Solid Investments: Farmers Markets Grow Social Fabric

By: Liz Comiskey       Posted On: August 1, 2012

For Immediate Release

Contact : Elizabeth Comiskey
August 10, 2012

Farmers Market Coalition Celebrates Civic Engagement & Volunteerism

During National Farmers Market Week

The richly celebrated benefits of farmers markets –local economic dollars, direct interaction with farmers, fresh food and decreased fuel consumption, just to name a few –would not be a reality without a support of thousands of volunteers. Unquestionably the vitality behind the nation’s burgeoning market growth, volunteers breathe life into new farmers market enterprises and keep day-to-day operations running smoothly.

United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 5-11, 2012 as National Farmers

Market Week.  Since 2000, the number off recorded farmers markets has grown more than 170%, from 2,863 markets in 2000 to more than 7,800 in 2012. Behind this growth is the support of dedicated volunteers who sustain and support their local markets.

  • According the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, more than 60% of farmers markets are managed by volunteers.  Among Farmers Market Coalition members, the ratio of volunteers to paid staff is six to one.
  • 68% of respondents to a 2011 Pennsylvania Farmers Market Survey cited “significant market reliance upon professional and community volunteerism.”
  • The Missouri Department of Agriculture recently crowned Greater Springfield’s volunteer-run “Harvest on Wheels” program the 2012 Farmers Market Champion of the Year. Harvest on Wheels team members “volunteer at the farmers’ market, coordinate promotions and assist vendors with set-up and operations when the farmers’ market is open.” In exchange for the assistance, vendors donate produce to Harvest on Wheels, which has sourced 130,000 pounds of produce to local food pantries since 2009.

The power of farmers markets to strengthen social fabric is attracting national attention, too.  A recent PolicyLink report states that “…direct interaction between growers and customers facilitates the formation of personal relationships in a way that is not possible at third-party stores.” Studies also show that farmers market visitors have 10 times more conversation than those shopping at a grocery store.

A 2012 article from University of Michigan suggests that farmers markets anchor attendees to the community by acting as a “third space” for informal gathering and interaction. Markets cultivate new interactions between community members themselves, as well as between entrepreneurs, in an environment focused on renewal and revival.

“Farmers markets are successful thanks to active involvement of volunteers and partner organizations,” says Bernadine Prince, President of the Farmers Market Coalition, a national nonprofit dedicated to strengthening farmers markets.  “During Farmers Market Week, FMC encourages everyone to say thank you to the market managers and volunteers that provide Americans a venue to deepen our relationships with farmers and neighbors, strengthening the social fabric of our communities.”


Seven Days, Seven Ways to Celebrate Farmers Market Impacts

Innovative partnerships that allow markets to serve as hubs of information

Promoting good nutrition and healthful habits

Business incubation, job development, and local spending

Governance and policies that put farmers first

Improving access to healthful foods in underserved neighborhoods  

Growing social capital and engaging volunteers

Supporting agricultural diversity and farm viability, while inspiring a new generation of producers


The Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to strengthening farmers markets for the benefit of farmers, consumers, and communities.

  Learn more at