What’s at the Farmers Market?

The USDA maintains a list of U.S. farmers markets including food and products that are available at each market. We’re always wondering which items are most popular at the market so we thought we’d take a look at the data. (Jump to the graph if you want to read about the data later.)

First, we need to take a look at the categories the USDA presents in their questionnaire when someone adds or updates a farmers market entry. The first item is the key in the list we downloaded matched up (by us making an educated guess) with the description in the questionnaire.

  • Bakedgoods – Baked goods: breads, pies, etc.
  • Beans – Dry beans
  • Cheese – Dairy products: milk, cheese, etc.
  • Coffee – Coffee and/or tea
  • Crafts – Crafts and/or woodworking items
  • Eggs – Eggs
  • Flowers – Cut flowers
  • Fruits – Fresh fruits
  • Grains – Grains and/or flour
  • Herbs – Fresh and/or dried herbs
  • Honey – Honey
  • Jams – Canned or preserved fruits/ vegetables: jams, jellies, preserves, salsas, pickles, dried fruit, etc.
  • Juices – Juices and/or non-alcoholic ciders
  • Maple – Maple syrup and/or maple products
  • Meat – Red and other non-poultry meat and products
  • Mushrooms – Mushrooms
  • Nuts – Nuts
  • Organic – Separate question (more below)
  • PetFood – Pet food
  • Plants – Bedding plants
  • Poultry – Poultry/fowl meat and products
  • Prepared – Prepared foods (for immediate consumption)
  • Seafood – Fish and/or seafood
  • Soap – Soap and/or body care products
  • Tofu – Tofu and/or non-animal protein
  • Trees (Nursery?) – Nursery stock (trees, shrubs)
  • Vegetables – Fresh vegetables
  • WildHarvested – Wild harvested forest products: mushrooms, medicinal herbs, edible fruits and nuts, etc.
  • Wine – Wine, spirits, beer, hard cider

There were a few things that we noticed between the exported data and the questionnaire:

  1. Some categories cross each other such as Mushrooms, WildHarvested (Wild harvested forest products: mushrooms, medicinal herbs, edible fruits and nuts, etc.), Herbs, and Nuts.
  2. Organic is listed as a separate question on a separate page reading “Will any of the producers/vendors at this market location in 2015 be USDA-­certified organic producers?” Organic must have been added at a later date because 5,216 of the 8,429 markets listed had no answer. The percentage in the graph is based on the 3,213 answers that existed.
  3. In the export, there are separate entries for Nursery and Trees but only a single item exists on the current questionnaire: “Nursery stock (trees, shrubs)”.
  4. There is an option for “Other, please specify” on the questionnaire that provides a text box but we’re not sure what happens with that information.
  5. Some of these markets haven’t been updated in years. Over 1,800 market entries are listed as last updated in 2009.

Percentage of 8,429 farmers markets that said they had these items at their market.
Click on the graph for a larger version

What's at the market?

Honestly, we were hoping for some interesting insights when we started looking at this data but we mostly came up with additional questions:

  • Are there really that many certified organic vendors at farmers markets? If so, that’s a great trend but we’ve heard of many vendors holding off due to the expense of certification.
  • Do only 58% of the markets out there have fresh vegetables? We’re pretty sure every market we’ve been to has vegetables. Isn’t that how farmers markets started?
  • Pet food at 56%? Does that mean pets can eat the food or it’s specifically made for pets?
  • Tofu and/or non-animal protein? Does that mean beans and other vegetable proteins? We’ve only seen tofu and seitan at a few markets.

Our anecdotal guess, from visiting farmers markets across the country, is that Baked Goods and below (minus Tofu) seem pretty accurate. The top items seem a bit off but maybe we haven’t been to a good enough sampling of markets?

One thing is for sure. Figuring out exactly what’s available at over 8,000 farmers markets is difficult.

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Is Your Booth Worth 1,000 Words?

Studies regarding first impression indicate that it takes anywhere from seven seconds to mere tenths of a second for people to make a conclusion about what they’re seeing. For vendors, this means that the way they present their product is incredibly important. Is it eye catching? Is it enticing? Whether a market manager or a vendor, understanding what makes a product booth attractive is critical to success. (Read: pretty booths with great product make more money!)

radical_root

Signage: Consumers aren’t created the same and some of them are far less apt to ask questions than others. This means that you need to level the playing field by giving all of your consumers easy access to all of the relevant information they’ll need to make a purchasing decision. What is the item? What’s the price? Is it all-natural? Organic? Are all ingredient’s locally sourced? Keep your signage simple, consistent and easy-to-read. When in doubt, just perform a random poll and ask your foot traffic what they think!

Decor: While string lights and streamers might be a little much, giving a few thoughts to non-produce booth decor shouldn’t be out of the question. Simple additions like tablecloths, attractive product containers and display racks can go a long way in making your delicious produce look that much more appetizing. Consider, too, offering more substantial producer information, like the history of your farm or opportunities to come visit, with a brochure or small poster display. Always remember, people love a good story!

Levels & Depth: Walk into any store and you’ll quickly notice that their displays aren’t created on one plain. Rather, they use different levels and depths to create a more interactive space. So instead of placing everything flat on tables, consider using crates or boxes to make multiple layers. Maybe your produce offering allows you to use large buckets at ground level and, if you have a covering, hanging baskets for height. A good rule of thumb is to progress from low to high displays the deeper you go.

Remember though that a good looking booth will only take the consumer so far in the purchasing decision. In order for your marketing efforts to pay off in real dollars, the product being sold needs to live up to the booth’s beautification! In other words, to acquire repeat customers, don’t just put lipstick on a pig.

Brooklyn Beta: One Year Later

Brooklyn Beta - Invisible Dog Crowd
(Photo by Simon Collison)

Exactly one year after Farmstand went live in the Apple App Store, we celebrated by returning to Brooklyn Beta – the most amazing conference ever and how Farmstand got started. The event began with traditional fare for the 300 attendees – a MailChimp kickoff party, cozy space at The Invisible Dog, great food and snacks, inspiring speakers, a beer elevator, and all kinds of fun throughout the day. They even added some new items like patches they would sew onto your gear and yearbooks (yes, proper school-like yearbooks) with photos of everyone.

Brooklyn Beta - Greenhouse Crowd
(Photo by Simon Collison)

The organizers threw in a twist this year. On Friday, the Main Event happened, and around 1,300 people met at Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It’s a massive and gorgeous building used for events these days. They did a terrific job bringing the energy of the small space to the larger group. They even did Whiskey Friday for 1,300.

A few of my favorite talks included:

  • Former nuclear submarine commander David Marquet on leadership
  • Jonathan Hoeffler on what web fonts should really be
  • Clare Sutcliffe on Code Club and how they’re teaching children to code
  • Katherine Pope of Defy Ventures providing people with criminal histories the tools to become entrepreneurs
  • Tim O’Reilly on the crazy stuff he’s done for the web
  • Raul Gutierrez on Tinybop and their success of their first app

It was such a pleasure to again take part in such an awesome meeting of the minds and we’re already looking forward to 2014!

What’s new in version 1.7?

If you recently updated to iOS 7 you’ll notice the Farmstand design blending a bit with the new style. We also squashed some bugs we found on iOS 7 devices.

What we’re most excited about is teaming up with Food Day to help promote their mission!

Food Day is a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food.

We believe in Food Day and we imagine you do too. So, when you load the app you’ll see Food Day events in your area so you can join up with others in the celebration.

Food Day Events

What’s new in version 1.6?

A special thanks to Community Transformation Grant Project Region 5 in North Carolina for helping make this latest update possible. They’re doing some amazing work in NC to create healthier communities.

Market Filtering

Farmstand - Market Filters

Tapping the new “Filter markets” button under the map shows options to sort and filter results. With CTG Project Region 5 we added nutrition assistance programs such as SNAP/EBT, WIC, and senior FMNP to help low-income individuals and families find fresh local food. You can choose to only show markets that accept those payment options and viewing any market will show the special payment types they accept.

The other filters let you sort by next open time so markets show up by day of week (a highly requested feature) and the last option lets you hide markets that are closed for the season or if we don’t know their hours (which YOU can update if you know them and we’ll love you forever).

Invite Friends

Invite Friends

Eating fresh food is more fun with friends, right? Invite people to use Farmstand by tapping the Invite friends button from the Find & Invite Friends screen. This area shows up for logged in users and lets you send a message to friends via email, text message, Facebook, Twitter, or other apps on your phone that allow sharing.

Happy Farmstanding!