping Canadian producers. The
study showed that farmers' markets play a significant role in generating farm
incomes as 42 per cent of vendors said they achieve over half of their farm
income from market sales. Furthermore, greater than half of vendors created up
to five jobs as a result of their market participation.
    "We are reaching a point where we need more farmer producers and vendors
to serve the growing demand for farmers' markets," explains Chorney. "We are
constantly recruiting new vendors and helping communities open new markets."
    The mission of FMC is to promote farmers' markets and develop national
initiatives and partnerships to further the viability, growth and prosperity
of the Canadian farmers' market industry.
    Alex Atamanenko, NDP MP for BC Southern Interior, who serves as Federal
Agricultural, Agri-Food and Rural Affairs Critic, gave opening remarks for the
FMC conference. Atamanenko has long been an advocate of the farmers' markets
movement. This was followed by the results of the National Farmers' Market
Impact Study, which were presented by Lauree and Doug Vallery, of Experience
Renewal Solutions Inc., Toronto.
    The FMC conference preceded the Farmers' Market Ontario 19th Annual
Networking Symposium, held in concert with the annual Ontario Fruit &
Vegetable Convention and Trade Show - billed as Canada's premier horticultural
event.

    The National Farmers' Market Impact Study was funded by Agriculture and
Agri-Food Canada's Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food program, a
five-year, $240 million program aimed at positioning Canada's agriculture and
agri-food sector at the leading edge to seize new opportunities.

    
                   The Impact of Farmers' Markets in Canada
                              Executive Summary

                         www.farmersmarketscanada.com
    

    Farmers' markets are a great success story for Canada and are important
contributors to the national economy with impacts ranging from $1.55 to $3.09
billion annually. Consumer and vendor support is strong as evidenced by the
growth in attendance at the 508 markets nation-wide. Their success is built
upon many factors including consumer desire to return to healthier, fresher,
locally produced products and a strong belief in the integrity of shopping in
the community.
    Most customers attend markets regularly and are strong supporters of the
farmers' market industry, spending an average of $32 per visit. They are
highly motivated to purchase fresh, in-season produce in clean, simple
surroundings, but clearly the largest demand is for fresh fruits, vegetables
and baked goods.
    Customers feel a strong sense of community and local pride in attending
farmers' markets. While the customer base of farmers' markets parallels the
grocery-purchasing demographics of Canada, the market customer is uniquely
sensitive to the need to support local primary producers. (62% feel this is
extremely important, 30% feel it is somewhat important.)
    Farmers' market vendors are typically primary producers (79%) who achieve
a significant portion of their income from participation in the markets. They
are attracted by the supportive social and communal nature of the market
experience. Vendors are seeking more support in the marketing of their
locations through signage, advertising and website information to help attract
new vendors and increase customer traffic. They are also striving to extend
hours and days of operation for markets and improve physical amenities.
    Market vendors are challenged to provide the selection of fresh products
required as primary producers while dealing with issues of labour shortages
and rising costs of production inputs. In some markets there is a growing
concern about the role of reseller vendors who are threatening the economic
viability of the primary producer vendor.
    Market managers are seeking to develop farmer's markets business growth
by attracting and promoting more primary producers and increasing the
attractiveness and convince of the market facilities. Management and
association opportunities should focus on improving marketing efforts and
making the physical market presence an attractive and more accessible venue.
Increasing pressure will occur from health and safety requirements, parking
needs for vendors and customer, and balancing of primary producer capabilities
and customer demand for year-round selection.
    The majority of national grocery shoppers are not using farmers' markets.
Non-users are a target growth sector; they express a willingness to become
patrons and are not visiting primarily because of convenience and lack of
awareness issues. Future growth in the sector will require engaging non-users
through increased awareness of benefits, locations and product selection.
Trial usage among non-users will be dependent on making local market hours and
locations more accessible to time-challenged, health-conscious consumers.
    The future for farmers' markets in Canada is promising with consumer
demand and interest closely aligned with support for local production and
fresh, healthy food choices. Current costumers will increasingly look for more
product selections and convenience in locations, payment options and lifestyle
amenities to ensure their loyalty.

    The "National Farmers' Markets Impact Study 2008" was prepared by
Experience Renewal Solutions Inc. with Dr. David Connell on behalf of Farmers'
Markets Canada.





For further information:

For further information: Brent Warner, Interim Executive Director,
Farmers' Markets Canada, T: (250) 655-0479, C: (250) 208-3940, E:
bwarnerj@telus.net; Catherine Clark, Executive Assistant, Farmers' Markets
Ontario, T: 1-800-387-3276, E: fmo@farmersmarketsontario.com

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FARMERS' MARKETS CANADA

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