THE surging growth in the number of farmers’ markets throughout the country could hold a silver lining for growers.
A study into Australia’s farmers’ markets has revealed a number of benefits to farmers, consumers and the communities in which they are situated.
The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) study considered farmers’ markets for four stakeholder groups – consumers, farmers, value added food businesses and local communities.
Author of the report, Vicki Woodburn said the study identified a range of strengths and weaknesses of Australia’s farmers’ markets in relation to these four stakeholder groups.
“The study showed a number of benefits across all the stakeholder groups but the general message was that farmers’ markets are valued by participating farmers and food businesses, with nearly 80 per cent of stallholders participating in a survey conducted as part of the study reporting that they made a profit through their farmers’ market stall,” Ms Woodburn said.
“The farmers’ markets not only provide an economically viable distribution option but also a platform for farmers and value added food businesses to grow their business, test their products with consumers and improve other aspects of their business, such as management approaches.
“Only 7pc of those farmers and food businesses surveyed as part of the study solely used farmers’ markets to sell their produce.
“The other distribution channels used by farmers and food value added businesses showed how the farmers’ markets were used as part of the overall business model and were a viable avenue to play a role in maximising their business success.”
The study found that farmers’ markets could provide consumers with alternative access to fresh, local and seasonal food sourced directly from the food producer; exposure to a variety of foods and the opportunity to learn about how the food was produced and how to use it.
It also provided community members the opportunity to support the local community, local businesses and the environment.
The study reported that local communities can benefit from farmers’ markets through utilising them as a tactic to achieve important community outcomes, such as health, education, tourism, social wellbeing and regional economic benefits.
However, the report noted that a farmers’ market may not suit all communities’ demographics and preferences.
Jane Adams, chair of the peak representative body, the Australian Farmers’ Markets Association (AFMA) said the study paints a very positive picture of farmers’ markets and will be a catalyst for the ongoing evolution and sustainable growth of the farmers’ market sector in the future.
“Farmers’ markets are a vital and increasingly significant link in Australia’s food chain and provide a valuable distribution channel connecting farmers and specialty food producers directly with customers,” Ms Adams said.
“This significant national study will be pivotal in supporting the continued evolution of Australia’s farmers’ markets, especially in alerting government to the viability of the farmers’ market sector and the role it plays in supporting food producers and regional communities.”
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