By David Schmidt
Published: FCC Express, March 8, 2013

British Columbia farmers markets generated over $114 million in sales last year, says Dr. David Connell of the University of Northern British Columbia.

Add a standard multiplier and that represents over $170 million in economic benefits to the province, he told the annual meeting of the B.C. Association of Farmers Markets.

To obtain his numbers, Connell assessed responses from 9,800 respondents to a flip chart survey at 33 provincial farmers markets — as well as results of almost 300 one-on-one interviews.

His survey included everything from large urban markets with several thousand visitors an hour to tiny rural markets which attracted less than 100 people an hour.

This is Connell’s third study on the economic impacts of farmers markets. His initial study in 2006 focused on B.C. markets, and a national study followed in 2009. Twenty markets participated in both the 2006 and 2012 studies.

“There has been a significant growth since 2006,” he states.

Total sales increased almost 150 per cent from 2006, while the number of markets increased from 98 in 2006 to 159 in 2012. The average spent by each shopper increased 23 per cent from $23.41 in 2006 to $28.81 in 2012.

“That’s well above the rate of inflation over those years,” Connell says.

Consumers listed nutritional content as the No. 1 reason they shop at farmers markets, a theme that has been consistent across all three surveys. However, “grown in BC” (in the specific province in the national survey) and “locally grown” have steadily gained in importance, now ranking second and fourth on the list.

Being certified organic is not a major factor.

“This was consistent across all three surveys,” Connell says, adding that the results did not surprise him.

“Relationships (with the vendors) are most important for the farmers market customers, so whether they are certified organic is not critical.”

For the first time, farmers markets overtook large supermarkets as the respondents’ most frequent shopping source.

The BCAFM welcomed the survey results, saying it shows farmers markets are “the backbone of the local food revolution in B.C.”

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