Farmers markets: Small is the new big

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The buy local food movement has seen a boom in the number of farmers markets across the nation and in Minnesota. The trend has been for markets to expand beyond produce, to finished goods, including breads, honeys, and even retail goods such as clothing. However, an emerging market that is showing promise in the Minneapolis area is the mini-farmers market, single-tent operations often only looked after by a single farmer.

A typical market pays hundreds of dollars a year to rent space for stands and parking. The market recoups the money by charging sellers for a business licenses that can cost up to $291 with a $169 yearly renewal. This model proved to be too expensive for some sellers, which lead to a new business model: mini-markets. Sellers pay the city in which they operate a business license fee ($100 in Minneapolis) and most of the time rental space is free, usually a designated parcel of land.

These markets have found a niche that has so far been unfilled by current farmers markets or retail stores. They are responding to the needs of Minneapolis’s low-income citizens and especially the elderly. These mini-markets provide a quick accessible means of buying nutritious and locally grown food, and they work with The Farmers Market Nutrition Program, a federal program that provides vouchers to low-income families to buy food from markets. Many who participated in this program had no way of getting to the larger market.  Now in many cases these markets are just outside of their apartments, churches, or clinics.

Business models like this provide a means for local farmers to get healthy food to people who typically would not have access to it. New and small farmers are able to start selling produce with much less overhead to people who need it most. Creative business models like this are expanding access to nutritious food and healthy lifestyles.