Published on Brock University (http://brocku.ca)
Farmers markets in Niagara are more than just a pretty face. They attract money, build communities, and encourage the development of new businesses.
These are among the findings of a new report “What’s Growing in Niagara? Farmers’ Markets in the Niagara Region,” produced by Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory.
Farmers’ markets are an economic boon to Niagara:
“By having farmers sell their produce directly to customers, farmers are not restricted by large minimum order volumes and other requirements that make it difficult or impossible to sell at supermarkets,” says Doug Hagar, Brock University researcher and author of the report.
“Farmers, caterers, artisans, and other small business vendors are increasingly turning to farmers’ markets to earn a living in the midst of job loss and economic downturn in the Niagara Region,” he says.
But the markets are not just money-makers. Three out of five customers bring family and friends with them to markets, and say they enjoy talking to vendors and meeting up with friends.
Many markets offer parallel activities such as concerts, cooking classes, and fitness activities.
“Farmers’ markets are the heart of a community, providing a diverse, unique and vibrant place where people come to connect, to play, and to shop,” says Jan Bechard, market and event co-ordinator at the St. Catharines Market.
“We are committed to providing access to food, produce, and goods that are grown, raised, and made as close to home as possible,” she says.
But challenges remain in attracting youth and customers from diverse ethnic groups. Also, vendors and managers report a lack of understanding among customers about local food production: why certain foods are not available at times and that some might be more expensive than supermarkets because of fair pricing.
A copy of the report is available at brocku.ca/niagara-community-observatory