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October 2001 Issue
The Geographical Review
October 2001, Vol. 91 (4), pp. 655-674
Counting Farmers Markets
Keywords: agriculture direct marketing, farmers markets, food supply, Public Law 94-463, produce
marketing, vegetable marketing.
Farmers markets selling locally grown produce were once vital components of urban food systems. In the modern era an extended wholesale supply system has reduced markets to negligible importance in provisioning. Yet the number of farmers markets in the United States has grown dramatically in the past thirty years. Examination of the literature on American farmers markets in the twentieth century reveals cycles of expansion and decline. Four surges in numbers are reported, with the most rapid rise following the passage of Public Law 94-463, the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1976. Between 1970 and 1986, markets in some states increased tenfold, with the national total rising nearly 500 percent by one estimate. Beginning in the late 1980s, farmers markets entered another growth phase, which continues. Research into farmers markets is hindered by the lack of consistency in classification, by incomplete descriptions of market characteristics, and by lost data.