When added up across Canada, the sales of produce, baked goods and other items from tents and booths and off pickups’ tailgates have officially become a billion-dollar industry.
That’s $1.03 billion to be exact. Farmers’ Markets Canada, which announced at meetings in December that Canadian farmers’ markets’ direct sales had passed the billion-dollar mark, rolled out more specifics from its national study during its general meeting Monday and Tuesday in St. Catharines, Ont.
According to the national group’s 2008 market impact study, farmers’ markets provide an economic impact range of $1.55 billion to $3.09 billion annually, representing the purchasing power of 28 million shopper-visits at an average of $32 per visit.
“The study confirmed that consumer demand and interest is closely
aligned with support for local farmers and fresh, healthy, food choices,” FMC said in a release Wednesday.
“Consumers have expressed a clear desire to return to healthier, fresher, locally produced products,” FMC chairman Robert Chorney said. “They have a strong belief in the integrity of shopping within their community.”
The study found 62 per cent of shoppers indicated that buying their food directly from a local farmer is “extremely important” to them and “somewhat important” to another 30 per cent.
As for the vendors, the FMC study showed 42 per cent report that they achieve over half of their farm income from market sales — and over half of vendors created up to five jobs stemming from their farmers’ market participation.
Farmers’ market vendors, the study said, are typically primary producers (79 per cent), attracted by the supportive social and communal nature of the market experience.
Vendors want to see more support in the marketing of their
locations through signage, advertising and website information to help attract
new vendors and increase customer traffic. They also press to extend
hours and days of operation for markets and improve physical amenities.
The FMC study also found market vendors “challenged” to provide the selection of fresh products required as primary producers while dealing with labour shortages and rising costs of production inputs.
As well, in some markets, vendors indicate a “growing
concern” about the role of “reseller” vendors who offer imported or non-local produce and are “threatening the economic
viability of the primary producer vendor,” FMC said.
The majority of grocery buyers, non-users of farmers’ markets, are, of course, a “target growth sector” who express willingness to visit farmers’ markets but don’t, “primarily because of convenience and lack-of-awareness issues,” FMC said.
“Future growth in the sector will require engaging non-users through increased awareness of benefits, locations and product selection,” FMC said.
“Trial usage among non-users will be dependent on making local market hours and locations more accessible to time-challenged, health-conscious consumers.”
The 2008 study, prepared for FMC by Toronto-based “customer experience” consultancy Experience Renewal Solutions and by Dr. David Connell, examined 508 farmers’ markets across Canada for its data.