Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Who Buys at Farmers Markets

I wanted to take the opportunity to share an interesting article concerning a study done on farmers markets in central NC. The growing trend of consumers to demand higher quality food is driving demand but there are some disturbing facts that come to light in this report. Take few moments and read the report.

Who’s Buying and Who’s Selling?
Mitch Renkow, Professor and Extension Specialist
Nicholas Georgiade, Graduate Research Assistant
The past several years have seen a marked
increase in the importance of farmers’ markets
as places for consumers to purchase locallygrown
food products and as venues for farmers
to sell fruits, vegetables, meat, and poultry.
Nationally, the number of farmers’ markets
increased by over 16% in the last year alone,
according to recent USDA figures. Among
states, North Carolina currently ranks 10th in the
nation with 217 farmers’ markets in operation.
Some have argued that farmers’ markets —
and more generally, local food systems —
represent a potentially important means of
stimulating local economies by re-invigorating
the local agricultural sector. Others contend
that due to a variety of factors – increased
nutritional awareness, food safety concerns,
and interest in supporting local farmers, to
name a few — the popularity of farmers’
markets among consumers will continue to
grow into the foreseeable future. Gauging the
validity of these contentions requires knowledge
of the motivation of participants in farmers’
markets. This issue of the NC State Economist
reports on-going research aimed at
understanding why farmers in central North
Carolina choose to sell produce at farmers’
markets, and why shoppers choose to purchase
produce at farmers’ markets.
Who Sells at Farmers’ Markets?
Between July and September of 2009 we
conducted a survey of vendors at seven
farmers’ markets in and around the Research
Triangle — Carrboro, Durham, Raleigh,
Burlington, Western Wake (Apex), Hillsborough,
and Cary. All of these farmers’ markets require
vendors’ farms to be located within 75 miles.
A total of 76 vendors were interviewed to learn
November / December 2011
about their farm characteristics as well as
marketing and production choices that they
made. Given the relatively close proximity of
the various markets to one another, some
farmers had a presence at two or more markets
in a given week; such “multi-venue” vendors
were only interviewed once.
Vendors tend to be small farmers. As shown
in Figure 1, more than half of the vendors we
interviewed farmed less than five acres. On the
other end of the spectrum, 6 out of 76 vendors
farmed over 100 acres; all of these were beef
and pork producers. Vendors tended to hire
few people to assist at farmers’ markets, with
more than 80% employing two or less workers.
In terms of product mix, most vendors — more
than 85% — sell vegetables, either exclusively
or in combination with other products. Smaller
numbers of farmers sell fruit and animal
products. Vendors of animal products tend to
be more likely to only sell animal products,
whereas vendors who sold fruit also tended to
sell vegetables. Interestingly, the vast majority
of vendors (73 out of 76) indicated that they
sell all of their produce locally; and of the few
farmers that did sell to non-local customers,
their non-local business in no case exceeded
10% of total sales. More than half of vendors
interviewed indicated that they sell over 90%
of their output at farmers’ markets, while an
additional 20% indicated that they sell between
50% and 90% of their output at farmers’
markets. Taken as a whole, these findings
suggest that farmers who participate in farmers’
markets overwhelmingly gear their production
activities to the local market.
In sum, the vendor survey results suggest that
sellers at farmers’ markets overwhelmingly
tend to be small-scale, predominantly vegetable
growers who employ relatively few individuals
for the marketing of their produce, and who
orient their production activities toward serving
local customers. Note that this characterization
of producers who participate in farmers’
markets accords with evidence that has been
developed by researchers in other parts of
the country (Martinez, et al. 2010).
Who Buys at Farmers’ Markets?
Throughout the peak seasons of 2009 and
2010 we surveyed 329 shoppers at four of the
busiest farmers’ markets in the Research
Triangle — Carrboro, Durham, Raleigh, and
Western Wake. Shoppers were intercepted at
market entrances and asked a series of
questions to elicit information on who buys
produce at farmers’ markets and what their
motivations are.
Table 1 presents selected results from the
survey. Shoppers at the surveyed farmers’
markets were overwhelmingly Caucasian,
mainly female, lived or worked relatively close
to the venue at which they were shopping, and
tended to visit the farmers’ market about once
a week. A strikingly large fraction of all produce
purchased by respondents — nearly 30% —
was procured at farmers’ markets, an indication
of a strong commitment to consumption of
local foods.
In order to assess the factors that most
influenced consumers’ decisions to shop at
farmers’ markets, respondents were asked to
rank on a scale of 1–5 the importance of a
variety of attributes of the foods that they
routinely purchase. The responses we received
suggest that food quality characteristics —
including freshness, flavor, nutritiousness, and
food safety — are regarded as the most
important attributes to shoppers at farmers’
markets. Also emerging as important to the
farmers’ market shoppers we surveyed was that
the food they purchased was produced locally.
Interestingly, the survey results suggest that
this latter characteristic was deemed somewhat
more important, on average, than actually
connecting with the grower of the product being
purchased (“direct connection to food source”).
On the other side of the spectrum, price and
brand loyalty appear to be somewhat less
important to shoppers in terms of what drives
their purchasing behavior. More than half of
November / December 2011
those surveyed indicated that they regard
prices to be higher at farmers’ markets than at
retail outlets, whereas only about one in eight
indicated that they regard prices at farmers’
markets to generally be lower than at retail
outlets. This suggests that consumers at
farmers’ markets are willing to pay a premium
for foods that they acquire at those venues
because of perceived higher quality (broadly
defined) of locally grown food products —
again, a finding that echoes research
conducted in other parts of the country.
Also interesting is the fact that while the great
majority of shoppers expressed an opinion that
prices are higher at farmers’ markets, we
observed that prices at nearby grocery stores
are in many cases – particularly at peak harvest
times — above those of comparable items at
the farmers’ markets. (Note, however, that
observed meat and egg prices were with very
few exceptions substantially higher at farmers’
markets than at nearby retail outlets).
The proliferation of farmers’ markets in North
Carolina (and nationwide) has drawn significant
attention in recent years. On the basis of
research that has been conducted around the
country, it appears that this trend has been
driven by growing consumer demand – and
willingness to pay a premium — for the
perceived superior quality of locally produced
foods. Our survey results are right in line with
this general assessment. Moreover, our
research on participating farmers suggests that
the increased demand for locally produced food
is being met primarily by small farmers
specializing in serving local farmers’ markets —
a finding that is also in line with the findings of
research conducted elsewhere.
Taken together, these observations imply that
the growing importance of farmers’ markets is
a demand-led phenomenon, one that is in
many respects reminiscent of trends in food
demand underpinning the dramatic increase in
popularity of “high-end” food retailers like Whole
Foods. However, it is important to bear in mind
while the share of agricultural products sold
directly from farmers to consumers has grown
substantially in recent year, this share is still
quite small – recent estimates put it at between
0.4 and 0.8 percent nationally (Martinez, et al.
2010). And in urbanized areas like the
Research Triangle (where our surveys were
conducted), the dominant role of specialized,
small producers in meeting consumer demands
for local foods appears to represent a
significant factor limiting future increases in the
share of total food consumption met by localvember / December 2011
production. Finally, and in contrast, in sparsely
populated rural areas where both farm sizes
and output per farm are larger, it seems likely
that the much smaller numbers of potential local
consumers represents a more profound
constraint on the ultimate market share of
locally produced foods.
Martinez, S., et al. 2010. Local Food Systems: Concepts,
Impacts, and Issues. Economic Research Report No. 97,
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research
Service, Washington, DC.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shoppers Special in King

On December 9th, many of the retailers in King will be offering extended hours, til 9 PM to give shoppers an oppourtunity to discover what they have to offer and give folks a chance to slow down, avoid the maddening crowd and finish up their Christmas shopping at a more leisurely pace. There will be holiday music provided by carolers, cookies and cider for the shoppers and an opportunity for new vendors to offers their goods. The King Chamber will have a limited number of booths available for the evening. Give them a call at 336-983-9308 for more details.

This is a chance to make a changee in your shopping habits and to support your friends and neighbors during the holidays and maybe even find that Christmas spirit that has been so elusive.

See you December 9th, if not before.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Good idea for Stokes County

I received this from a friend this week. It fits in nicely with our efforts to improve the local economy. Let me know what you think.


Christmas 2011 -- Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods -- merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!

It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamines on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.

Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine. THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.

Forward this to everyone on your mailing list, post it to discussion groups -- throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city -- send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news departments. This is a revolution of caring about each other, and isn't that what Christmas is about?


Shirley Marquez
Vice President
Heritage Bank of North Florida

Friday, November 4, 2011

Others seem to be getting it.

Post found from lower MD paper on local job growth. Sounds like they were in our board meeting:

Creating jobs locally
The topic of the county’s annual economic development’s summit last week was “Harvest Our Own: Cultivating Growth and Job Creation From Within.” A development expert told those in attendance that government should spend less time in today’s economic environment trying to entice major corporations to come to town and instead spend more time supporting the businesses that are already here. Local consumers can offer the same kind of support by buying local whenever they can.

Many of the summit’s topics centered on and offered help for small businesses. The agenda featured sessions that offered good advice to small business owners and tips for survival in a down economy. That was a good start. But there are many resources currently available in Charles County that those considering opening a business or the new entrepreneur can readily take advantage of.

For starters, at the College of Southern Maryland, the Small Business Development Center can offer assistance to those considering starting a business. The professionals there can offer tips on how to get money, how to write a business plan and what kinds of skills you need, for example. The Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland has a workforce and business development office and programs available.

The business calendar in today’s paper on page B-7 lists nearly a dozen local organizations and networking groups that can offer invaluable help for anyone in business or starting a business. From the Charles County Chamber of Commerce to the technology council there are offers of networking events. In Wednesday’s edition, there was news of a Business Alliance of Charles County that is forming to provide legislative advocacy and community service opportunities and, of course, more networking events. There are plenty of people in the business community who are willing to share their expertise.

According to the Small Business Administration, 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first five years. Experts blame that statistic on several issues, some of them being that people who start their own business lack the experience and have insufficient capital to run their enterprises, conducted inadequate research, chose the wrong locations and often failed to ask for help when the going got tough.

It is a challenging time for those thinking of taking the first step into the business world as well as those who are already doing business here. The summit chose a great topic. No Fortune 500 company is coming to the county anytime soon, so the county’s economic development will have to depend on small businesses to create new jobs. The good news is that Charles County has resources to offer and most of them are relatively inexpensive to access.
ound the story below in my blog reading today. It sounds like they recorded one of our planning sessions and uses it at tgeir meeting. It is not about hunting buffalo, it is about building on and supporting the businesses in our community. Maybe if enough of us sound the charge we can make a difference:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Importance of Supporting Small Business and Buying Local

Working to maintain and assist with the growth of our existing businesses in Stokes County has been one of our four main focuses over the past three years. That support and our efforts to assist entrepreneurs with their endeavors occupies the majority of our time, energy and marketing budget for economic development. The report below addresses why this is important. Small businesses, which make up over 95% of all the entities in Stokes County are responsible for the vast majoirty of job growth that occurs. Buying Local is an important part of sustaining these businesses and helping them in their efforts to create new jobs and wealth in the community. Are you doing your part to make this happen. See our website to watch our buy local video and take the buy local pledge. Think Stokes First!

A bright spot for small businesses: Job creation
By Nin-Hai Tseng, writer-reporter November 1, 2011: 10:15 AM ET It's easy to blame the little guy for persistently high unemployment, but the reality is that many small businesses are actually hiring while big companies aren't.
FORTUNE – U.S. small businesses are often thought of as the engine of job creation. During the past decade, mom-and-pop shopkeepers, plumbers and the like created more than 60% of net private-sector jobs. So when the economy turned sour, it wasn't surprising that small businesses bore the brunt of the blame for high unemployment.

It's true that the little guys drove more of the drop in employment during the recession. They also held back on hiring during the early stages of the economic recovery. But today small firms are doing better than most think, according to a Capital Economics report.

Even though widely cited surveys suggest they continue having a gloomy picture of the economy, small businesses are actually hiring considerably more than big companies. Since last March, firms with 500 or fewer employees have added 60,000 jobs a month to private payroll employment "while large businesses have added nothing," says Paul Dales, an economist with Capital Economics, citing ADP employment surveys.

This comes as President Obama focuses on giving small business tax credits and other incentives in his $447 billion jobs plan. It also comes as the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) paints a bleak economic picture. The small employer lobbying group's latest optimism index showed that "September was another bad job creation month," with the percentage of small firms with one or more job openings dropping to 14% from 15% in August. What's more, such firms saw a 5% decline in employment during the last three months and haven't seen an increase in jobs since December 2007.

"Things are pretty bad but they're not as bad as some believe," Dales says.

It's not to say that small firms aren't struggling like the rest of us. Unemployment remains high. And the housing market continues to constrain consumers' spending power, giving small business owners (and big companies) less reason to hire more workers.

Indeed, they're not hiring like they used to. But why all the excess gloom?

It could be that perhaps the smallest firms are having a rougher go of it. Think of your neighborhood hardware store with 10 or fewer employees. The NFIB says such businesses make up more than half (70%) of members surveyed for its index. By contrast, the ADP, which generally labels small firms as those having fewer than 500 employees, is seeing job creation.

The differences highlight that even though small businesses are often clumped together by everyone from politicians to policymakers, their potential to hire, expand and innovate vary widely. This is something that researchers at the University of Chicago recently pointed out. Erik Hurst and Benjamin Wild Puglsey say most surviving small businesses aren't particularly innovative. Nor do they spend much on research and development. What's more, they tend not to grow "by any significant margin."

More to the point: It's the difference between the Jack Dorsey's of the world versus the owners of your corner convenient store. Whereas Dorsey's Twitter has grown to 600-plus employees since it was created in 2006, the corner store will likely stay the same size at least for many years.

We've seen this with tech-start-ups, which naturally start out small and are the few firms doing much hiring today. As my colleague Dan Primack pointed out earlier this year, a survey of executives of early-stage companies in the software, hardware, life sciences and cleantech sectors show that startup hiring is on the rise this year. According to Silicon Valley Bank, two-thirds of respondents said that overall business conditions have improved during the past year, and three-quarters expect things to get even better in the next 12 months.

And so Washington politicos and policymakers – many eager to lend small firms a helping hand – may want to look deeper at the array of businesses out there. After all, just because they start off small doesn't mean they're created equal. And so they probably shouldn't be treated as such