Farmers Markets – A Growing Business

by Indiana Farm Bureau
      Indiana is home to more than 180 farmers markets, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s prime time for farmers markets in Indiana as most markets open for the summer in early June. Farmers markets, which serve as a link between urban and rural communities, are growing in popularity, both for consumers and farmers. In fact, USDA reported a 76 percent increase in total farmers markets across the country when comparing 2008 to 2014. 
    The appeal of farmers markets for many shoppers is no mystery. Consumers are increasingly interested in obtaining fresh, local meat and produce; and farmers markets give them easy access to local foods and local growers. Farmers markets also are great for farmers who choose to sell their products directly to consumers without the commitment and overhead of a retail store. Indiana Farm Bureau spoke to several Indiana farmers who sell their products at local farmers markets to learn why they’re an ideal sales strategy for many.
    Casey and Ben Shireman, owners of B & C Farms in Marysville and Clark County Farm Bureau members, grow a large selection of vegetables and flowers through the spring and summer. They also grow pumpkins and ornamentals in the fall. The Shiremans sell their products at farmers markets in Jeffersonville, New Albany and Sellersburg and say that 75 percent of their farm income comes from farmers markets. “Selling directly to the consumer cuts out the middleman, so we can get premium prices and control how the product looks because less handling means less damage,” said Casey Shireman. “Nowadays, consumers want to know where their food comes from, so we are able to be the face of everything we grow.”
     Jonathan and Kelly Shannon, owners of Shannon Family Farms in Crawfordsville and Montgomery County Farm Bureau members, also rely on farmers markets as a key to their sales strategy.  “We are very focused on customer requests,” Jonathan explained. “We get many custom requests, such as non-GMO chicken, and we take the time to sit down with the customer and explain the differences to determine what it is that they really want.” For the Shannons, the most common customer questions involve antibiotics, hormones, where their food is processed and their animal husbandry practices. “We keep up the various trending diets—right now it’s Whole 30 and the Ketogenic Diet— and we market towards it,” Jonathan explained. “We’ve even adjusted products to meet those demands, such as carrying bacon without any sugar in it.”

     Hoosiers can find farmers markets in their area, by searching the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s directory online.

About Indiana Farm Bureau: Since 1919, Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB) has protected the livelihood, land, equipment, animals and crops of Hoosier farmers. It is the state’s largest general farm organization and a farmer’s strongest advocate. INFB works diligently to ensure a farmer’s very right to farm, because agriculture is so vital to Indiana’s economy.  Learn more at INFB.org.

 

Sue Baxter