Local Self-Reliance: Inner City Farmers Markets

Inner city farmers' markets have provided a steady income to small farmers and given urban consumers direct access to fresh organic produce.

| March/April 1979

Each summer, a growing number of farmers' markets prove that city and country folks can work together for their mutual benefit.

This year in Hartford, Connecticut, for example, 20 farmers will—during two "market days" each week—sell locally grown produce to about 2,500 urban customers. The Connecticut market is just the first phase of an overall plan to make that region more agriculturally self-sufficient in a project that will—in the future—bring about community gardens, solar greenhouses, buying clubs, and a downtown canning business.

Hartford's success is only the latest example of what are now scores of flourishing inner-city farmers' markets. In a spring 1978 survey of fewer than 50 such outlets around the country, the Agricultural Marketing Project found out that over 8,000 farmers provided income for themselves and fresh produce for almost a quarter million city residents.

Farm Savers

Aside from the above benefits, however, such fresh produce stands help preserve the rapidly dwindling agricultural land around urban areas. (The Mid-Hudson region near New York City, for example, lost nearly half a million acres—or over 32 percent of its farms—between 1950 and 1964.)

Today, New York's Greenmarket helps food growers fight the battle against encroaching development. With eight locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, this outlet is one of the nation's largest and most successful farmers' markets. In fact, the fresh farm goods sold there are such big draws that recent additions to the Greenmarket chain have been sponsored by local business associations which hope to profit from the numbers of people who are attracted by homegrown fruits and vegetables.

Besides making good economic sense, local produce outlets also promote good health. While most markets don't require organically grown produce, the system naturally attracts "small" farmers who tend to be interested in healthy, pesticide-free crops. Markets which have operated for several summers find that their customers become increasingly aware of the value of good, natural fruits and vegetables.

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