Why Farmers Markets Aren't That Great

Study says they're pricey and not much healthier
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2015 5:00 PM CDT
Updated Mar 8, 2015 5:10 PM CDT
Why Farmers' Markets Aren't That Great
Michael Barkam, left, buys California strawberries at a fresh produce stand at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles, Aug. 15, 2007.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Who doesn't like a farmers market? Organic food, weird jams, and a sense of community have drawn shoppers nationwide for years. But a new study says the markets don't really fulfill their reputation of promoting a healthy diet—and definitely don't save people money, Pacific Standard reports. "There seems to be much enthusiasm for using farmers markets" to improve food quality in areas where healthy food is lacking, a team of researchers writes in the journal Appetite. "It is hard for us to share this enthusiasm." Their study of 26 farmers markets and 44 stores in Bronx County, NY, found that the markets offered 26.4 fewer items of fresh produce on average, fewer commonly-purchased foods, and more expensive items overall, even among regular produce.

What's more, 32.8% of items at farmers markets aren't fresh produce: They're processed or refined products like cookies, cakes, pies, and jams. The study admits that farmers markets do have upsides, however, like generally fresher produce and a slightly higher rate of organic foods. (But a two-year-old study says organic foods are no more nutritious or safe than conventional foods, except that germs in non-organic meats are more often resistant to antibiotics, the CBC reports.) Meanwhile, the growth rate of farmers markets is in decline over the past five years after markets outpaced farmers' supply and the number of shoppers, the Los Angeles Times reports. "I think we've glutted the marketplace," says a farmers market manager in Los Angeles. (Now see a few myths about washing produce.)

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