US farmers markets playing a bigger role during the pandemic

During the pandemic, the role of the US farmers’ market shifted from a fun social event to an essential source of food that for many was safer than indoor grocery stores. The markets also emerged as a much-needed sales channel for farmers and food makers who lost their foodservice business overnight as restaurants, schools and offices locked down in early 2020.

Around the US, consumer demand for fresh local food soared during the pandemic, according to surveys done by Stanford University researchers. The study showed mismatches in supply and demand in some cases as producers figured out how to redirect food from wholesale to direct-to-consumer channels, and farmers found new ways to collaborate to generate revenue and keep food from going to waste.

“While COVID increased consumers’ interest in buying local farm products, farmers are looking for increased consumer education to strengthen the market for local goods,” the study’s authors wrote.

CSAs, short for community supported agriculture programs, had seen their popularity peak in about 2008 before beginning to wane. Then, just like farmers’ markets, CSAs’ popularity also soared in 2020 as farmers sought to replace lost wholesale and foodservice business with direct-to-consumer sales.

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