Sunday, January 21, 2007

Farmers Markets - Economic and Environemental Benefits

They say that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. I can't say when that started to happen, but I see that happening almost everyday right where I live. The prices of vegetables and fruits that I get from the supermarket have increased dramatically in the last 5 years. But I don't hear of any farmers getting richer, except of course, the corn growers who have been getting hefty subsidies from the US government. Basically, every major supermarket blames this hike on increased oil prices. But is it just that?

The next time you shop at your local supermarket think about:


  • Why is it located where it is, what does the supermarket have to pay for it?

  • Why are there so many lights on even when it is a bright and clear day outside?

  • Do you really need to be in an air-conditioned environment picking your greens from freezers? Where's the money coming from to power all these?
Shouldn't I just go ahead and tell you that you are paying for it all; even for the 100s of parking spots, automatic water sprinklers, and even the 50 page color-printed paper promotions that you receive in the mail almost everyday from your favourite supermarket. That is what you are paying for. When you pay $6.99 for a lb of cherries, that is what you are paying for. And your local Farmers Market charges you $3.99 because they don't have to pay any executives or a spot on primetime TV or even for a 10'x10' picture hanging over the vegetables section. It's not just the Oil always, fellows. And anytime someone says to me that vegetables are expensive because crude has become expensive, I say, "get over your obsession with oil, open your eyes, think a little for God's sake, look at the world around you and stop behaving stupid". Yes, I actually say that and even to myself when I break my own rules. And I do so because there's an alternative to all that frustration and venting. You need to go to a farmer's market.

Yes, my friend, that is the reason that the Farmers Markets are fast catching up in the last 20 years. There were 340 in 1970 and the number grew to over 4000 in 2004. And since so many of us don't know what they are let me spend a few lines. A farmer's market is an alternative to the industrialized and specialized food retailing industry in the modernized western societies. This is where the farmers sell their produce directly to the public, without any middlemen. No-frills, person to person direct selling - somewhat old fashioned.

What's in it for....
A trip to your local farmers market is all it'd take you to understand the benefits for it. There's something in it for everyone, i.e. the farmer, the enviroment, and for you.

Farmer

  • Every dollar you spend there will go directly to the farmer. It helps the local economy and you are actually putting your money into the hands of people from your own area. In other words, you are not spending money that goes to the supermarket chain which is actually headquartered in the neighboring state and to the transporter which is based out of Nowhereville in the state of Far-away. The multiplier factor is high, which means that the money you spend will go through many hands in your city/county before it gets out of there.

  • Farmers in the USA have reported that they can sell 22% more food in a farmer's market which would otherwise have been rejected because of supermarket's packaging standards, or last minute requriements change from the supermarkets.

  • Farmers can get higher prices for their produce selling directly to the consumers that what they'd get being at the bottom in the supply chain of a supermarket.

Environment


  • Since a typical farmers market does not open from 7AM to 10PM are normally organized in open areas they burn less lights, spend less electricity on AC, and don't have large power consuming freezers and chillers.

  • The food you get in these places also has very little and sometime no packaging at all, which means that you won't have to peel plastic wraps, stickers, only to throw it all away moments later.

  • And think of how many less gallons of fuel would have been burnt to get it from a farm nearby instead of it being hauled cross-country.
Consumer


  • Prices are lower than supermarkets.

  • More food variety than what's available at SuperGrocers. There's lot of unusual choices.

  • Fresh food, since farmers market's don't have freezers.

This is a win-win situation for everyone involved. And did I miss to tell you that the ambiance in these markets are just fabulous, sometimes even live music, crafts, etc.? Just take that trip to your local market once and see if you sense a pride of entrepreneurship in a farmer and a satisfaction of being a patron to a farm business.

Locate your nearest
Please visit the follwing link http://www.farmersmarketsusa.org/find_market.php to find a market near you and don't forget to spread the word around.



Update
Time Magazine, in its March 12 2007 edition, has a related article on eating local food. It is titled, Eating Better Than Organic. This can be accessed at. The picture on the right is the cover shot of the magazine.

2 comments:

Nitin Mulimani said...

Though all your points on enviornmental advantages are correct, I have one more point to add.
1. What about the extra-fuel burnt driving to farmers market which are probably not as close by comapred to your next door supermarket :)

Rajeev Singh said...

True, depending upon where you live and your shopping patterns a trip to youe nearest farmer's market may after all be not that friendly environmentally. However, this may only be a very short lived problem as their rate of grwoth in the recent past has been stupendous. And suburbs are more of a problem compared to the cities, where it is not as new a concept.