Research Brief: Why People Attend Farmers’ Markets

Since 1998, we have asked people in eight farmers’ markets why they are there. Because the markets differ, both the potential answers and the responses have varied.

These studies were completed between 1998 and 2003. Blank cells in the table indicate those responses were not offered at the specified market. Seven of the studies were conducted by the Oregon State University Small Farms Program. The Moscow, ID study was conducted by the University of Idaho and Rural Roots.

Why is this data useful?

Understanding what draws consumers to their markets will help the markets to:

  • Establish their rules;
  • Direct their uses of market resources, including money and people;
  • Target their advertising.

All of these are difficult, sometimes controversial decisions that markets must make. Does the market establish different waiting lists for farmers and crafters? Should the market pay to have musicians and / or children's programs?

Results

Why are you at the Farmer's Market?
  Corvallis, OR (Wednesday) Corvallis, OR (Saturday) Albany, OR Grants Pass, OR Ashland, OR Moscow, ID Hood River, OR Hillsboro, OR
Agricultural Products 54% 54% 40% 61% 54% 55% 32% 49%
Equally Agricultural Products and Atmosphere 45% 43% 53%   40%      
Atmosphere 2% 3% 7% 25% 5% 29%   14%
Crafts       7% 0% 7% 12%  
Equally Agricultural Products and Crafts             57%  
Prepared Food       8%   9%    
Adjacent Shopping               17%
Equally Agricultural Products and Adjacent Shopping               21%

Two results are most striking:

  • Agricultural products represent the most important draw.
  • Other factors, especially the social atmosphere at the market, also play significant roles in attracting customers.

Between 32% and 61% of the respondents choose agricultural products as the reason they were in or at the market. But atmosphere also plays an important role in attracting customers to farmers’ markets. As the primary reason, atmosphere racked up big numbers at two markets: Moscow, ID with 29% and Grants Pass, OR with 25%. Elsewhere, atmosphere received 14% or fewer of the votes. In the four markets where respondents were allowed to select equally atmosphere & products, this combination received between 40% and 53% of the votes.

Other choices

Four of the studied markets include crafts and offered crafts as a choice. As the primary reason, crafts earned between 0 and 12% of the votes. At the Hood River, OR market the category equally crafts & agricultural products received 57% of the votes. Of all the markets included, Hood River had the highest percentage of tourists (47%) and the highest percentage of craft vendors (60%). Prepared foods appeared as a choice at two markets (Grants Pass and Moscow) and received nearly identical scores, 8% and 9% respectively.

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