The Role of Food Markets in Society


The way we buy our groceries and prepare our food has evolved over time. As people started settling down and bringing produce to sell and exchange with others, markets became the central civic space for social interaction.  When cities developed, the  process became indirect involving traders as middlemen, that link grew weaker and in the era of the modern supermarket, there is virtually no human interaction at all. Even cooking is an optional activity with stores doing huge business in ready to eat meals. This piece suggests that farmers’ markets, community gardens, urban and backyard gardens would bring back that social engagement.

The idea is interesting despite some assumptions such as the identification of fresh and organic food with farmers’ markets, and conventional produce coming from industrial farms. According to the USDA,  97% of the farms in the US are family owned and organic produce is readily available in most supermarkets. While the popularity of farmers’ markets has certainly risen in recent years, recent research found that, of the different options for food sourcing, farmers’ markets were the least preferred. So while they do not fulfill all the requirements for grocery shopping, the reason for their proliferation might just be the social setting they provide.

(Image Courtesy: “Fruit on A Wooden” by start08,


One response to “The Role of Food Markets in Society

  1. The experience of choice leaves us reluctant to really give it up. I was in a very short marketing course for organic farmers in Maine that was especially oriented around the CSA model. There was literature and recipes to help educate consumers about eating in season.

    You can get everything you need at the supermarket, but depending on what you’re making you probably can’t get it all at the farmer’s market.

    I think the other angle to investigate is what time of year the survey is taken. If you’re asking me in the wintertime, I’m going to put farmer’s market at the very bottom due to recency effect.

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