The Industrialization of the Farmer’s Market – Chapter 1

We have been attending farmer’s markets for a relatively short period of time, but an important period of time.  We have watched the changes at the markets and see a very different venue now from just ten years ago.  The changes seem to be driven by two main factors: the growing number of vendors, and the impact of legalism.

The popularity of farmer’s markets has been increasing every year and so have the number of these markets.  Small farms have been able to benefit from the constant food recalls of the factory farms and the news media’s fervent reporting of their every mistake.  People that are able to purchase higher quality foods have been seeking out the small farms.  The local foods movement has also greatly helped the small, family farmer.

Physics teaches us that a force that acts for some change, will also work to create a counterforce.  I have noticed that this is often true for things like business and economics as well.  While the causes that help promote the farmer’s markets are generally apparent, those that resist them are less so.

Many people envision owing a small farm very idealistically, a small business that nurtures the spirit while isolating you from the harshness of the corporate environment.  For the most part, this can be a true image of the small family farm, true if certain aspects that are often taken for granted are indeed granted.  What I mean is that it is very often assumed that whatever you produce in this fantasy farm, people will rush to your door offering to buy it at whatever price you wish to put on it.

I imagine that at some place and time this type of thing, sort of happened for one or two farmers, but it did not go unnoticed.  Science also teaches us that an enterprise engaged in by some may work out well for those involved, but will not if done by many.  An ambulance, for example, can break the traffic laws and proceed to its destination much more quickly than the average driver.  This only works because there are not too many ambulances on the roads.

It is ironic that as the supply of higher quality food has been increasing, as well as the number of places to purchase it, the number or people that can afford to pay for it have declined.  What is interesting is the relationship between these two numbers: fewer middle class jobs have encouraged some of those lacking these jobs to engage in the production of food to be purchased by a declining number of people with middle class jobs.

The sad part is that the eventual winner will be the same factory farms that have been the object of disdain by those supplying the higher quality, more expensive food.  Yes, this is only my view of what is going on and perhaps no one is in agreement with me, but I believe I can make an acceptable argument supporting this outlook.  On a more positive note, I also believe the future products on the grocery store shelves will be better than they were, in part because of the influence of the farmer’s markets.

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