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Use Case Observations from Grinnell Farmers' Market

From my visit to the Grinnell farmers' market on August 11, 2006, I designed both a template for interactions between vendors and customers, and a set of use cases depicting these interactions.

In all interactions between vendors and buyers, there are two constants: the customer walking over to the stand, and the customer leaving the stand. After these obvious aspects of the interaction, there are three variables in any vendor-customer interaction: amount of time spent speaking with the vendor, amount of time spent examining the goods on offer, and the amount of goods ultimately bought by the customer. A fourth variable would be the topics discussed by the vendor and customer (where the goods were grown/made, how much they cost, etc.); unfortunately, my position as an observer did not allow me to watch the interactions closely enough to observe interactions in such detail.

Given this template for buyer-seller interactions, all use case observations differ in only the extent to which each of the three variables is present (I designed the list of constants and variables in buyer-seller interactions following my use case observations, not prior to them. I noticed in my observations that all interactions differed in only these three areas, which induced me to create a list of possible variables). Interactions also differ in the characteristics of the customer and the goods sold at the particular stand.

Some of the more common interactions I observed included: (Though each of these interactions were observed more than once, a common gender/age (ages are my estimates) of the customer is included, along with a typical vendor station where the interaction was observed)

Note: Along with every use case description, I have attached a diagram, located at the end of this document. Description titles correspond with diagram titles (for example, Use Case Observation 1 is depicted graphically in the attached .GIF document with the same name).

Use Case Observation 1: 45 year old female customer glances at goods while passing by produce stand.

(On a scale of 1-10)

Time spent speaking with vendor: 0
Time spent examining goods on offer: 0
Amount of goods bought: 0

Use Case Observation 2: 40 year old male customer talks extensively with vendor at produce stand, then buys a good.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 10
Time spent examining goods on offer: 10
Amount of goods bought: 5 (only one good was bought, but on a scale of 1-10 in the goings-on in the market, this falls in the middle).

Use Case Observation 3: 30 female customer asks question of vendor at crafts station, then leaves.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 2
Time spent examining goods on offer: 2
Amount of goods bought: 0

Use Case Observation 4: 20 female customer buys a good at kettle corn station, without asking any questions.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 0
Time spent examining goods on offer: 1
Amount of goods bought: 5

Use Case Observation 5: 60 female and 60 male customer speak with produce station vendor for a while, while examining goods, then buy a good.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 8
Time spent examining goods on offer: 10
Amount of goods bought: 5

Use Case Observation 6: 50 female customer examines goods at produce station, then buys something.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 0
Time spent examining goods on offer: 8
Amount of goods bought: 5

Use Case Observation 7: 40 female customer examines goods at baked goods station, then leaves.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 0
Time spent examining goods on offer: 5
Amount of goods bought: 0

Use Case Observation 8: 55 male customer speaks with vendor at produce station extensively, then leaves.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 10
Time spent examining goods on offer: 2
Amount of goods bought: 0

Use Case Observation 9: 20 male customer asks a question of vendor at produce station, then buys good.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 2
Time spent examining goods on offer: 2
Amount of goods bought: 5

Use Case Observation 10: 45 female customer asks several questions of vendor at produce station while examining goods, then buys a few different goods.

Time spent speaking with vendor: 8
Time spent examining goods on offer: 10
Amount of goods bought: 10

Buyer and Seller Interaction at Farmers' Markets

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I have been trying to figure out the Metamodel presented by Jim yesterday on this website. I have tried to work through a simple model of an interaction between a buyer and seller at a farmers' market; it is shown below in the attached document. I am certain that this is not precisely how the interaction would be represented in our ABM program; any thoughts on how it should be altered? I want to make sure I have a simple interaction down before I move on to modeling larger environments, such as the entire farmers' market.

A couple more quotes from "Field that Dream"

As an additional to my earlier post about Jenny Kurzweil's "Fields That Dream," here are some facts about local foods and farmers' markets from her book:

  • In a recent survey, 19,000 farmers reported selling their produce only at farmers' markets.
  • Shoppers spent $584.6 billion for food produced in the United States in 1998, with farmers earning only a 20 percent share of the food dollar.

And a quote from the epilogue of "Fields that Dream:"

We, the consumers, are essential in supporting [local] farmers and markets. We can truly be part of the movement that supports sustainable and locally grown food. In a world where we often feel helpless and overwhelmed, remember that ultimately, we hold the power, for in a market economy it is the consumers who have the final say. As the Chef's Collaborative from Boston proclaims, "Vote with your fork for a sustainable future."

Keywords: 

"Fields That Dream: A Journey to the Roots of Our Food"

Fields That Dream: A Journey to the Roots of Our FoodFields That Dream: A Journey to the Roots of Our FoodI have spent some time over the last couple days reading Jenny Kurzweil's Fields That Dream: A Journey to the Roots of Our Food. Kurzweil describes the state of state of American agriculture through the lives of a number of small-scale farmers.

In addition to being well-written, Kurzweil's portrayal of the lives of these farmers is striking. From a Mexican family who immigrated to the States to make enough money to survive, to a chef who left his home and job to pursue life on a farm, to a couple who cannot leave their house for more than two hours at a time for fear of leaving their animals without care, each farmer has a story to tell.

A few passages from the book stand out to me in terms of the relevance to the Local Food Economy Game project and/or Sohodojo itself. These passages, along with the reasons why they are of particular interest to me, are below.

When I buy food at the farmers' market, I know that it has not been shipped back and forth across the country. It has not been grown by multinational corporations, but by families. Most importantly, when I buy food at the farmers' market, I meet the grower. I have a connection, an interaction, and a place to express my gratitude. [pp. 6-7]

"Fields That Dream" Author Jenny Kurzweil"Fields That Dream" Author Jenny KurzweilI selected this passage for two reasons. First, when I interviewed buyers and sellers at both the Grinnell and Fairfield farmers' markets, this was the most common response I received to my questions about what they like most about farmers' markets. Both vendors and customers appreciate not only the social aspect of the market, but also the trust and connection that is formed upon meeting the person whose food you will be eating. I am sure that regardless of where in the country I asked this question, I would receive similar responses. The people are as essential a part of the market as the food – though the two are intertwined.

Secondly, this aspect of the farmers' market is another example of what Sohodojo refers to as shopping as something other than "good acquisition." Farmers' markets are so much about the people involved that one does not attend the market only to bring food to cook with the next day. They go to farmers' markets also because of the opportunity to form relationships and to support something they believe in.

That's our bread and butter, the farmers' market. And they're fun too. [p. 12]

I highlighted the passage for similar reasons to the one above. This is exactly the impression I formed when researching farmers' markets. Though, for many customers and observers, the markets may seem a fun place to spend time, farmers depend on them for their livelihood – though they also enjoy being there. A woman at the Grinnell market told me that "most people's sales are over after the farmers' market season." Vendors at the markets I visited appreciated the markets for not only the profits that they earned, but also the connections that they made.

I have eaten peaches from the market that could stop traffic, and, as Gretchen points out, these are the kinds of experiences that make people happy and willing to stand in line to get fresh, tasty produce. Perhaps we are getting sick of our thirty-three new packaged foods a day and the disinfected, anonymous aisles of a supermarket. Going to a farmers' market is worlds away from ordering your groceries online, and people seem hungry for an authentic experience. A farmers' market is a way to get back to basics without romanticizing the past. [p. 33]

This is why food shopping over the internet will never be popular. Shopping for groceries is an experience, and this is why farmers' markets exist. Again, this lends weight to the idea of "experiential shopping."

I walked away from the protests with eyes opened. Since then I have been trying to trace back to the origins of what I consume, attempting to be aware of my own part in fueling the fire of globalization. It is an overwhelming process, and I feel entirely confused. I have been trying to figure out how I can protest something when I am part of the problem. [pp. 70-71]

I do drink coffee. But I try to drink fair trade coffee that is grown in the shade in the northern latitudes of Mexico. The bottom line is I am just trying to figure out how I consume. -- A farmer interviewed by Kurzweil

When I read these passages, I thought of Sohodojo's idea of an "alternate" e-bay, where people would consume not based on price exclusively, but would be able to see where and under what conditions a product was made. Kurzweil undergoes a transformation and begins to trace back to the roots of her consumption; if this information was readily available when we shop, wouldn't things be different? There are many people out there who are aware that they are "part of the problem" by consuming environmentally and socially unfriendly foods, but it is, in general, too difficult to do the research into where every piece of food you buy comes from. If this information was present on every good that we buy, I believe that our consumption habits would change considerably.

And if we aren't aware that we are being "part of the problem" when we buy "globalized foods:"

He is trying to make us understand that how and what we consume can be felt by small famers, factory workers, and governments around the world. [p. 75]

Similarities and Differences Between the Grinnell and Fairfield Farmers' Markets

A statistical analysis of the data I collected from the Grinnell and Fairfield Farmers' Markets. See my more detailed write-ups of the two markets ("A profile of the Grinnell Farmers' Market" and "A profile of the Fairfield Farmers' Market) in earlier blogs for more information.

The Vendors

Total number of stations:

  • Grinnell: 27
  • Fairfield: 23

Total number of vendors:

  • Grinnell: 34
  • Fairfield: 37

Gender of Vendors:

  • Grinnell: 41% male, 59% female
  • Fairfield: 35% male, 65% female

Distribution of Goods:

See Chart1 in "Statistical Comparison of Farmers' Markets" (attached)

Miles Traveled to Reach Market:

See Chart2 in "Statistical Comparison of Farmers' Markets" (attached)

  • Grinnell average: 22.41 miles
  • Fairfield average: 13.91 miles

Frequency of Attendance:

See Chart3 in "Statistical Comparison of Farmers' Markets" (attached)

Percentage of Vendors who Sell at other Farmers' Markets:

  • Grinnell: 43%
  • Fairfield: 35%

Percentage of Vendors who Sell at Places other than Farmers' Markets:

  • Grinnell: 48%
  • Fairfield: 65%

Estimated Ages of Vendors:

See Chart4 in "Statistical Comparison of Farmers' Markets" (attached)

The Customers

Estimated Ages of Customers:

See Chart5 in "Statistical Comparison of Farmers' Markets" (attached)

Miles Traveled to Reach Market:

See Chart6 in "Statistical Comparison of Farmers' Markets" (attached)

Frequency of Attendance:

See Chart7 in "Statistical Comparison of Farmers' Markets" (attached)

A Profile of the Fairfield Farmers' Market

The Fairfield Farmers' Market is held every Wednesday from 3:30 PM to 7:00 PM, and every Saturday, from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM. The market season starts on the first Saturday of May and end on the last Saturday of October. Like the Grinnell market, most vendors at the Fairfield market sell produce and baked goods, with a few selling homemade crafts, flowers, jams, etc. Unlike the Grinnell market, foods to eat on site (Crepes, egg rolls, wraps) are an important part of Fairfield's market. This is part of a crucial difference between the two markets: the Fairfield market is a social place. Whereas at the Grinnell market, buyers immediately leave after finding what they want, shoppers at the Fairfield market tend to stick around. Many shoppers buy lunch at the market, and sit down to eat it while chatting with fellow buyers. Many children play on the playground next to the market while the parents shop and socialize. Shopping at the Fairfield farmers' market can be seen as much more of an entire "experience" than shopping at Grinnell's market.

All market observations are from Saturday, July 22. The Saturday session of the Fairfield market is much bigger than its Wednesday counterpart. According to most people attending the market, the session that I visited was smaller than normal, as the time I visited is "prime vacation time."

The Vendors

There were a total of 23 stations at the market. Vendors from each of these stations were willing to answer my questions, so each vendor is represented in my analysis.

12 of the 23 stations were operated by one vendor, eight by two vendors, and the remaining three by three vendors. 24 of these 37 vendors were women, while 13 were men. A graph of my age estimates for each of these vendors is located in Chart 5 of the attached Microsoft Excel document "Farmers Market Vendors." The vast majority of vendors were, from my estimations, within the 31-50 age group.

Goods sold by the vendors at the market are divided into five major categories: produce, crafts, baked goods, flowers/plants, and "other." Common instances of items from each of these categories include:

Produce: cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, corn, peppers, beans, zucchini, potatoes, squash, onions
Baked goods: breaks, pies, pastries
Flowers/plants: Self-explanatory
Other: jams, prepared wraps, cheeses

The number of vendors selling from each of these good categories is shown in Chart6 of "Farmers' Market Vendors." Produce was the most popular category, with 13 vendors selling produce items. 17 vendors sold from only one good category, while five sold from two, and one from three.

Vendors came from as far as 40 miles away to sell at the market, and from as close as one mile. On average, vendors traveled 13.91 miles to reach the Fairfield market. Most vendors traveled between 10 and 19 miles to reach the market. A graph of the miles traveled by each vendor is located in Chart4 of "Farmers' Market Vendors." By examining the license plates around the market while the market was in session, I judged that about 85% of vendors were from Jefferson County, with a few coming from Van Buren, Wapello, Davis, Lee, and Keokuk Counties.

Five of the 23 vendors sell at the Fairfield market twice a week, 15 sell once a week, one sells every two weeks, one sells once a month, and a final vendor sells only once a year. The prominence of sellers who sell only weekly can be explained by the low numbers of people who shop at the Wednesday market. "It's just not worth it to set up on Wednesdays," explained one vendor. Eight vendors regularly sell at other farmers' markets, while 15 sell only at Fairfield's market. Those who sell at other markets go to a variety of places: three sell in Ottumwa, two each in Mount Pleasant and Iowa City, and one each in Kansas City, Burlington, Richland and Washington. Of the eight vendors who sell at other markets, six said their profits are about equal in each market they sell at, while one said Fairfield's was the better source of profits (this vendor sells in Fairfield and Ottumwa), and another said they were less successful at the Fairfield market (this vendor sells in both Washington and Iowa City (in addition to Fairfield), regularly). 15 vendors regularly sell their goods at places other than farmers' markets, while eight sell only at farmer' markets. Of those who sell at other locations, seven sell out of their house or truck, two sell to restaurants, two sell to grocery stores, one to CSA (community supported agriculture), one to an art gallery, one to a produce auction, and one sells for school fundraisers. All but four vendors said they have a loyal set of customers who buy from them regularly.

When asked what they like or dislike in particular about selling at farmers' markets, positive responses included: the opportunity to display their wares, the opportunity to see and talk to a lot of people (popular), and being outside. Vendors disliked the weather, and the guessing game they have to play when deciding how much of their products to bring to the market – you never know if you will be able to sell everything.

The Customers

Customers at the Fairfield market were generally in the 31-50 age group. My estimations of customers' ages are shown in Chart5 in the attached Excel file "Farmers Market Customers." Customers seemed to direct the attention evenly between all stations at the market, though prepared foods seemed to be slightly more popular and arts/crafts slightly less popular than other goods. Customers also seemed to know certain vendors well, which helps to explain disparities in vendor popularity. The market started off slowly, with few customers in attendance, but activity picked up as the morning progressed. Though I was only able to observe the market from about 9:00-11:00 AM, I would say that activity peaked around 10-11:00. At its peak period, there were about 50 customers at the market; at its lowest point, there were about 20 customers around. On average, I estimated there to be about 35 customers in attendance at any given point throughout the morning.

Throughout the morning, I asked a random sample of customers to answer a few survey questions for me. Two of the 15 people I asked refused the survey, so my sample size is 13 customers. These customers traveled between a few blocks and 5 miles to reach the market. A chart of the miles traveled to reach the market for each of these customers is shown in Chart6 of "Farmers Market Customers." Most customers surveyed attend the Fairfield market weekly; a graph of customer responses to this question is shown in Chart7 of "Farmers Market Customers."

Customers most valued the fresh, organic, local food that is available at the market. All responses to this question are shown in Chart8 of "Farmers Market Customers."

Farmers' Market Staff

The Fairfield farmers' market is staffed by a single market master, whose responsibility it is to coordinate the daily market activities. This person is selected by the vendor advisory committee for the farmers' market. It is the responsibility of the market master to make sure that only locally grown produce and locally made handicrafts are sold at the market. Meat, dairy products, and all prepared foods cannot be sold without a license is obtained.

A Profile of the Grinnell Farmers' Market

The Grinnell Farmers' Market runs every Thursday, May 27 to October 14, 3-6 PM, and every Saturday, June 5 to October 9, 8:30-10:30 AM. A wide variety of goods are sold at the Grinnell Farmers' Market, including many different types of produce, baked goods, homemade crafts, berries, and even kettle corn. The Grinnell Market attracts buyers and sellers from many miles away; according to one vendor, Grinnell Market presents the best opportunity for sales in the area. Grinnell's Farmers' Market constitutes a large portion of the local food economy. Many vendors are dependent on their farmers' market sales; according to another vendor, "most people's sales are over after the farmers' market season."

There are no market events or activities connected with the market. There is a playground near the market, where children played while their parents shopped.

All market observations are from Thursday, July 20, 2006. This appeared to be a normal session for the Grinnell Market (an observation which was confirmed through discussions with vendors), though it was quite hot outside.

The Vendors

There were 27 stations at the market. Vendors from all but four of these were willing to respond to the six questions that I asked of them; a total of 23 stations are therefore profiled here (while I could've partially profiled those vendors that were unwilling to answer my questions, I chose to leave out those vendors for which I had any information missing).

Each of the stations was set up at opening time (3:00 PM). All but two stayed through to the closing time (6:00) or close to it. The two who left significantly earlier departed at approximately 5:30.

13 of the 23 profiled stations were operated by one vendor, nine were operated by two vendors, and one was operated by three. Of the 34 total vendors, 14 were male and 20 female. Though I decided it would be inappropriate to personally ask the age of each of the vendors, I approximated their ages myself; my guesses are located in Chart1 in the attached Microsoft Excel file entitled "Farmers' Market Vendors." From my estimations, most vendors were between the ages of 31 and 50.

I have divided the goods sold at the market into five major item categories: Baked goods, crafts, flowers/plants, produce, and "other." Common instances of items from each of these categories are below. 10 of the 23 vendors sold from more than one of the above major item categories. The number of stations that sold items from each of these groups is shown in Chart2 in "Farmers' Market Vendors." Produce were the most widely sold goods at the Market.

Baked goods: Cookies, pies, pastries, breads
Crafts: Quilts, paintings
Flowers/plants: Self-explanatory
Produce: Apples, berries, corn, potatoes, onions, beans, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, squash, melons
Other: Includes one instance each of honey, apple cider, jams, bagged snacks, and kettle corn

Vendors came from as close as 1.5 miles and a far as 45 miles. On average, vendors traveled 22.41 miles to sell at the market. Vendors from 19 of the 23 stations traveled between 11 and 38 miles to reach Grinnell. A graph of the miles traveled by each vendor is located in Chart3 in "Farmers' Market Vendors." By examining the license plates around the market before most customers had arrived, I guessed that approximately that about 80% of vendors are from Poweshiek County, 15-20% from Jasper County, and a few from Marshall County.

Nine of the 23 vendors come to the Grinnell Market both days the market is in session; 13 come one of the two days, and one vendor comes every two to three weeks. Of the 23 vendors, 10 regularly sell at other farmers' markets, while 13 do not. Of those who sell at other markets, eight sell in Marshalltown, two in Des Moines, and one each in Conrad, State Center, Toledo, and Union. For those vendors who sell at other markets in addition to Grinnell's, all who commented on their profits (five out of these 11 vendors declined to answer the question) said that Grinnell was the most profitable market they sold at. 11 vendors sell their goods at places other than farmers' markets; the remaining 12 only sell at such markets. Of those who sell at other venues, three sell to institutions (restaurants, Grinnell College Dining Services), eight sell from a house, vehicle, or stand on the road, and one sells at community events (festivals, etc.). All but one of the 23 vendors said that they have a set of loyal customers who regularly buy from them.

Though most vendors declined to say what, if anything, they like or dislike about selling at farmers' markets, a selection of responses include "there are a lot of customers," "you get to meet people, and get to know your customers" (popular), "the money," and "the chance to extend the product line." Only two vendors mentioned anything they disliked about the market: the unpredictable weather, and the parking.

There is a group of six sellers who regularly sell at the Marshalltown Market who come to Grinnell to sell. As the Marshalltown Market has a system in place in which credit cards and food stamps are accepted by vendors, these six vendors bring these their equipment with them and are therefore able to accept such payment.

The Customers

Customers began to arrive at the market about fifteen minutes before the 3:00 opening time. When the market opened at 3:00, there were 10-15 customers who had already began to browse the selection of goods and talk to vendors. These early customers appeared to be split between the 30-50 and 51-65 age groups. All of these early arrivers were women.

Activity at the market peaked between 3:15 and 3:45. According to one vendor, "customers have to come early or they won't be able to buy the freshest, or any, goods." There were about 60 people at the market during its peak period. The number of customers at the market ranged from about 20 (towards the end) to 70 (at about 3:15). On average, there were about 35-40 people shopping at any given time.

Produce stations were the most popular at the market session I attended. Stations selling crafts, as well as those stations without a variety of goods (for example, the one selling honey and apple cider, and the one selling berries) were relatively unpopular. Some customers were friendly with particular vendors – those vendors who were more friendly tended to have more customers around their stations. The location of each station was another factor in the popularity of that station. Some stations were farther away from the main areas of the market, and as a result were less well attended. Those vendors who were away from the main areas of the market were also relative newcomers to the market; this also may have affected their popularity. The typical customer left carrying two bags of goods bought at the market (from this I infer that such customers had bought from two different vendors).

After taking a mental survey of the customers at the market at three different times through the course of the market, I estimated the percentages of customers who were in each age group. My estimates are located in Chart1 of the attached Microsoft Excel document "Farmers' Market Customers."
(Note: Most of those customers in the 18-30 age group I recognized as Grinnell College students).

At approximately the midpoint of the market (4:30), I conducted a short survey using a random sample of customers as participants. I asked 20 customers to take the survey; seven refused, so I have a random selection of 13 customers as my sample. These customers came from as far as 25 miles away and as close as one block away to attend the market. A graph showing the complete responses to this question is shown in Chart2 in "Farmers' Market Customers." Most customers surveyed said that they attend the market weekly, the remaining few said they either come once or twice a month (see Chart3 in "Farmers' Market Customers."

The final question asked of these surveyed customers was "what do you like most about shopping at farmers' markets?" Answers to this question varied, with the only consistent answer being the availability of fresh produce. See Chart4 in "Farmers' Market Customers" for complete responses.

Advertising the Market

In Town

There are a few posters in store windows in town. After looking in the windows in just about every store downtown, I saw posters in three different stores advertising the farmers market in their windows. In addition, I saw similar posters on the indoor walls of two stores. These posters are fairly small (about 8.5x20 in.), colorful, and simply say "Shop at Your Local Farmers' Market," with the dates and times of the market below.

At the College

After walking through the entire campus, I saw only two signs advertising the farmers' market. One was located in the library, the other in a kiosk in central campus. These signs are similar to those in town. They are a bit smaller, and simply grab the attention with "The Grinnell Farmers' Market" in bold letters, then the dates and times of the market below. These signs may well be more plentiful on campus during the academic year; at this time, however, they are sparsely located.

There is also blurb about the farmers' market on the Grinnell College webpage, in the "Things to Check out in Town" section (http://www.grinnell.edu/offices/communityenhance/eventscalendar/).

Around the Market

There are seven light posts located around the block in which the market takes place. Each of these posts has two very large banners attached to it. They both have "Farmers' Market" written on them in big letters; one says "Thursdays" under it, the other "Saturdays" (the market is in session on Thursdays and Saturdays). With their size, color, and location atop huge light posts, these banners are unmissable when walking or driving around the area. When the market is in session, these banners make it obvious where exactly the market is located. When the market is not in session, the fact that these banners are clustered together in one area makes it clear that the market will be there in the future.

Local Newspapers

There is a small advertisement for the farmers' market in the local paper (The Grinnell Herald-Register). The ad simply mentions the location, and dates and times of the market. There is a similar advertisement in the town's Pennysaver.

During the academic year, the farmers' market is advertised with a small note in the college newspaper, the Scarlet and Black (the paper does not come out during the summer).

The Farmers' Market Staff

The Grinnell Farmers' Market is sponsored by the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce. The market is staffed by one person each time it is in session (it is staffed by different people on Thursdays and Saturdays, so there are a total of two different people who staff it throughout the season). These people are volunteers who have chosen to provide assistance at the market. Sometimes these staffers are vendors or farmers; other times they are other people from the community.

The duties of the staff at the market last only while the market is in session. It is his/her duty to make sure that the transactions at the market go smoothly (no fights, etc.). It is also the responsibility of this person to make sure that all goods sold at the market are allowed to be sold there. All produce must be Iowa-grown, and all crafts must be homemade. Nothing that can spoil is allowed to be sold at the market, as it is difficult to make sure that such goods haven't already gone bad. This effectively means that no cooked goods can be sold at the market, with the exception of baked goods; additionally, one man has been given special permission to sell kettle corn.

Comparing my findings from Grinnell's Market to research about Iowa Farmers' Markets

In this section, I will compare my findings to findings from previous research into Iowa Farmers' Markets. In particular, I will use two studies conducted by researchers from Iowa State University. The first of these studies, conducted by Clare Hinrichs from Iowa State University's Department of Sociology, relates to Farmers' Market vendors. Data is obtained from a 1999 mail survey sent to vendors from 24 Iowa Farmers' Markets. Findings are based on 223 completed and returned surveys. Findings from this study are published in a paper entitled "The Experiences and Views of Iowa Farmers' Market Vendors: Summary of Research Findings;" this paper is available online at http://www.soc.iastate.edu/extension/publications/frmrs_mkt_report_C1.pdf.

The second of these studies was conducted by Dr. Daniel Otto and Theresa Varner, of Iowa State University. Demographic and market participation information in the study was collected from a sample of over 4500 consumers and over 780 vendors during the 2004 season. Surveys were conducted by the Iowa Agricultural Statistics Service; the consumers and vendors from a large sample of markets taken from a list of all Iowa markets were selected to take the surveys. This findings of Otto and Varner's study are published in a paper entitled "Consumers, Vendors, and the Economic Importance of Iowa Farmers' Markets: An Economic Impact Survey Analysis; this paper is available online at http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/research/marketing_files/markets_rfswg.pdf.

Hinrichs' study reports that farmers' market vendors attended an average of 2.3 markets per week during the peak season. Results from my study indicate that the average Grinnell vendor attends an average of just under two markets per week. Otto and Varner repoted that Iowa vendors planned to attend an average of two different markets during the season. I found that number to be about 1.7.

According to Hinrichs' study, vendors travel an average of 18 miles to reach each market. The average from my study was a similar 22 miles. The extremes that I found (1.5 miles as a lower limit and 45 miles the upper limit), were less extreme than those found in Hinrichs' study (less than a mile to over 100 miles). This is not surprising consider the far greater sample size that Hinrichs used in her study.

Otto and Varner's study reports that Iowa markets were open for an average of 1.4 days for an average of 21 weeks, featuring an average of 13 vendors. Grinnell's is an above average market in this regard: it is open two days a week, for exactly 21 weeks. When I observed Grinnell's market, there were over twice as many vendors (27) as the Iowa average reported in this study. Otto and Varner report that consumers travel an average of eight miles to reach a market, I found an average of slightly over five miles; this is not surprising, as Grinnell is a small (college)town.

Otto and Varner use somewhat different age groupings from those I use in assessing farmers' market customers. They find the ages of market customers to be:

21-35 years: 14%
36-50 years: 25%
51-65 years: 32%
>65 years: 28%

Compare these to the numbers I found:

18-30 years: 20%
31-50 years: 45%
51-65 years: 25%
>65 years: 8%

Otto and Varners' numbers are more precise as they used survey information, while I estimated the ages of customers. This is also, of course, in addition to the greater sample size that they have.

I found the most common age group (from my estimations) for vendors was 31-50 years old; Otto and Varner found the average to be in the 51-65 age range.

Radius of Impact for Iowa Farmers' Markets

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Radius of Impact Table13.5 KB

I have a few pieces of information from work done by Dr. Daniel Otto and Theresa Varner that relate to the question of "radius of impact" of Iowa Farmers' Markets (how far sellers and buyers travel to reach markets). I will post more information regarding this question as I find it.

  • Consumers traveled an average of eight miles to get to a market
  • The attached file entitled "Radius of Impact Table" contains a table listing the number of visits to and the miles traveled to farmers' markets, based on their size, from a sample population from Dr. Otto's survey.
  • Though I couldn't find any information on the number of miles vendors traveled to reach each market they sold at, Dr. Otto's study contained some data regarding the number of different farmers' markets vendors planned to attend during the 2004 season:
    • 1 Market: 50% of Respondents
    • 2: 24%
    • 3:12%
    • 4:6%
    • >5:8%

    One can infer from this data that, on average, the more markets a vendor attended, the farther they had to travel to reach each additional market (of course, this data says nothing about the distanceeach vendor had to travel).

The above information is from a paper entitled "Consumers, Vendors, and the Economic Importance of Iowa Farmers' Markets: An Economic Impact Survey Analysis," by Dr. Daniel Otto, Department of Economics, Iowa State University, and Theresa Varner, Graduate Student, Iowa State University.

Demographic and market participation information in the study was collected from a sample of over 4500 consumers and over 780 vendors during the 2004 season. Surveys were conducted by the Iowa Agricultural Statistics Service; the consumers and vendors from a large sample of markets taken from a list of all Iowa markets were selected to take the surveys.

The findings of this study are available in Otto and Varner's paper, located at http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/research/marketing_files/markets_rfswg.pdf

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The nine counties surrounding Grinnell and Fairfield

There are nine Iowa counties of interest in this project. These include the four counties surrounding the town of Grinnell (Marshall, Tama, Jasper, and Poweshiek), and the five in the vicinity of Fairfield (Wapello, Jefferson, Davis, Van Buren, and Henry).

A map of the state of Iowa with the two regions outlined is shown in the attached file entitled "Outline of Two Regions."

Grinnell Region
Total Farmers' Markets: 7
Total Number of Residents: 113,442
Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 6.17

Marshall County:

  • Population: 39,311
  • Area (square miles): 572.316467
  • Median household income (U.S. Census 2003 estimate, in dollars): 39,887
  • Number of Farmers' Markets: 3
  • Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 7.63
  • Farmers' Market Map (A green circle next to a city's name indicate the presence of a Farmers' Market in that city): See attached file "Marshall County Map"
  • Farmers' Market: Marshalltown
    • Hours in session per week: 5
  • Farmers' Market: Marshalltown
    • Hours in session per week: 6
  • Farmers' Market: State Center
    • Hours in session per week: 3
  • Tama County:

    • Population: 18,103
    • Area (square miles): 721.297920
    • Median household income (U.S. Census 2003 estimate, in dollars): 38,939
    • Number of Farmers' Markets: 2
    • Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 11.05
    • Farmers' Market Map: See attached file "Tama County Map"
    • Farmers' Market: Toledo
      • Hours in session per week: 2
  • Farmers' Market: Traer
    • Hours in session per week: 2
  • Jasper County:

    • Population: 37,213
    • Area (square miles): 729.988413
    • Median household income (U.S. Census 2003 estimate, in dollars): 44,698
    • Number of Farmers' Markets: 1
    • Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 2.69
    • Farmers' Market Map: See attached file "Jasper County Map"
    • Farmers' Market: Newton
      • Hours in session per week: 3

    Poweshiek County:

    • Population: 18,815
    • Area (square miles): 585.034711
    • Median household income (U.S. Census 2003 estimate, in dollars): 39,884
    • Number of Farmers' Markets: 1
    • Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 5.31
    • Farmers' Market Map: See attached file "Poweshiek County Map"
    • Farmers' Market: Grinnell
      • Hours in session per week: 5

    --

    Fairfield Region
    Total Farmers' Markets: 6
    Total Number of Residents: 88,918
    Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 5.62

    Wapello County:

    • Population: 36,051
    • Area (square miles): 431.808628
    • Median household income (U.S. Census 2003 estimate, in dollars): 34,448
    • Number of Farmers' Markets: 1
    • Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 2.77
    • Farmers' Market Map: See attached file "Wapello County Map"
    • Farmers' Market: Ottumwa
      • Hours in session per week: 6

    Jefferson County:

    • Population: 16,181
    • Area (square miles): 435.340811
    • Median household income (U.S. Census 2003 estimate, in dollars): 33,726
    • Number of Farmers' Markets: 1
    • Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 6.18
    • Farmers' Market Map: See attached file "Jefferson County Map"
    • Farmers' Market: Fairfield
      • Hours in session per week: 9

    Davis County:

    • Population: 8,541
    • Area (square miles): 503.239640
    • Median household income (U.S. Census 2003 estimate, in dollars): 33,954
    • Number of Farmers' Markets: 1
    • Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 11.71
    • Farmers' Market Map: See attached file "Davis County Map"
    • Farmers' Market: Bloomfield
      • Hours in session per week: 3

    Van Buren County:

    • Population: 7,809
    • Area (square miles): 484.818445
    • Median household income (U.S. Census 2003 estimate, in dollars): 32,088
    • Number of Farmers' Markets: 2
    • Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 12.81
    • Farmers' Market Map: See attached file "Van Buren County Map"
    • Farmers' Market: Keosauqua
      • Hours in session per week: 4
  • Farmers' Market: Bonaparte
    • Hours in session per week: 3
  • Henry County:

    • Population: 20,336
    • Area (square miles): 434.437309
    • Median household income (U.S. Census 2003 estimate, in dollars): 39,899
    • Number of Farmers' Markets: 1
    • Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 4.92
    • Farmers' Market Map: See attached file "Henry County Map"
    • Farmers' Market: Mount Pleasant
      • Hours in session per week: 4.5

    --

    Iowa Farmers' Market directory information from http://www.agriculture.state.ia.us/farmermarket.asp

    Iowa county maps from http://www.iowa.org

    Iowa county population and income data from http://www.census.gov
    Iowa county area data from http://county-map.digital-topo-maps.com/iowa.shtml

    Notes from a study of Iowa Farmers Markets

    The following are some interesting pieces of information from an article entitled "Consumers, Vendors, and the Economic Importance of Iowa Farmers' Markets: An Economic Survey Analysis," by Dr. Daniel Otto and Theresa Varner, Iowa State University (March 2005). All figures are from a 2004 survey.

    • Approximately $20 million in total Iowa Farmers Market sales were estimated through consumer reporting, while a more conservative estimate of $9.8 million originated with vendor reports.
    • An estimated $31.5 million of gross sales and $12.2 million of personal income effects were directly or indirectly related to farmers' market activity.
    • Approximately 55,000 consumers and 1600 vendors gathered for at least one weekly market session.
    • The typical market consumer was 51-65 years of age, buying mostly fruits, vegetables, and baked goods. The average consumer made approximately 13 market visits per season.
    • The average vendor was also 51-65 years of age, and received the most revenue from produce and baked goods.
    • Evidence suggests that market participation might be increased through the targeting of urban consumers and participants approaching retirement age, as well as the development of new strategies to attract younger consumers and those who have little experience with farmers' markets.
    • In the state of Iowa, the number of farmers' markets has increased more than 60 percent over the past ten years. Iowa has the greatest number of markets per capita in the country.
    • Iowa markets were open for an average of 1.4 days for an average of 21 weeks, and featured an average of 13 vendors. Twelve new markets emerged in 2004, while over half of established markets were over 10 years old. Nearly 55,000 Iowans attended at least one weekly session of a market. Approximately 135,000 consumers attended a market at least once during the season.
    • Consumers reported spending an average of $11-20 per market visit
    • On average, vendors planned to attend two different markets per season. Average per vendor sales in 2004 were $2,501-5,000, while average costs were $1,001-2,500.

    The article is available at http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/research/marketing_files/markets_rfswg.pdf

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    Information I would like to get from buyers and sellers at Farmers Markets

    Things I would like to know about sellers:

    • Why they sell at Farmers Markets
    • What they see as the main benefits of selling at Farmers Markets
    • How consistent and reliable their sales and customers are. Does the Market offer a constant source of income?

    Things I would like to know about buyers:

    • Why they shop at Farmers Markets
    • What they see as the main benefits of buying at Farmers Markets
    • What they see as the main benefits of buying locally produced foods
    • What they see as the drawbacks of locally produced food
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    My Research Into Iowa Farmer's Markets

    Having been unable to find any information on Iowa's Farmers Markets beyond a simple listing by city, date, etc., I did some data analysis of these Markets myself.

    First, using a blank map of Iowa, I created a green circle to represent each of the 174 Farmers Markets in Iowa. That map is attached to this post under the name "Farmers Market Map." These circles do not represent the sizes of the markets (information which I could not find), nor do they point to particular cities--only the counties they are in.

    Next, I found the population of each Iowa county (US census estimates for 2003 populations were the best available data). I entered these numbers into a Microsoft Excel file, along with the number of Farmers Markets in each county. I then divided the number of Farmers Markets in each county by the population of that county, and multiplied the result by 100000, to get a number that is easier to work with (for example, 12.623 instead of 0.00012623). This number--in column D in the spreadsheet 'Sheet 1'--represents the number of Farmers Markets in each Iowa county per 100,000 residents of that county. A higher number indicates a greater number of Markets per capita, while a '0' indicates that the county has no Farmers Markets. A graph of this information is available in 'Chart 1' in the same document.

    Finally, I separated Iowa into four regions--Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest; the dividing lines are shown in the attached 'Farmers Market Map.' I added up the number of Markets in each of these four regions--these numbers are shown in 'Sheet 2' in 'Iowa Farmers Markets by Region.' A pie chart reflecting the same data is shown in 'Chart 2' in the same document.

    Also of interest is some research done at Iowa State University about Farmers Markets. The findings of this study are written up in an article entitled "The Experiences and Views of Iowa Farmers' Market Vendors: Summary of Research Findings," and is located at http://www.soc.iastate.edu/extension/publications/frmrs_mkt_report_C1.pdf. This report profiles a group of randomly selected vendors from Iowa Farmers Markets, including their views on such topics as "Reasons for selling at farmers' markets," and "Benefits of selling at farmers' markets." The report also includes information about the profiled vendors including ages, income, hours worked, etc.

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    Questions for Farmer's Market Participants

    This entry will contain an evolving list of questions to be asked of buyers and sellers at Farmer's Markets. By the time I visit the Fairfield Market (July 22), I hope to have a satisfactory list--though my experiences at the Fairfield Market will surely influence the questions to be asked in the future.

    To be asked of buyers:

    • How do you value locally produced foods compared to goods produced elsewhere?
    • How important is the price of the food that you buy?
    • If local grocery stores sold locally produced food, would you buy it?

    To be asked of sellers:

    • Does the idea of selling your food to local insitutions (cafeterias and dining halls, for example) interest you?

    To be asked of both buyers and sellers:

    • What do you see as the main advantages of locally produced foods?
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