Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Too Many Farmers Markets?

I was talking yesterday with a vendor who sells at a number of local farmers markets in San Diego. I was marveling at how wonderful it is that the region now has 30 markets. People all over the County are increasingly being able to go buy their produce and other food products fresh from the farmer or artisan relatively close to home.

She, on the other hand, is not all that happy about this for a couple of reasons. New markets mean more markets she and her partner have to find a way to sell at. And, new markets mean a dilution of customers from already established markets as they peel away people who can now shop elsewhere.

So, I put it out there to the farmers market shoppers and to vendors/market managers. Do you think more markets are good or bad for you and the community -- and, importantly, why?

And, as I ask this, I'm also hearing talk that a group is being formed to look into creating a permanent marketplace at Liberty Station in Point Loma and that a marketplace (a la Pike Place Market in Seattle) is being considered in the development at the Old Police Headquarters at the Embarcadero. An embarrassment of riches if either of these come to fruition. This could also impact the vendors and the vitality of the community markets.

Weigh in please!

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  1. I love the idea of farmer's markets, and, from a consumer point of view, you really can't have too many.

    I expect to be able to walk/bike to whatever farmer's market is local. That's what I've done living in Carlsbad, Encinitas, and now in Normal Heights (walk to the Hillcrest one). If I had to drive I probably wouldn't do it.

    However, my big issue with farmer's markets is the price. What's up with that? We're supposed to be buying direct from them, so why are things way more expensive than at Henry's or Whole Foods? Frankly, I've almost stopped going. I loved the experience and the food, but the cost was getting out of control.

  2. I appreciate the Little Italy market for the variety there so that I don't have to go up to Hillcrest from downtown but the other markets that are local to me are disappointing. I'd much prefer to have a few markets of the quality of Hillcrest, Little Italy and Ocean Beach with their own character than to have a few dozen with just a few vendors. Quantity does not equal quality in this case.

    Just having Little Italy for my big weekend shop and having the market in Horton Plaza for my midweek refresh is perfect for me. The smaller markets downtown on Sunday and in the East Village on Saturday are disappointing and don't really have any advantages over just taking the trolley a couple of stops.

    A few geographically dispersed markets a quick bike ride, walk or drive from everyone are a great idea, but we don't need 3 markets in a one mile radius every weekend.

  3. I haven't been to the Del Mar and/or Solana Beach markets in awhile, but over the years I've noticed farmers there from as far away as the Central Valley (e.g. Bakersfield and beyond). What's up with that? How does that contribute to the locally grown ethos? Should a farmer whose operation is outside the county be allowed to participate. Let's support the local folks first even if it means fewer markets.

  4. For farm fresh produce, having enough markets to shop fresh every day or two is an advantage. Really fresh produce doesn’t last more than a few days. Ditto meat, eggs, bread, pastries. It’s all better fresh. That’s why Paris is full of daily markets, one in each neighborhood and all busy. Every kind of neighborhood deserves access to that fresh food, with farmers and vendors chosen to match the neighborhood. I work our Little Italy market on Saturdays and do most of my shopping there. But I frequent a couple of other markets in between for fruit and veggies fresh that day.

    Vendors with bottled/packaged foods that doesn't need to be bought fresh may need to narrow their focus to a few markets that work for them. That’s why we give extra weight in our selection process to vendors who are not at too many other markets very geographically close to ours.

    But really, we don’t think of ourselves as competing with other markets, but with Ralph’s and Alberston’s - by offering better, fresher products - and with Trader Joe’s - be eliminating excessive packaging. If there were enough farmers’ markets, no one would have to buy food transported halfway across the country, or the world, and our fuel based economy could be altered.

    Uh oh, I digress. I’ll spare you the long rant. One day I’ll start my own blog...

  5. As an urban dweller, I don't think there can be too many markets. I would like to see every neighborhood have it's own market, so travel to market is decreased, and more people have access to fresh farm products. If it's easier and closer for people to shop in their own neighborhood, I think that benefits everyone.

    I would think more markets would encourage more farmers to figure out how to market direct. As more people shop at markets, the more trendy it becomes, and everyone will do better, as the customer base will increase.

    And is that not the goal, to never have to go to Ralph's again? And not support huge processing plants that give us poisoned food - and exploit illegals?

    It is nice to know the face of your food supplier, to talk to them, to hear about their life. They become like an aunt or uncle that lives on the farm.

    The only people I can see that should be worried are the major chains that sell mediocre product. They must be scratching their heads at people willing to pay $4-7 for eggs that aren't even the same size and color!

  6. I think more markets would help since the larger markets have terrible parking problems. PB and Solana Beach (and sometimes Hillcrest) work because there's parking available but the rest only have street parking. As I'm driving around and around I keep thinking the more gasoline I use the less I can buy at the market. I usually give up after 15 minutes of searching for a parking place and head toward home.

  7. CC, would you pay for parking? We're trying to improve our parking situation in Little Italy so I'm curious.
    We have plenty of paid parking lots in our area, and have thought about offering valet. Are you only looking for free parking? How far are you willing to walk from a parking place? We're on a trolley line - would you consider Park N Ride?

  8. In a county as large and far-reaching as San Diego, why would more markets be a bad thing? With gas prices still outrageous, I want to be able to shop for fresh produce any day of the week I need it and do it as close as possible to where I live. If anything, I lament the fact that there are no markets available on Mondays (unless I'm missing something...). I hope that even more markets are formed so that daily shopping (like they do in Europe) can be possible with the freshest possible ingredients! If we have a permanent Farmer's Market, I know it will be well patronized. Parking is something that I take into consideration, though - so I hope that Liberty Station gets the nod for that idea.

  9. I love the Farmer's Market near me in LJ. I wish it was open sometime mid-week for me to restock on items we've already eaten. I love the idea of a marketplace everyday!

  10. Hello, From the other side of the fence. We are a small family farm in Alpine Ca. We have an awesome array of fruits and vegetables, herbs and eggs. I am considering having a mailing list of consumers who are interested in getting an email from us, saying what we have this week and letting them have a choice. Right now we have lettuces, tomato, peas, green beans, apples, pears, raspberries, strawberries, gourds, pumpkins, eggs. What do you think? Maddie Ridgeline Farms, www.ridgelinefarms.com
    Certification# 3709CC81