Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Impact of Population Trends on Our Market

We are constantly trying to think “outside the box” when it comes to growing our market and keeping it relevant and a key player on the farmers’ market scene. And in doing so, we are also contributing significantly to developing and cultivating the local food movement in Edmonton and providing a vibrant gathering place to help nurture a healthy community. Because the Southwest Edmonton Farmers’ Market is a not-for-profit organization, this can prove challenging at times and often requires a lot of creative thinking and hard work on the part of our volunteer steering committee.

One of our unique ideas this year involved partnering in an innovative way with some Business 480 students from the University of Alberta. Under the guidance of their professor, Aaron Fife and Andrew Kananagh drew up an exciting business plan for us as a project for their course.

The results of this study, released to us this past week, have been extremely enlightening! We are implementing many of their strategies, but I won’t bore you with those details here. However, I think you will find some of their research particularly interesting and compelling. It uncovered two important and major trends in the habits of North Americans:

1)         The population at large is becoming more aware of environmental issues and the effects many of their daily decisions have on a global scale. A recent study of the environmental impact of food imports done in Waterloo, Ontario found that on average, commonly eaten foods travelled 4,497 km’s to get into the region. Interestingly, all of the foods that they studied could’ve been grown in Ontario, and if this had been done it would result in a 49,485 tonne decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.3 Obviously with the colder climate in Alberta some of these products would need to be imported, but even so the numbers are staggering. And consumers are becoming increasingly aware of it, compelling them to decrease their carbon footprint and use local food products.
2)         As people become much more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies, farmers markets become increasingly appealing. Although not all products sold at markets are necessarily healthy, in general, farmers markets are naturally associated with healthy eating due to their “natural” and “home-grown” appeal. Consumers feel more certain about what they’re buying because they get to interact and question the vendors who made or grew the product.

Know that by coming out to your weekly community market, you are part of an important, greater movement in society. You are knowledgeable and aware of key issues and you are acting on them in a powerful way. You are part of an enlightened demographic that puts a priority on…

  • the nutritional well-being of your family, neighbours and friends,
  • lessening your environmental footprint and doing your part to slow down climate change, and
  • the investing (through time, effort and energy) in the greater health of your community at large. 

By coming to the market you are a key part of its success. And you are “voting with your dollar,” making your purchases count toward shifting habits in our society along a healthier scale.

It’s really a very simple formula: the more you come to local markets, the more successful they become; the more successful they become, the more vendors they will attract; the more vendors they attract, the more choice you will have as a consumer. So this year, try to make coming to our market a habit. You will be rewarded in countless ways and happy, I’m sure, with the result. And you will be doing your part to help our community market grow and thrive.

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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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