Sunday, 26 July 2015

Studious Sunday: Farmers' Market Fun

Welcome to another edition of our new blog series, Studious Sundays! For the rest of market season, we will be breaking down an academic study every second week to learn more about diet, farming, the environment and other topics surrounding the food we eat. We know it's hard, if not impossible, to keep up with studies and news about food while leading a busy lifestyle, so we are making it a little bit easier to stay informed and make simple, meaningful changes in your life. This week, we are looking at a study that describes some of the best benefits of farmers' market shopping. 

The Study: A Tale of Four Farmers' Markets: Recreation and Leisure as a Catalyst for Sustainability, Farmer et. al, 2011

The Breakdown: Farmer's markets have increased in popularity in the past two decades in Canada and the United States. This increase of farmers' market shopping is attributed to farmers' markets' economic benefits as well as their ability to strengthen local communities and reduce environmental impacts of food purchases. This 2010 study took a case-study approach to investigate the factors that encourage guests to visit farmers' markets and the perceived benefits of visiting farmers' markets. 

The researchers followed two phases in their investigation. Phase 1 included in-depth interviews with farmers' market visitors and non-farmers' market visitors, and Phase 2 included observations at four Indiana farmers' markets. The interviews were intended to understand why guests shop at farmers' markets and the benefits they received from attending, and the observations were to provide the context for the interviews.  

The interviews for participants who do visit farmers' markets consisted of questions regarding the frequency guests shop at farmers' markets, the types of goods purchased, and what they like and dislike about their local market. The questions for non-farmers' market shoppers included questions about where they purchase food, whether they know about farmers' markets in their area, and what keeps them from buying food at farmers' markets. 

The four farmers' markets selected for observation were chosen due to a variety of economic and spacial factors where the markets reside, as well as the overall success of the markets themselves.

The Results: The strongest reasons for shopping at farmers' markets among interview participants included recreation, fresh food and supporting local economies. Constraints to visiting farmers' markets included prices and convenience.

Surprisingly, recreation arose more frequently than food in discussions about farmers' markets, as participants indicated time to visit with friends, listen to music and run into people in their community were the main benefits of attending farmers' markets. The farmers' market atmosphere, opportunities for children to play and access to a social gathering place were all discussed as important aspects of farmers' markets. One participant mentioned their farmers' market was "a great place to go with the family to spend some time outside", and another mentioned enjoying the opportunity to dance!

Farmer et. al discuss that because recreation plays a large role in farmers' market benefits, markets can play a large part in strengthening community and promoting community sustainability. The researchers argue that farmers' markets not only provide environmental benefits by promoting seasonal eating, but they are a venue for social interactions that can lead to discussions around environmental and social justice.

How You Can Make a Change: This study not only tells us why we shop at farmers' markets, but gives us hints as to how to make our market experience even better! By taking a bit more time at market to talk with our friends and family, visit with community groups and (importantly!) dance, we can not only benefit more from our visit, but strengthen our community as well!

Ways to Connect and Have Fun at SWEFM: Our community farmers' market is more than just a great place to load up on your favourite local foods and crafts. We are a vibrant gathering place that is just waiting to be enjoyed by you and your family! Here are our top five ways to connect with the community and have fun at SWEFM:

5. Food Truck Dinner with Friends and Family: There's nothing better than sitting down to eat outside and having a nice long chat with your favourite people!

4. Listening to Buskers: Our buskers are talented folks, and taking some time to stop and listen to some great music is one of the best ways to enjoy our market.
3. Zumba Dancing: Our friends from No Excuses offer free Zumba every week for kids and adults alike to have a blast and get moving!

2. Visiting the Community Tent: Every week, SWEFM hosts a community organization in our Community Tent. Stopping by each week to learn about what is happening in your community is a great way to support good work being done in our area.
1. Volunteering: Our volunteers are the best in the city and make SWEFM the vibrant community gathering place it is! If you'd like to help out, email

Thank you for joining us for Studious Sunday! If you have any comments or stories about healthy snacking to share, please tweet us @SWEFM_YEG or post on our Facebook page at You can find this week's study online here.

Citation: Farmer, J.R., Chancellor, C., Gooding, A., Shubowitz, D., Bryant, A. (2011) A Tale of Four Farmers' Markets: Recreation and Leisure as a Catalyst for Sustainability. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 29:3, pp. 11-23.

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