Farmers markets: helping grow downtown

05/15/17 in Small Business, Public Spaces, Community Engagement

Sandy's Popper in Kenosha

Downtown Kenosha’s Sandy’s Popper started as a vendor at the local Harbor Market before opening a permanent storefront.

Farmers markets are a common sight in many Wisconsin communities. Often held on evenings and weekends, they create activity during off-peak hours, support local entrepreneurs, and increase access to healthy foods. However, increasingly these markets have become more than just a venue to sell locally grown produce, incorporating performances from local arts groups, cooking demonstrations, food trucks and seating areas to encourage community engagement, etc. As part of a partnership between WEDC and the University of Wisconsin system, many communities have been able to more effectively quantify the positive impact that farmers markets have on the community, including increased foot traffic, entrepreneurship development and overall economic activity. After the first two years of the program, we have learned the following:

  • The average farmers market visitor spends between $14 and $22 on purchases at the market, and an additional $11-$21 on goods and services from nearby businesses. The amount of spending depends on the number of vendors at the market and variety of adjacent businesses open during market hours.
  • Markets that accept credit card and EBT spending attract more spending per visitor.
  • Markets typically include more than just farm products – the percent of farm product vendors ranges from 20 percent to 50 percent of total booths. Prepared (ready to eat) food typically represents 5-25 percent of vendors, with value-added products (processed foods), artisan products, local business and nonprofit vendors comprising the remainder of space.
  • The average market can support 1 vendor per 1,500 visitors over the course of the season. Most downtown markets range in size from 36-100 vendors.
  • Farmers markets generate between $212,000 and $1.1 million in total economic activity in the community over the course of the season.

Resources: Wisconsin Farmers Market Association: http://www.wifarmersmarkets.org/

Find a farmers market: https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets

Farmers market incubator programs: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2010/09/1/farmers-markets-small-business-incubators

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