How Has The Current Economic Crisis Impacted Farmers Markets?

Despite the recession, farmers markets are booming.  The Food Marketing Institute found that local and sustainable foods were a top buying trend for in each of the last 8 years. Economist Ken Meter of Crossroads Resource Center notes that, as a business model, farmers markets are inherently flexible, which offers them protection from drastic economic changes. “They can adjust price and adjust their product to get consumers’ needs met. Retailers and big stores with big overheads and big expenses can’t do that.”

What happens to food left over at farmers markets?

Most vendors have a good sense of how much will sell on any given market day, and prepare for it accordingly. However, if there are leftovers at the end of market, vendors are ready to recycle unsold produce into value-added products. For instance, excess tomatoes become tomato sauce and apples become apple cider. Unsaleable produce can be composted to return nutrients back to the farmers’ fields. In addition, many markets also have donation arrangements with local food banks, soup kitchens, and other social service agencies. Farmers at seven farmers markets making up the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance in Seattle donated 44,000 pounds of fresh, local, quality produce to food banks in 2011. Through a partnership with a local health food store, farmers at the Webb City Farmers Market in Missouri donated enough fresh produce to serve 4,000 vegetarian and vegan meals to tornado relief volunteers working in the heat after the Joplin tornado last May. These are just a few examples of the ways farmers give back to the communities that host their markets.

How do farmers markets preserve farmland?

As the number of markets grow around the country, so do the number of farmers. For instance, Alabama had 17 registered farmers markets in 1999, involving 234 farmers. Fewer than ten years later (2008), there were 102 farmers markets involving 1,064 farmers in the same state. This means that with the help of farmers markets, hundreds of farmers choose to stay in agriculture over another profession, thereby helping to preserve Alabama’s farmland and rural traditions. Further, farmers markets allow young farmers to network and learn from more experienced farmers. The Webb City Farmers Market runs a mentoring program that partners their most experienced growers as well as state extension horticulturists with younger farmers who want to improve quality and production practices. “Last week our inspection team visited three farms and saw, for the first time, drip irrigation in action on those farms”, says Eileen Nichols, Market Manager. “Before starting the mentoring program, they either had no water in the fields or were trying to use small sprinklers.”

Seven Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance (NFMA) markets in Seattle support 9,491 acres of farmland in diversified production, stewarding natural resources rather than selling out to industrial residential development. “This represents a four-fold increase in the last ten years,” says NFMA Executive Director Chris Curtis. Even smaller markets nationwide champion acreage in the hundreds, such as Georgia’s Lilburn Farmers Market, which supports 10 farms stewarding 500 acres of farmland.

Chicago’s Green City Market, established in 1999, required that all of its 2012 vendors possess one of eight third-party certifications. Nearly half of the 44 farmers chose the USDA Organic Certification, ensuring clarity for consumers regarding chemical usage and contributing to the long-term health of farmland. Believed to be the first of its kind to require such production-practice certification, the Green City Market serves as a model for new markets and farmers alike.

I love my farmers market. What can I do to support it?

Purchasing as much as you can from your community’s farmers market is the simplest way to demonstrate your support. Some markets have “friends of…” programs where you can contribute directly to the market’s operation and support its educational programs. Others may be recruiting neighborhood volunteers or providers of in-kind design, writing, or bookkeeping services. Just ask the market manager how you can help best. You can also support the Farmers Market Coalition’s national efforts to strengthen farmers markets (through education, leadership development, National Farmers Market Week, and other technical assistance programs) by making a secure on-line donation.


On Saturday, November 21, the Drive-Through Winter Farmers’ and Makers’ Market will offer end-of-the-season produce and holiday gifts from local artists and makers. Shop the Drive-Through Winter Online Marketplace and add items to your cart that you can pick up at the event.

When to Visit

Saturday, Nov. 21 | 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Where to Shop + Pick Up Items

You can pick up your items at the Principal Park parking lot, 1 Line Drive, in Downtown Des Moines (DSM). Market staff ask that shoppers stay in vehicles at all times so vendors can safely complete transactions and load purchases.

What Vendors Are Saying

Randol Honey FarmRandol Honey

Pat Randol is the owner of Randol Honey Farm, which sells gourmet mixes, bath and body products and raw liquid and gourmet flavored honey, including blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, cinnamon and more.

“I love participating in Winter Market each year, mostly because of all the wonderful people I get to meet. The hustle and bustle of people shopping. It’s always a very exciting day.”

Dogpatch Urban Gardens

DogpatchAt Dogpatch Urban Gardens, Owner and Operator Jenny Quiner is eager to get the right items in people’s hands for Thanksgiving.

“I’m really excited to be participating in this season’s Winter Market. Last Winter Market was our first time vending at the Winter Market, and it was so much fun. I loved being able to meet and connect with new customers and getting our fresh, healthy products to their tables. The idea of our greens being a part of people’s Thanksgiving meal or knowing families are taking our elderberry syrup daily brings me joy.”

Timeless Prairie Orchard ApplesTimeless Prairie Orchard

Timeless Prairie Orchard offers some of the most flavorful apple varieties you’ll find anywhere. Owner and Operator David Differding names the apple that has been a hit at the Winter Market in the past below.

“Timeless Prairie Orchard is excited to bring our late season Evercrisp apple to the Winter Market. It is a cross between Honeycrisp and Fuji and has been a big hit at prior Winter Markets. We will have both regular size and our “Snackee” Evercrisp available for purchase at the Winter Market. We are excited to bring our great tasting apples to the Winter Market again for the 10th year! Also available will be Cortland, Jonathan and other exciting varieties. Apple cider in 1/2 gallons will also be for sale.”

WeldingSkjordal Powder Coating & Engraving

Owner Jessica Skjordal creates custom sculptures for clients through her business, Skjordal Powder Coating & Engraving.

“We were gaining speed as a young, family-owned business and had big plans for this summer before COVID-19 hit. With all our shows canceling, we are excited to participate in the Winter Market in any way so we can share what we have been working on with everyone in a safe manner.”

In the Kitchen at Dutch Girl CreameryDutch Girl Creamery

ShadowBrook Farm’s Dutch Girl Creamery produces grade A goat milk and hand-crafted artisan goat cheese. Owner Charuth Loth shares why a gift basket of products from Dutch Girl Creamery should be on your holiday shopping list.

“’Our cheese is made in small batches, stirred and ladled by hand, melding science and art. We believe in regionally produced food, and our cheeses are true Nebraska originals. Cheese is a perfect gift for the holidays. We make it easy by offering many options with gift boxes or by the piece to make your own gift basket.”

Ebersole Gift BagEbersole Cattle Company

Ebersole Cattle Company is collaborating in 2020 with Lost Lake Farm and Blue Gate Farm to offer holiday grazing boards. Ebersole Cattle Company Owner Shanen Ebersole says they’ll offer beef boxes and individual steaks at the Winter Market as well.

“We are happy to work with Lost Lake Farm and Blue Gate Farm to make your grazing board easy this holiday season! You can also pick up one of our beef boxes or individual steaks!”

Summerset WinesSummerset Winery

Summerset Winery is home to savory varieties, including “The Final Rose,” a wine inspired by the vieyard’s appearance on ABC’s “The Bachelor.”

“Summerset Winery is extremely excited to be part of the Winter Market! We truly missed the traditional Farmer’s Market this past summer and look forward to joining the community in a great market for local businesses. We will have all of our wines available for purchase so grab your favorites to share with friends and family this holiday season.”


The Saturday, May 16 Downtown Farmers’ Market Virtual Market Meet-Up included interviews with a variety of Market Vendors, as well as entertainment from the Dueling Fiddles. Virtual attendees joined Downtown Farmers’ Market Director Kelly Foss for the ringing of the opening bell as the last Virtual Market Meet-Up kicked off!

Vendor Spotlights

This week’s Virtual Market Meet-Up included a live interview with new vendor, Dogpatch Urban Gardens. Other vendor spotlights included: Bearded Brothers Coffee, La Mie and UnityPoint Health Des Moines.

The show also included guest spotlights on Global Greens, Simple Life Farms, Birdhouses by Camillio, Ebersole Cattle Co., Pasta of the Prairie, Gym N Eat Crickets, The Side Garage, Watson and Wallie and Great River Maple.

Kelly conducted two more live studio interviews later in the program. Tami Johnson with Tami’s Tarts shared information on favorite tarts and pastries, while Amara Sama with Palm’s Caribbean Cuisine joined Kelly for the cooking demo and showcased Jerk Wings, Jollof Rice and Jamaican Beef Patties.


Musical guest Dueling Fiddles provided the Virtual Market Meet-Up’s live entertainment. Violinists Geneviève Salamone and Hanna Wolle perform Celtic Rock and pop favorites. The duo first met while performing with the Des Moines Symphony.

Market Toolkit Updates

Kelly reminded online attendees to check out the Market Toolkit, which offers printable activity sheets and 24 new recipe cards from UnityPoint Health – Des Moines.

You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

DSM USA is the regional identifier for Greater Des Moines (DSM). DSM USA is a bold statement to the world: This is a welcoming, diverse and vibrant community with affordable and accessible amenities for residents and businesses. This regional identifier is the result of significant quantitative and qualitative research. The Partnership will champion the DSM USA message, and encourages its Investors, its more than 6,000 Regional Business Members and DSM USA Ambassadors to help share the region’s story with One Voice.

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program

Help for Low-Income Seniors

The Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is designed to:

Provide low-income seniors with access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs.

Increase the domestic consumption of agricultural commodities through farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs.

Aid in the development of new and additional farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community support agricultural programs.

The Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is designed to provide low-income seniors with access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs

SFMNP Serves

Low-income seniors, generally defined as individuals who are at least 60 years old and who have household incomes of not more than 185% of the federal poverty income guidelines.

Common Locations

Senior Centers

Senior Housing

About SFMNP Program

FNS awards grants to states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Territories, and federally-recognized Indian tribal governments. The program is administered by state agencies such as a state Department of Agriculture or Aging.

The Farm Bill provides federal funding for the program. Ninety percent of federal funds support food costs and 10 percent of federal funds support administrative costs of the program.

What’s in season now?

This guide can help you explore different fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Seasonal produce in your area will vary by growing conditions and weather. Remember, fresh, frozen, canned, and dried: fruits and vegetables are a delicious way to make every bite count!

What Is A Farmers Market?

A farmers market is a public and recurring assembly of farmers or their representatives selling the food that they produced directly to consumers.  Farmers markets facilitate personal connections and bonds of mutual benefits between farmers, shoppers, and communities. By cutting out middlemen, farmers receive more our food dollars and shoppers receive the freshest and most flavorful food in their area and local economies prosper. Each farmers market defines the term “local” according to the agriculture of its region and regularly communicates that definition to the public. Farmers markets also implement guidelines and operating rules that ensure the farmers market consists principally of farms selling directly to the public products that the farms have produced. In order to protect both farmers and consumers, some states have even established their own formal definitions which specify market characteristics in more detail. The number of farmers markets in the United States has grown rapidly in recent years, from just under 2,000 in 1994 to more than 8,600 markets currently registered in the USDA Farmers Market Directory.

What will I find at a farmers market?

It depends. Farmers markets vary in size and always reflect a region’s agriculture and seasons. Some markets are seasonal and comprised of a small number of vendors, while others involve hundreds of vendors and take place year-round. It is a source of pride to farmers and market shoppers alike that the products available at farmers market represent the agricultural of a region or state. Depending on the time of the year, you might find avocados, olives, steak or artichokes in Texas or California, and be more likely to find paw paws, peanuts, pork, and peonies in Virginia.

Some markets concentrate on produce, while others carry everything from fruits and vegetables to baked goods, meat, eggs, flowers, and dairy products. Some may carry locally made crafts or prepared foods as a complement to the agricultural products they sell. As the number of markets grows, so does the variety of foods available.

How do farmers markets determine what to carry?

What is at market depends on a combination of location, season, and market rules about what can be sold. Many farmers markets only carry locally-grown, locally-made and/or locally-processed, foods, and create a system of guidelines that ensure vendors are producing what they are selling. Farmers markets are unique insofar as they give shoppers transparency while also protecting local farmers from having to compete with lost-cost, low-quality, often imported meat and produce. The great thing about farmers markets is that if you are ever unsure about what a product is, where it came from, or how it was grown, you can just ask! Some direct-marketing farms even offer tours.

Are farmers markets only open in the summer?

Peak harvest season is usually peak market season, and some markets are only open in the spring, summer, and early autumn.  In 2010, roughly 15% of all farmers markets were open in the winter months. Nevertheless, year-round farmers market thrive in many states. Many markets are expanding their seasons or transitioning to year-round operation by offering their shoppers items including meat, eggs, dairy, bread and other products that are available fresh throughout the year. Even in colder climates, farmers are implementing a variety of season-extending techniques that can protect crops from frosts and allow them to be picked and sold fresh for more weeks of the year. You can learn more about what is seasonally available in your community here.

How can I find a farmers market near me?

Farmers markets are in every state and located in all kinds of places– from Main Streets to city centers, from parks to parking lots, from sidewalks to shopping centers. To find a market near you, ask your neighbors, friends, Google, and colleagues, or search for one in USDA’s Farmers Market Directory, or at and A large number of states have a state farmers market association that can also provide you with information. You can find a listing of the statewide farmers market associations that are also FMC members by clicking here.

If you live in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, Kentucky, New York, Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania, or Massachusetts you are lucky enough to be in a state with the most farmers markets in the country.

Do farmers markets only take cash?

There are many ways to pay at farmers markets. Cash usually works best but many farmers markets also accept credit and debit cards. Moreover, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has partnered with FMC to provide eligible farmers markets and direct marketing farmers with the equipment necessary to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. In the past five years, the number of farmers markets and direct marketing farmers authorized to accept SNAP has grown rapidly and the amount of SNAP dollars spent at farmers markets has almost tripled.

In addition, more than 3,390 markets accept Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers and 4,590 markets participate in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). In 2015, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service reported that over $38 million was spent at farmers markets through these two programs alone. Some markets have even developed their own locally based currencies, like HealthBucks in New York and Fresh Bucks in Rhode Island.