November 18, 2011
In the last month, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has posted two blogs about exciting farmers market research and initiatives.
USDA has updated its geo-coded dataset for farmers markets based on the 2011 National Farmers Market Directory. In a blog posted on October 27, 2011, titled “Data-Lovers Rejoice: More Farmers Market Geocodes Available,” USDA describes the National Farmers Market Directory, which provides searchable information about farmers markets, such as location, product availability, and participation in federal nutrition programs. The blog also describes updates to its geo-coded dataset for farmers markets, including a 33 percent increase in geocodes available over last year.
On November 4, 2011, USDA posted a blog titled “Location, Location, Location: Identifying Crucial Business Factors for Farmers Markets.” It describes research that the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has conducted over the last two decades on the business of farmers markets. As part of this research, AMS partnered with the USDA Economic Research Service to develop maps that show the density of farmers markets across the country. They also examined how far producers and consumers travel to reach farmers markets.
The results of this work help farmers market managers create better business plans for their markets and more directly target their customers. In conjunction with this work, AMS took an informal survey of customers at the farmers market that it manages in Washington, DC, to understand consumer purchasing habits. With the information and customer opinions gathered from this survey, AMS has changed the market from seasonal to year-round, and it has extended market hours.
These blog postings indicate growing interest and enthusiasm in farmers markets across the country. We hope that this innovative research and data collection on farmers markets will increase the success and longevity of farmers markets in the future, and that USDA will continue to conduct this type of research in years to come.