A key point we make at FarmFreshWeb.Com is that most of the people who go to the farmers market go only a few times a year. Which means that the best opportunity to increase business at the market is by turning occasional visitors into regulars.
But this raises and interesting point: exactly how many people visit the farmers market?
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of data to answer this question, but here are three surveys worth looking at to approximate the answer.
First, there’s a survey done by the WW Kellogg foundation in 2012. While we don’t really believe the results, it’s worth noting that 70% of the respondents said that they had shopped at a farmers market in the past year. And reinforcing our point, only 14% said that the farmers market was their regular source of fruits and vegetables. We doubt the 70% number, but the 14% number suggests that about 20% of the folks who have gone at least once are regular shoppers, and that seems reasonable.
Next, there’s a survey by Packaged Facts in 2016 that says that about 12% of Americans shop at farmers markets. Sadly, the actual question they asked is not available, so it’s hard to know if this is estimating whether these are regular shoppers or folks who just visited. Based on our research, 12% seems very low.
Finally, there’s the survey we did 2 years ago, based only on folks in southern states. There, we found about 50% of people said they’d been to the farmers market at least once in the past year. And of those folks, about 16% could be described as “regular” – going at least once every other month.
There’s one other way we could come at this number. The USDA’s Survey of Agriculture says that farmers at farmers markets sold about $711MM of food in 2015. If that’s correct and most of that occurred during the “regular” season, we could divide that money by 25 weeks to come up with an “average” (really not much better than a guess) of $28MM per week. Using an average purchase amount of $15, comes up with less than 2 million weekly shoppers, which is less than 1% of total US adults.
So here’s the bottom line: the number of people who visit farmers markets every so often GREATLY outnumbers the regulars – probably by 5 or 6 to 1. But the good news is that perhaps as many as half the population knows about the farmers market and has visited at least once. And that’s a good place to start.