Farmers markets offer more than food

Farmers Markets are popping up in small towns across rural America. Increasingly, farmers and ranchers realize there is interest in fresh, locally-grown food. And while it may not be their only source of income, it puts local dollars in local pockets and impacts the health of local folks.

Savvy local grocers who see the Farmers Market as a compliment to their own business benefit as well. Some advertise a “Farmers Market Special” on ingredients needed to turn that just purchased fresh zucchini into bread, or showcase Farmers Market growers in their stores.

But Farmers Markets provide more than economic and health benefits. They are community builders. They bring people together in a relaxed atmosphere where they can talk with neighbors and take a few minutes to slow down and catch up.

I recently attended a new Farmers Market where tables were overflowing with fresh vegetables, fruit and baked goods and the town was overflowing with customers. I noticed that people were happy about being there – selling, buying or just enjoying and talking with neighbors.

The community came together to enjoy the experience. Important conversations were taking place, people were getting to know each other a little bit better, and relationships were being formed.

Communities develop when relationships are developed, connections are made and trust is built. And that’s what can happen at a Farmers Market — it can be the catalyst for community building. And they aren’t a bad place to pick up some fresh, good-tasting food either.

Kathie Starkweather, representing the Center for Rural Affairs, can be reached at, The Center for Rural Affairs was established in 1973 as a nonprofit corporation. The Center for Rural Affairs works to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities.