New Hampshire has more than 75 farmers markets this season, and they’re multiplying like cucumbers in July.
My home city of Concord, with its population of just over 45,000, is making a leap from one farmers market to three for the 2010 season. Area residents now can choose between the ever-popular Saturday market (the Concord Farmers Market) on Capitol Street, downtown and the new Monday evening Penacook Farmers Market, on Penacook Street.
In a few weeks, Saturday shoppers will have another choice: a new farmers market set to open in the parking lot of the Stove Barn on Loudon Road.
The Penacook Farmers Market grew out of a neighborhood need, as an effort of the Penacook Village Association. An overwhelming success on its first night, the market is off to a great start, with a dedicated crew of volunteers working to park cars and generally make things flow smoothly. The crowds of shoppers would seem to indicate that the neighborhood can support a farmers market.
Although the newest market on Loudon Road will be less than a mile from my house, easily making it my most convenient Saturday choice, I’m skeptical. Even a little worried. Oddly, even a little grumpy.
For me, it’s about choices.
Research shows that only 3 percent of the produce being purchased in this country is coming from farmers markets. As popular as they are, there’s room for growth. And, the biggest obstacle that people report keeping them from shopping at farmers markets is lack of time.
So, if I’m too busy on a Saturday morning to make it to the Concord Farmers Market, I might head to the Penacook Farmers Market on Monday evening, the Canterbury Community Farmers Market on Wednesday evening or even the Weare Farmers Market on Friday evening.
Having a second Saturday market won’t help me.
What about the vendors? Even if the new Saturday market is able to attract good quality vendors (for me, that’s local farmers and food producers, with very limited non-food vendors), can a community of 45,000 support three markets? Anecdotal comments from a few indicate that they’re not pleased.
I’ll check out the new farmers market in town, and I’m sure I’ll support the farmers and producers by making a few purchases. If it’s possible to have loyalty to a farmers market (why not?), my loyalty is likely to remain with the farmers downtown.
By my casual means of measurement, the downtown market is not saturated. I never have to wait in line for my purchases and never have to park more than a block away. Many vendors leave with ample stock in tow.
It’s possible that there was a neighborhood need driving the creation of this new Saturday market, but I haven’t heard that explanation, yet.
The best-case scenario will be for the new market to attract thousands of shoppers—all different shoppers than those shopping downtown. More people finding their way to farmers markets would be a good thing, not a bad thing. Farmers and producers at both markets deserve to be repaid for their hard work by selling out (or close) every Saturday morning.
Let’s hope there are hoards of Concord area local food enthusiasts that are, for the first time ever, deciding that this is the year to find a local farmers market. With the surge of interest in healthy, local food, maybe that’s possible. It’s also possible there are a few dozen more farmers and producers in search of a Saturday market. If that’s the case, when it comes to farmers markets, the more the merrier.
How many farmers markets is too many for one town?