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Oversaturation of Farmer's Markets

Oversaturation of Farmer's Markets
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  • Oversaturation of Farmer's Markets

    Post #1 - July 17th, 2017, 1:41 pm
    Post #1 - July 17th, 2017, 1:41 pm Post #1 - July 17th, 2017, 1:41 pm
    Your thoughts?
    https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/2017071 ... y-too-many
  • Post #2 - July 17th, 2017, 2:31 pm
    Post #2 - July 17th, 2017, 2:31 pm Post #2 - July 17th, 2017, 2:31 pm
    There's definitely truth to the oversaturation argument. As is the case with virtually all trends, they go beyond the sustainable level before constricting to the proper balance.

    The farms should be exerting more leverage in the situation described, which is demand outpacing supply. It may go against the spirit of antitrust laws, but I don't think they're in actual violation by working together to most efficiently capitalize on the existing market (ie. market of farmers markets). Farms above a certain size should come to an agreement on the sustainable number of markets (x), and only do business with the largest x markets. Allowing hyper-local micro-growers to supply any excess demand in the low-attendance markets would be better than cannibalizing themselves trying to be everywhere at once with exponential growth in overhead costs.

    They don't have a monopoly on the product, so the potential agreement to artificially cap supply shouldn't be shut down by regulators. They could easily stymie growth by pricing out small markets by requiring a fee to come. These local politicians and neighborhood groups want to feel cool, tell them to put their money where their mouth is.
  • Post #3 - July 17th, 2017, 2:46 pm
    Post #3 - July 17th, 2017, 2:46 pm Post #3 - July 17th, 2017, 2:46 pm
    Interesting article.

    The health of farmer's markets is a topic near and dear to my heart. On average, I go to two every weekend. I have been going to the Evanston Farmer's market for over a decade - even though it is not in my neighborhood. It is still going strong.

    I used to really enjoy my local neighborhood market as well (Logan Square). In the last year, I have noticed a few key farm departures. It seems to me that new entrants are more likely to be prepared food vendors rather than farmers and the mix of offerings is slightly shifting. That said, it still has a good number of produce vendors and I'd consider it above-average for the area.

    When I think of farmers markets -and particularly those that l those that I love - it is all about fresh fruits and vegetables. Ideally, there is both depth and variety. I like to walk around and see whose looks look fullest or whose blueberries are the firmest. I realize that some people appreciate prepared food vendors, but that's not really a farm-related market to me. I shop for ingredients and cook at home. If including them helps make a market viable and fills a public need, all for the better. But I can certainly empathize with a farmer who feels the need to attend multiple markets (often on the same day) to meet sales goals.

    This weekend, I went to Green City Market (Lincoln Park) for the first time in years. The article says it gets 10,000 visitors on a weekly basis, which I am sure is the highest total in the region. The foot traffic was evident almost immediately because the number of vendors and the quality and variety of the produce basically blew other markets out of the water. I remembered it was a good market but the difference of how much better it was surprised me. Vendors I see elsewhere had more items and more of them.

    I imagine that Logan is still a healthy market. I have not spent much time at the smaller neighborhood markets because A) they are not my neighborhood and B) they rarely seem to offer anything I can't get at one of the markets listed above.

    Convenience is nice and if all things were equal, I'd love to be living within walking distance of the best market around. However, I value selection more than anything and I am willing to travel to the markets I consider best. I will probably try to get over the Green City more often since it is really first rate. That being said, there is no reason in my mind why GCM should be so much bigger and better than anywhere else in the city other than by its reputation. It's not like it is in the most population dense area of the city or that its neighborhood is particularly accessible to those from all over (it isn't). But I think when the article talks about new markets cannibalizing business of others it is Green City Market-excepted. And I'm trying to figure out why that might be.

    I could see an argument for having fewer markets that are better attended, but it would be hard to convince any neighborhood to give one up if the residents have grown use to it.
  • Post #4 - July 17th, 2017, 3:00 pm
    Post #4 - July 17th, 2017, 3:00 pm Post #4 - July 17th, 2017, 3:00 pm
    bweiny wrote:There's definitely truth to the oversaturation argument. As is the case with virtually all trends, they go beyond the sustainable level before constricting to the proper balance.

    The farms should be exerting more leverage in the situation described, which is demand outpacing supply. It may go against the spirit of antitrust laws, but I don't think they're in actual violation by working together to most efficiently capitalize on the existing market (ie. market of farmers markets). Farms above a certain size should come to an agreement on the sustainable number of markets (x), and only do business with the largest x markets. Allowing hyper-local micro-growers to supply any excess demand in the low-attendance markets would be better than cannibalizing themselves trying to be everywhere at once with exponential growth in overhead costs.


    It's a good article, and something I've said for a long time. While I think the abundance of markets is bad from a marketing perspective--not the least it makes the local food scene look weaker than it is--the bigger issue is not demand outpacing supply but way more supply than demand.

    On one hand, the local food scene in the Chicago area is better than ever. Markets like Green City and Logan Square, Evanston and Oak Park are better than ever. The types of things available, meat, grains, syrups, foraged foods, exotic vegetables, has never been greater. Beyond markets, there are way more places to get local foods, co-ops like Sugar Beet and Dill Pickle, delivery services like Irv n' Shelly, and a whole local foods supermarket called, nicely, Local Foods. Yet, on the other hand, I think a lot of the thrill is out of the movement. It's time has passed. I like to think locavores are like cigar smokers. :)
  • Post #5 - July 17th, 2017, 4:00 pm
    Post #5 - July 17th, 2017, 4:00 pm Post #5 - July 17th, 2017, 4:00 pm
    I can see how from the farmer's perspectives more markets is a troubling development. If you've invested time and energy in developing a steady presence at a farmer's market, another one opening up near by will inevitably hurt your sales. There is little short term benefit to losing sales and having to expand your salesforce and learn about the shopping habits of a new client base.

    However, as a consumer, I am thrilled about the expansion of the farmer's markets across the city. I live very close to the Low Line Market that happens Thursdays at the Southport Brown Line Station. When it first started I was frustrated by the lack of good produce and general lack of vendors. What I didn't realize is that it takes time for the market to grow and build a client base. The Low Line Market has grown larger every year and now I have personal relationships with both a meat vendor and a produce vendor. I guarantee the total amount I spend at the market is much higher because it's convenient and I can interact directly with the farms so I can communicate what I'm looking for.

    I've visited Green City many times over the years and I've found it frustrating both because it's crowded, and therefore difficult to speak with the people working there, and also because it's a challenge to get my haul back home. I still enjoy visiting, but more as an entertainment than as a market where I actually plan to shop.

    Recently I stopped by the brand new Ward 47 farmer's market that happens Saturdays near the Paulina Brown Line. The market was poorly attended and the few vendors that were there weren't offering much variety. It's hard for me to tell if this market will grow larger over time or if it will fade away due to lack of interest. Time will tell.

    I think the expansion of farmer's markets will go through a natural life cycle, but eventually the markets near a strong client base will thrive and those that struggle to build a following will die off. The farmers should look at this trend as an opportunity to reach a much broader audience and adjust accordingly. The city is investing a lot in farmer's markets, I don't see how that's bad for local farmers in the long run.
  • Post #6 - July 26th, 2017, 11:10 am
    Post #6 - July 26th, 2017, 11:10 am Post #6 - July 26th, 2017, 11:10 am
    Hi- As many of you know I am big on farmer's markets. Yes, there are too many farmer's markets, and a lot of the ones that have opened up are the French markets, where they can only get a handful of farmers to show up, and so then they supplement it with people selling jewelry or whatever, and people get turned off by that. There are only so many farmers out there, and I could understand why a farmer would not want to come to a farmer's market that only has 300 people attending it. Another problem is that younger people in their 20's and 30's are not learning how to cook, and even at the Evanston market they still have tons of people attending it, but a lot of the younger people are mostly just buying something already prepared such as crepes. One of the fruit farmers told me that her business has only dropped a little bit at Evanston, because you do not have to cook your fruit. The vegetable farmers are telling an entirely different story. Henry Brockman's Swiss chard sales have decreased by 50% from where they were five years ago. A lot of younger people are hitting the farmer's markets for the socialization factor. They can buy something already prepared such as crepes or tacos, and sit down and eat it with their friends. Henry has started offering a junior citizen discount. If you are in your 20's or have a child who is 20 months old or younger, you can get a 20% discount from him. I also told Henry a few weeks ago, that he needs to promote himself in the Asian newspapers. He told me that there is a Japanese newspaper that publishes in Chicago.. He sells a lot of Asian veggies, and a lot of Americans do not know what to do with them. Hope this helps, Nancy
  • Post #7 - July 26th, 2017, 11:26 am
    Post #7 - July 26th, 2017, 11:26 am Post #7 - July 26th, 2017, 11:26 am
    I am not sure if readers of Asian newspapers would buy Asian greens from a farmer's market. I am assuming most of those readers are older generations and already know where to get their greens or are more comfortable buying from someone who speaks their language, rather than from a non-Asian; and not likely to wait once a week to see if Asian greens "might" be available at the farmer's market. Henry might do better offering a recipe card or sample to entice the 20-something browser to become a 20-something purchaser/cook, or advertise where 20-somethings read the news.
  • Post #8 - July 26th, 2017, 11:29 am
    Post #8 - July 26th, 2017, 11:29 am Post #8 - July 26th, 2017, 11:29 am
    NFriday wrote:Henry Brockman's Swiss chard sales have decreased by 50% from where they were five years ago.


    Well, chard is no kale. :wink: Even current darling kale's sales will start to drop soon because the new "it" veggie is cauliflower.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #9 - July 26th, 2017, 11:36 am
    Post #9 - July 26th, 2017, 11:36 am Post #9 - July 26th, 2017, 11:36 am
    stevez wrote:
    NFriday wrote:Henry Brockman's Swiss chard sales have decreased by 50% from where they were five years ago.


    Well, chard is no kale. :wink: Even current darling kale's sales will start to drop soon because the new "it" veggie is cauliflower.


    Mmmmm, cauliflower. Way better than kale!
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #10 - July 26th, 2017, 11:48 am
    Post #10 - July 26th, 2017, 11:48 am Post #10 - July 26th, 2017, 11:48 am
    Hi- Henry's wife is Japanese, and Henry met her when he was living in Japan at least 25 years ago, and he speaks fluent Japanese. One of his sister's does do an email thing usually on Thursday evenings, and tells people what Henry is bringing to the market that week, and does include recipes for stuff that might be unfamiliar to some people. For instance, a few weeks ago she said that Henry was bring fennel, and gave a few recipes for fennel. Henry also has a standard stir fry recipe that he gives to people that don't know what to do with a particular vegetable.

    If Henry's wife was not Japanese, I don't know if I would have mentioned that to him. One Saturday last summer, when I was in Henry's stand, Henry spotted a Japanese couple, and went up to them and started speaking in Japanese. All of his kids have also worked in the tent on Saturdays, and they are half Japanese.

    When my Father was still alive, he had some upick white sour cherries, which a lot of Eastern Europeans love, and he put an ad in a Lithuanian newspaper that publishes in Chicago to try and promote them.

    The deal is that Henry's sales in general have gone down in the last five years because people don't know how to cook, and they don't know what to do with cauliflower either, or they are too lazy to do anything with it. Riced cauliflower is big right now too. You can buy it already riced in the grocery store. He still sells lots of tomatoes, lettuce and spinach because you don't have to cook those. I love his mesclun mix though, and a few weeks ago, when I was there at 11:00, I was surprised how much mesclun and lettuce he had left. I bought some kohlrabi a few weeks ago, and I told three different people what to do with it while I was there.
  • Post #11 - August 2nd, 2017, 6:13 pm
    Post #11 - August 2nd, 2017, 6:13 pm Post #11 - August 2nd, 2017, 6:13 pm
    Hi- Even though in Henry's email I got last Thursday his sister said that there was not going to be a lot of kale on Saturday, they still had lots of it left at 11:30 am. I would have gotten some, but I have lots of it in my garden. Apparently Henry's kale as well as his basil got attacked by Japanese Beatles. They usually don't hit kale or basil. The problem is that there are lots of people visiting the Evanston farmer's market, but many of the younger ones are just hitting the market to listen to the music and meet up with their friends, and get something all ready prepared. They are not visiting Henry's tent. I was even able to buy a dozen organic eggs from Wettstein's at noon. They charged $7 for them though. The crepe place always has a long line, and there is a Mexican place that just started selling there that had a long line on Saturday. They were at the World music and art festival a few weeks ago too, and had a long line. I got one of their chicken tacos then, and it was good. The Kale burger place is hurting for business at the market
  • Post #12 - August 3rd, 2017, 8:04 am
    Post #12 - August 3rd, 2017, 8:04 am Post #12 - August 3rd, 2017, 8:04 am
    I attend the Waukesha farmers market every Saturday. I am always one of the first there in the morning. My wife goes later at times and from what I hear is that it is filled with people with strollers and dogs. I know most of the vendors (veteran attendee) and they all do fairly well. Many young people are opting for more veggies, especially those with kids. The food made there is also very good and popular. My breakfast each Saturday. It is so good, a kale burger (whatever that is) would not go over well either. Actually, would they go over well anywhere?
  • Post #13 - August 3rd, 2017, 9:48 am
    Post #13 - August 3rd, 2017, 9:48 am Post #13 - August 3rd, 2017, 9:48 am
    Puckjam wrote:... a kale burger (whatever that is)...


    http://www.amazingkaleburger.com/
  • Post #14 - August 3rd, 2017, 11:21 am
    Post #14 - August 3rd, 2017, 11:21 am Post #14 - August 3rd, 2017, 11:21 am
    Understood. Although seems could be named black bean burger or veggie burger. Guess just trying to use the recent kale push that has been out there (kale chips, etc...). Nonetheless, I only have so many meals to eat and won't waste any on these. I would guess only strict veggie people will be interested.
  • Post #15 - August 3rd, 2017, 12:25 pm
    Post #15 - August 3rd, 2017, 12:25 pm Post #15 - August 3rd, 2017, 12:25 pm
    Puckjam wrote:Understood. Although seems could be named black bean burger or veggie burger. Guess just trying to use the recent kale push that has been out there (kale chips, etc...). Nonetheless, I only have so many meals to eat and won't waste any on these. I would guess only strict veggie people will be interested.

    You might be surprised. It's a pretty tasty burger as far as veggie burgers go.
    -Mary
  • Post #16 - August 3rd, 2017, 1:18 pm
    Post #16 - August 3rd, 2017, 1:18 pm Post #16 - August 3rd, 2017, 1:18 pm
    stevez wrote:
    NFriday wrote:Henry Brockman's Swiss chard sales have decreased by 50% from where they were five years ago.


    Well, chard is no kale. :wink: Even current darling kale's sales will start to drop soon because the new "it" veggie is cauliflower.


    Don't know that cauliflower is "new" in that it's been a go-to for the carb-free crowd for a decade and has been all over the place ever since. I'm voting for kale until something truly untapped makes an appearance.
  • Post #17 - August 3rd, 2017, 5:28 pm
    Post #17 - August 3rd, 2017, 5:28 pm Post #17 - August 3rd, 2017, 5:28 pm
    I've never had a kale burger there, but they also have a restaurant on Howard, and I've heard the burgers at their restaurant are wonderful, and they are supposedly Kosher. They cook them from scratch, whereas the ones they sell at the farmer's market are frozen and just reheated. They are supposed to be good but not great.

    Riced cauliflower is supposedly really hot right now. You can buy it frozen or fresh at Jewel. I am not sure what they make out of it.

    Last summer the Washington Post had an article about how younger people were going to the farmer's market strictly to meet their friends, listen to some music and buy something already prepared. They were not buying fresh veggies that you had to prepare, and especially ethnic veggies that they had no idea what to do with.
  • Post #18 - August 4th, 2017, 10:54 am
    Post #18 - August 4th, 2017, 10:54 am Post #18 - August 4th, 2017, 10:54 am
    This appears to be the article NFriday is referring to: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyl ... story.html
  • Post #19 - August 5th, 2017, 11:15 am
    Post #19 - August 5th, 2017, 11:15 am Post #19 - August 5th, 2017, 11:15 am
    Isn't this kind of a self-regulating problem?

    If there are too many markets to maintain a presence in all of them, farms will pull out to concentrate on the most profitable markets. Either the 'extra' markets dry out, or the market is big enough to support all of them.
    "I've always thought pastrami was the most sensuous of the salted cured meats."
  • Post #20 - August 6th, 2017, 11:12 am
    Post #20 - August 6th, 2017, 11:12 am Post #20 - August 6th, 2017, 11:12 am
    I wonder if vendors are responding to competition by raising prices. Kind of a death spiral situation. Yesterday I spent $5 on like 4 apples (1.2lbs).
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #21 - August 6th, 2017, 1:43 pm
    Post #21 - August 6th, 2017, 1:43 pm Post #21 - August 6th, 2017, 1:43 pm
    I wish it were competition, that would result in prices being lowered with the most efficient operation being rewarded. Instead, if prices are going up (theoretically across-the-board), that is just firms passing the cost of the market inefficiency off to the consumer.
  • Post #22 - August 6th, 2017, 2:26 pm
    Post #22 - August 6th, 2017, 2:26 pm Post #22 - August 6th, 2017, 2:26 pm
    bweiny wrote:I wish it were competition, that would result in prices being lowered with the most efficient operation being rewarded. Instead, if prices are going up (theoretically across-the-board), that is just firms passing the cost of the market inefficiency off to the consumer.


    That, and also apples are out of season.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #23 - August 6th, 2017, 3:10 pm
    Post #23 - August 6th, 2017, 3:10 pm Post #23 - August 6th, 2017, 3:10 pm
    Hi- I admit that a lot of farmer's at the Evanston market charge too much, but it seems that a lot of them seem to charge the same price. When I was there yesterday, I noticed that most of the growers were selling peaches for $6 or $7 a quart. You get about 3 pounds in a quart of peaches. If you buy a larger quantity, they are cheaper per pound, and Koeninshof's were selling 1/4 pecks of #2's for $3. I ended up getting peaches from Jon First because all of his peaches were $4 a quart or 2 quarts for $7, and they were red haven. When I left at 12:30, I noticed that even he had a fair amount of peaches left. I assume they got donated to the food pantry. When you see peaches really cheap in the store though, the store is lost leadering them, to bring people into the store. A lot of people do not even realize that the stores do that.

    When I go to the market, I usually make the rounds to see who has what, and how much they are charging. When I got there Jon First had heirloom tomatoes for $4 a pound, which I won't spend. As I was leaving, I checked again to see if they had lowered the price. They were now 2/$1, and so I got over 3 pounds of heirloom tomatoes for $2. Some of the growers will deal with you if they have lots of stuff left and they want to go home, and some won't. Three weeks ago, I was looking at some bunches of kohlrabi at one of the stalls, and a woman comes up to me and tells me she will make me a deal. I decided I did not need them, and so I passed.

    Last year I went to the Skokie farmer's market during tomato season, and there were only two people there selling heirloom tomatoes. Everybody was getting ready to go home, and I approached one of the farmers about his heirloom tomatoes that were ripe, but he was charging $3 a pound for them. I asked him if he could give me a deal on them since they were ripe and the market was closing. First he told me no, but then he reluctantly sold me a bag full for $2 a pound. This guy also comes to Evanston, but I rarely buy anything from him there because I can get better deals from other growers. Hope this helps, Nancy
  • Post #24 - August 6th, 2017, 3:17 pm
    Post #24 - August 6th, 2017, 3:17 pm Post #24 - August 6th, 2017, 3:17 pm
    You can get pristine apples right now that are supposed to be good, and in two weeks my sister will start picking chenango strawberry apples, which are my all time favorite ones. We are the largest grower of these by far in the country, and they make wonderful sauce, but they bruise easily and so the stores do not want to carry them.

    I've heard honeycrisp are a pain to grow, and that is why they are so expensive in the stores and at the markets. They don't produce really well. Thanks, Nancy
  • Post #25 - August 7th, 2017, 6:44 pm
    Post #25 - August 7th, 2017, 6:44 pm Post #25 - August 7th, 2017, 6:44 pm
    There may be a few Yellow Transparent apples around. This was an old standard variety used largely for pies and applesauce in the summer. These pies were better as fuel for farm workers before there was so much mechanization than as culinary delights. They beat pies made with dried apples in my memory.

    Pristine is much more available and better in many ways. This is a good tart, crisp apple that is good for eating out of hand. Think the acid and crispness of Granny Smith with more apple flavor. Pristine makes pretty good applesauce but is far from ideal for baking. I have seen Pristine at the Lincoln Square farmers market recently.
  • Post #26 - August 9th, 2017, 3:03 pm
    Post #26 - August 9th, 2017, 3:03 pm Post #26 - August 9th, 2017, 3:03 pm
    There are summer apples, Nichols had a few kinds at the Wicker Park market on Sunday. Completely different varieties than they will have in the fall.
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #27 - September 11th, 2017, 10:37 am
    Post #27 - September 11th, 2017, 10:37 am Post #27 - September 11th, 2017, 10:37 am
    I noticed that somebody wants to organize a once a month organic market in W. Rogers Park. I believe it is going to go somewhere on California. Just what Chicago needs, another farmer's market. There are already some organic growers at the Glenwood market on Sunday, and Evanston is not that far.

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