Farmers’ markets have $10 million economic impact: study

Think those $5 and $10 bills exchanged for garden produce and other homegrown food at farmers’ markets don’t amount to much money made by anyone?

Think again. Taking total economic impact into account, the value of farmers’ market activity to Manitoba’s economy exceeds $10 million annually, according to interim findings of a new study released this fall.

An economic impact study done for the Farmers’ Market Association of Manitoba (FMAM) estimates annual sales among 405 vendors across the province tally up to $2.28 million a year.

That’s based on estimated average earnings of $5,629 per vendor each year among 405 FMAM members, according to data gathered by Dungannon Consulting Service, which FMAM hired to do the economic impact study.

The sales then create about $1.14 million in consumer spending at local businesses.

Ten million dollars is a “conservative estimate,” based on each dollar generated circulating three times in a local economy, said Blair Hamilton with Dungannon Consulting, while releasing preliminary findings of the study at the FMAM annual general meeting this month.

The numbers surprise even FMAM members, who know how busy it gets serving the crowds lining up every summer to buy fresh produce, breads, meats and handicrafts.

“When you think of what you do in your own little market, and that it adds up to a $10 million impact in the province… that’s pretty amazing,” said FMAM president Dave Koslowsky, after hearing Hamilton’s presentation.

Pat Herman, an FMAM board member, noted that number can potentially be much higher. These figures are based only on FMAM market vendors, she noted. “That’s less than half of the markets in Manitoba,” said Herman.

Some were additionally surprised to learn what sort of cash vendors are bringing in too. Hamilton said while $5,600 a year may not seem like much, it is.

“Just because it’s supplemental income, that is no reason to undervalue it,” he said.

Supplemental income is critically important in rural areas where job opportunities can often be sorely lacking. “This is quality-of-life income supplement,” he said. “We know that a lot of rural people put together their livelihoods from a variety of sources. They’re assembling a livelihood to be able to live where they want to live, and how they want to live, in rural Manitoba.”

Market traffic

Among the study’s other findings:

fifty-seven per cent of visitors to farmers’ markets said they come six or more times per year to their market;

consumers typically spend anywhere from $21 to $40 per visit; and

the top three factors influencing their purchase decisions include freshness, local origin and price.

The study also revealed data showing 61 per cent of vendors attended their market at least 10 times per year, and that the average number of weeks vendors could supply product was a couple of times a week for at least 26 weeks a year.

A more detailed report on farmers’ marketing impact in Manitoba will be released during the Direct Farm Marketing conference in February 2009 in Brandon.

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About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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