WSU Clark County Extension

Photos of collage of small farms

Farmers Markets

Graph of operating markets
Growth in the number of Farmer’s Markets across the U.S. according to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service

All across the United States more and more farmers and communities are joining together to create Farmer’s Markets in order to bring locally raised food and farm products to the urban consumer. The United States Department of Agriculture has found that there are presently 3,706 Farmer’s markets in America, up 70% from 1,755 just 10 years ago. Farmers markets, now an integral part in the urban/farm linkage, have continued to rise in popularity, mostly due to the growing consumer interest in obtaining fresh products directly from the farm.

Locally Raised

Shoppers love to be able to meet the farmer who raised their food, which they know will be sold to them fresh and in-season. Locally raised food is often from a distance of only 2–3 hours away or less. Shoppers that express an interest in supporting agricultural land preservation are keenly aware of locally produced food. It is not uncommon for the average supermarket item to have traveled over 1,200 miles to the kitchen, and may have changed hands as many as 6 times.

Higher Returns

Photo of Vancouver Farmer's Market
The Vancouver Farmers Market is a very popular addition to downtown Vancouver. It attracts vendors from eastern Washington as well as the Willamette Valley.

For many food crops farmers may only receive a 20% margin: for every item sold at a super-market the farmer only receives on average 20% of the shopper’s dollar. When food is sold directly however, the return is 100% as the food item only changes hands once: from the farmer into the arms or hands of the shopper. Thus by charging retail prices the net return on investment, which includes both time and labor, is considerably better. In fact most shoppers realize that they are paying nearly the same price as they would be at a conventional super-market. Many customers will readily admit that the “fun factor” of buying directly from the farmer is enough for them to shun the super-market on a more frequent basis when a particular food item is in seasonally.

Vancouver Farmers Market

Photo of Vancouver Farmers Market
Customers love selecting their own locally grown fresh produce.

The Vancouver Farmers Market has become a key market for farmers and arts and crafts vendors to serve southwest Washington. Located to the west of Ester Short Commons near 8th and Ester this burgeoning market attracts shoppers from both Vancouver as well Portland. Opening the first weekend in April, and running from 9 am until 3 pm on Saturdays through October, and from 10 am until 3 on Saturdays through September, this market has been know to attract more than 8,000, to as many as 13,000 on a busy weekend. During the summer months there have been as many as 240 vendors on a Saturday, and 120 on a Sunday. The market is now also open on weekends: Saturdays 9am – 3pm and Sundays 10am – 3pm.

As for what is available at the market, typically there is ratio of 51% vendors selling agricultural products (fruits, vegetables and processed products) to 49% selling ornamentals (potted plants, cut flowers, trees and shrubs). For further information turn to the Vancouver Farmer’s Market web site. The current Market Master is Robert Ray, who can be reached at 360/ 737-8298.

Washington State Farmers Markets

Photo of Indoor Vancouver Farmers Market
The City of Vancouver is very proud of their creation of an indoor, year-round farmers market.

There are many other farmers markets all across Washington. The Washington State Farmers Market Association, based in Puyallup WA maintains a list of all the markets. This association holds an annual convention that caters to the needs of both existing as well as prospective market managers.

For a more complete listing of Farmers’ Markets in Washington and Oregon, see the FarmFinder.

Portland Farmers Markets

There are now three different farmers markets in the City of Portland that often attract shoppers from Clark county. The Saturday Market is held in the South Parks Block at Portland State University (SW Park between Harrison and Montgomery) on Saturdays from 8:30 – 2 pm. The Wednesday market is held in the South Parks blocks at Shemanski Park. The Thursday Market is held in the Ecotrust parking lot (NW 10th between Irving and Johnson). For further information on all these activities contact the Portland Farmers Market or call 503/ 241-0032.

Further Information

There exists an excellent reference book written by a local author (Vance Corum, formerly with WSU) on the whole subject of how to display wares at farmers markets, as well as how to set up and manage new operations. The book is titled: The New Farmers Market and is available from New World Publishing in Auburn California. This 260-page book currently serves the role of being the best source of practical information on the subject.


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