Laura McDonald, executive director of Texas Farmers Market, with locations in Cedar Park and Austin, says it’s important that farmers’ markets provide continued support to farmers and ranchers so that central Texans can continue to have access fresh produce and meat.
“There are real concerns about maintaining access to these products,” she says, “because the cost of farmland in central Texas is rising rapidly…and farmland is disappearing at a rapid rate at as [older] farmers retire with no one to take over their business.
The good news is that since the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began recording the number of farmers’ markets, their prevalence increased by 364% (PDF) — from 1,755 in 1994 to 8,140 in 2019.
The report also found that on an average day, 916 households shopped at each U.S. farmers market and spent $14,547. In addition, businesses located near or around farmers’ markets have benefited from proximity. On the vendor side, small farms tended to source locally, which benefited local economies and kept their money spent within communities.
“Other local businesses are definitely taking advantage of this,” confirms Tyler Horne, farmer’s markets manager for the Houston-operated market by Urban Harvest, which also has an educational arm. “On a typical Saturday, we have over 3,000 shoppers. When the weather is perfect, that can double. half a dozen times.
McDonald says the Texas Farmers Market averages about 3,000 shoppers in Cedar Park and 4,000 in Austin per market day. “Our marketplaces drive massive amounts of foot traffic to nearby businesses, and our location partners view us as an integral part of their success.”
Urban Harvest and Texas Farmers Market are independent nonprofits, which isn’t the case for all farmers’ markets, according to a item 2021 which focuses on their economic and social impact. The business structures of farmers’ markets range from private for-profit and private social enterprises to markets run by city or county governments.
Regardless of the organizational structure, the approximately 150 Farmers Markets Across Texas and the number of buyers they attract starts to add up for local communities. Based on the results of their most recent annual survey, Horne says Urban Harvest estimated an economic impact of $4.32 million on the local community.
The number may seem particularly surprising because of COVID, but it turns out the pandemic hasn’t hurt business at Urban Harvest Market or Texas Farmers Market.
“During the pandemic, we did well overall,” says Horne. “We had to start offering drive-thru, but we got it. Year over year, we had one of our best years because people didn’t want to go into grocery stores. »
Restaurants near the Houston Farmer’s Market also benefited. “We’ve worked with some restaurants to help them sell in the marketplace, which was different,” Horne says, “but it was great to create opportunities for people and restaurants that are going through a tough time.”
The Urban Harvest market has retained many of the new buyers it gained during the pandemic. McDonald’s says the pandemic has also boosted sales at both Texas Farmers Market locations.
“As people felt more comfortable being able to shop outside,” she says, “many people started shopping in markets every week during the pandemic and continued to do so. as things reopened. Our weekly attendance continues to grow.
McDonald adds that one of the benefits of farmers’ markets is the ability to be nimble in times of crisis. “Because our suppliers are largely sourcing locally,” she says, “they are less impacted by supply chain issues, which is another important reason to support our local producers.”
In addition to being nimble, Farmers Market vendors may have another advantage. According to the Farmers Market Coalition, a national advocacy group, over 85% of market vendors travel less than 50 miles to reach their farmers’ market, and more than half travel less than 10 miles. In comparison, fruits and vegetables sold in grocery stores can take seven to ten days to reach their destination and travel up to 1,200 miles.
As for the future of farmers’ markets, McDonald’s believes demand for fresh produce will continue to grow, and supporting that growth means supporting Texas farmers and ranchers.
Tyler Horne agrees. When he started his job in 2008, the Urban Harvest market had 25 vendors. It now has over 100. Similarly, Texas Farmers Market has grown from about 20 vendors to about 130 across both sites.
“More people want to be a part of this,” says Horne, “and I see the future – hopefully – with younger, more diverse farms. One of the advantages for our suppliers is that year after year, we are always there for them. If the suppliers are not doing well, we are not doing well, so we are very loyal to them. » FN
Interested in other topics related to agriculture in Texas? Learn about the state’s dairy industry and how it has flourished in recent years.