ST.CATHARINES, Ont. - A strong belief in the integrity of shopping at farmers markets in their communities is the No. 1 reason shoppers surveyed gave for patronizing them.
A study conducted at 154 farmers markets in Ontario reveals that shoppers also enjoy meeting and getting to know the producers of the food they eat.
Farmers' Markets Ontario (FMO) recently completed the fourth in a series of studies over the last decade to benchmark and calculate the economic impact, barriers and opportunity for farmers markets along with analysis of shoppers, non-shoppers, vendors and market managers.
''The key message we took away from this is that Farmers' Markets Ontario needs to get more markets with more farmer vendors to produce and sell an even greater variety of products,'' says Robert Chorney, FMO executive director. ''The demand is growing rapidly and we need more producers to fill that demand.''
The study showed that market shoppers expressed a strong sense of community pride in supporting local producers and that meeting the actual producer was part of their community shopping experience.
Shoppers felt strongly (93 per cent) about the importance of being able to buy directly from a farmer, with 67 per cent calling it ''extremely'' important. Almost half the vendors report that 50 per cent or more of their total farm income is generated through farmers market sales.
Farmers markets are also an important contributor to the province's economy with direct sales in 2008 estimated at $641 million and a province-wide economic impact of up to $1.9 billion annually.
This emphasizes the key role that farmers markets play in not only selling Canadian agricultural products and generating farm incomes, but also how strongly they contribute to the economy and to the fabric of their communities.