History of Farmers Markets

 

“Market,” or the Latin Mercatus

Trading, Dealing or Buying

Farmers markets have been our source of produce most of humanity’s agricultural history. “Market,” or the Latin Mercatus, means the activity of trading, dealing or buying, as well as, the location where these activities take place.

Until the 14th century the only way to purchase food was from a farmers market.

Auf dem Vogelmarkt (women offering hares and wild birds), 18th-19th century.

Auf dem Vogelmarkt (women offering hares and wild birds), 18th-19th century.

Later goods like spices and flours were sold in store fronts, and these developed to the grocery stores of today. In many places farmers markets are still the primary food source, though in America we have a unique history regarding our food distribution.

Drawing by Marguerite Martyn of Soulard Market, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1912.

Drawing by Marguerite Martyn of Soulard Market, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1912.

In early America, farmers brought seasonal fruit, vegetables and meat  to central market squares. However, as urban areas grew, agricultural areas moved further from centralized populations. Advances in the ability to preserve food and ship fresh food long distances lead many American farmers to sell to wholesale vendors. In 1946, there were only 291 farmer-to-consumer markets nationally.

Kitchener Farmer's Market. View of 1872 market (building on the right) in 1906 a year before it was rebuilt.

Kitchener Farmer's Market. View of 1872 market (building on the right) in 1906 a year before it was rebuilt.

However, farmers markets are enjoying a renaissance. Following both the push toward organic food in the 1970s and the local food movement of the 1980s, people began to call for the return of direct farm to consumer vending. In 1994 the USDA counted 1,755 markets, and this number lept to 8,268 by 2014. Currently, America has over 8,600 markets, with Colorado proudly supporting 100 markets alone. Not only are these markets reconnecting people to their food roots, they provide access to fresh food and another place for vibrant community to form.

historic farmers market

Colorado’s farmers markets are a tradition. The Pueblo farmers market was founded in 1842--over 170 years ago. Our unique geography supports strong, independent communities, and our access to water supports abundant food production. Foodshed Alliance Farmers Markets began in 2007 and are growing annually.

 

For more information about when and where our local markets take place this year…