Farmers Markets Preserve Farmland and Rural Livelihoods

Farmers exemplify the essence of our nation’s core values. Entrepreneurship. Industry. Self-sufficiency. Innovation. Nevertheless, between 2007 and 2012, America lost more than 95,000 mostly mid-sized family farms while the average age of American farmers increased to nearly 60. In this challenging economic climate, small and mid-sized farms—especially those operated by young and beginning farmers—need our support.

How are farmers markets supporting small and mid-size farmers?

  • Farmers and ranchers who sell at farmers markets experience lower rates of bankruptcy and farm business failure than growers who market exclusively through wholesale channels. [i]
  • Eighty percent of farmers market vendors in Iowa, New York, and California said that farmers markets offer them a greater opportunity for business development than any other possible marketing outlet. [ii]
  • There are 3.5 times as many U.S. farmers over the age of 65 as there are under 35. Farmers markets provide one of the only low-barrier entry points for new farmers, allowing them to start small as they learn and test the market. [iii]
  • 16% of farmers selling at farmers markets are under 35 and 43% have farmed for less than 10 years. These rates are twice the national rates for all farmers according to the 2012 Ag Census. [iv]
  • 50% of farmers selling at farmers markets derive at least half their revenue from farmers market sales. [v]
  • The number of farmers markets operating in winter months has nearly tripled since 2010. The 2,469 markets open in the winter provide an extended opportunity for farmers to do business. [vi],[vii]


“If it weren’t for the rise of farmers markets, a lot of these small farms would simply not exist.” Rebecca Landis, market director for the Corvallis-Albany Farmers’ Markets. 

“We were working hard to protect the region’s farmland but realized that without a new generation of farmers and stronger local food systems, there would be no one to work the land, protected or not.” Noelle Ferdon, Director of Local Food Systems, Northern California Regional Land Trust 




[ii] Feenstra GW, Lewis CC, Hinrichs CC, Gillespie Jr GW & Hilchey D. (2003). Entrepreneurial Outcomes and Enterprise Size in US Retail Farmers Markets. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 18, 46-55.

[iii] USDA NASS. 2012 Census of Agriculture.

[iv] (2015) Direct Market Farmers: National Survey. American Farmland Trust and Farmers Market Coalition. Unpublished raw data.

[v] (2015) Direct Market Farmers: National Survey. American Farmland Trust and Farmers Market Coalition. Unpublished raw data

[vi] United States Department of Agriculture. National Farmers Market Directory.

[vii] Sparks, G. (2011) “Winter Farmers Markets Expand.” Retrieved from