Integrating Sustainability At Farmers Markets

By: April Jones       Posted On: October 13, 2021

April Jones and friends at the Pinehurst Farmers Market, Pinehurst SC

For many, farmers markets serve as a hub for sustainability, caring for your local farmer, and being environmentally conscious. Giving the community access to high quality, local produce at a fair price for both farmer and consumer is the ultimate goal for many markets. Creating a healthy space where the community can come together, chat, fellowship and shop for the next week’s groceries, giving the community an amazing access point for fresh, local, and organically grown food. 

Sustainability is vital. Especially as our global climate warms, we are all called to do our part to help our communities and the environment. As market operators who are an active part of the local food economy, it can be hard to step back and think of ways that we can be even more sustainable! There can be a feeling that we are already doing our part for our communities, and in our own personal lives, we may already be living very sustainable lives.

Regional farmers markets are an excellent access point for self and community reflection. This allows for market leaders to delve deeply into their community’s goals and views on sustainability, and to create a program that will fit perfectly into the cultural values of the community. The United States is a large land mass with many various cross sections of cultural and historical values that will directly impact your farmers market’s steps towards greater sustainability. 

Create a Market Sustainability Plan

Each market is empowered to create a sustainability plan that will help to draw in customers, create kinsmanship, and uphold the values of allowing people to personally partake in skills and steps to help the environment. It is vital that when a farmers market is creating this plan that they talk to the vendors to ensure that their views and input are valued and taken into account. 

Create Market Promotions that Integrate Sustainability

Promotions are a great way to draw in new traffic to the farmers market, and it is great to think about different ways that you can incorporate sustainability into your new marketing promotions. Keep in mind behavioral psychology on how long it takes to create a habit,  or learn a new skill while creating your marketing campaign. It takes 18 days to form a new habit, and 66 days for a behavior to become automatic. 

Creating promotions around sustainability will give your market a greater sense of place and warmth, and will create fond memories of which the customers will want to recreate by returning week after week. Promotions, such as bringing back old egg cartons (check your local, state laws), discounts or shopping points for bringing your own shopping bag or food containers, discounts on “ugly” veggies and fruits are all great ways to increase customer happiness and interaction with the vendors. 

Host Sustainability Workshops at the Market

Composting at Downtown Long Beach Farmers Market, Long Beach CA

Hosting composting workshops at your farmers market is a great way to teach your customers ways to be more sustainable. It will also give your customers tips on the best ways to compost the different vegetables and fruits that they are purchasing. Educating them on the steps of composting gives the customers an added benefit for purchasing your product. Benefits of composting is that it enriches the soil, and helps to maintain the moisture levels. Suppressing plant diseases and pests. It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, and encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that will help to break down organic matter to create nutrient rich soil. By composting, your community will reduce the harmful methane emissions from landfills and will lower the carbon footprint. Familiar items at the farmers market can be composted, fruits, vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, nutshells, cardboard, and paper. Composting is an excellent way to increase sustainability at your market and to improve the rates of returned customers. 

Promote Sustainable Cleaning Tips at the Market

Creating organic sustainable cleaning products with market items is an excellent way to bring sustainability into your customers home. Many of the cleaning products that we use in everyday life can be toxic, and not healthy for us. Many natural cleaning products can be made using natural ingredients that are sold at the market, for example lemons, limes, grapefruit, onions, cucumbers, potatoes and lavender. 

An easy way to get rid of bugs is to plant herbs like basil, lavender, rosemary, and mint near the entrances of your home. Those are plants that customers love to buy, and use in their homes as well as for cooking or teas. The citrus plant family is outstanding for creating sprays that will disinfect and scrub to create a perfectly clean home. Customers can combine citrus with baking soda and vinegar as an all purpose cleaner, or place citrus peels into vinegar and steep in a dark place for a few weeks to create a disinfecting citrus spray. 

Potatoes will remove rust, it contains oxalic acid which is an amazing cleaner. Cucumbers will defog mirrors, and keep them fog proof. Onions are the perfect way to clean burnt leftovers on the grill— just cut the onion in half, and stick it onto tongs of a fork, and scrape away! Onions when combined with oxygen, turn into sulfenic acid which is a great way to break down grime. These sustainable cleaning tips are a great way to increase customer engagement and profits. 

Integrating sustainability into your market through these activities can assist your community to be more aware and conscious of their own environmental impact and help to create new environmentally friendly habits. Making sustainability a core part of your market values can make your market an even more vital part of the local community, and empower customers to be their best selves. Sustainability is important because it allows for all of us to come together and rally for a just cause, the environment, and to meet like minded people along the way.

April Jones is the Market Manager of the Pinehurst Farmers Market in Columbia, South Carolina. April is also a member of the Anti-Racist Toolkit for Farmers Markets Working Group. This blog post is part of a series from April sharing her market management expertise. April has contributed content to many platforms, including national magazines such as Mother Earth News. Read more about April here.