New data released Wednesday from USDA’s Economic Research Service shows the growth in the number of farmers markets is slowing. According to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, from 1994 to 2019, the number of farmers markets rose from 1,755 to 8,771 in 2019, averaging growth of nearly seven percent per year. Expansion began to slow in 2011 before eventually falling below a one-percent per year increase between 2016 and 2017. Since then, growth in the number of farmers markets has remained modest and stable. A USDA ERS report found that shares of local food sales have increased at intermediate market outlets, such as grocery stores, restaurants, and distributors. Increased availability of local products at these outlets corresponds with a plateau in purchases at direct-to-consumer outlets such as farmers markets and contributes to the observed slower growth relative to the prior two decades. According to the 2019 National Farmers Market Manager Survey, about two-thirds of farmers market vendors reported an increase in overall production.
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