SOMETHING THAT CONTINUES to amaze me after years of visiting and studying farmers markets is the amazing positive impact they have on people’s lives and, by extension, on the communities in which they live. Recent efforts of farmers are now taking local food found at farmers markets to communities that lack access to fresh healthy food. We are seeing the emergence of a new type of market, one that can be adapted to almost any environment. This type is aptly called the “mobile market,” and it has the potential to be a significant game-changer for equitable access to nutritious and affordable food.
Many of the new mobile markets are the retail component of an urban farm, while others are in collaboration with a community of local farms owned by others. The mobile markets featured in this chapter are sourced by small farms located within their city’s boundary amid mixed-use neighborhoods on what was once underutilized land, such as parking lots or areas within public parks. Some mobile markets source from farms that are within the region but not necessarily within the city limits. Urban farms differ one from another as much as their rural counterparts, but all urban agriculture is growing or producing food in a city or heavily populated municipality. These new urban farms featured in this chapter are changing the architecture of place at the urban scale, while mobile markets are transforming multiple locations throughout neighborhoods into community gathering places on a routine basis.
The mobile market is a large vehicle—often a transit bus, school bus, or a service van—that has been substantially but relatively easily converted into a farmers-market-on-wheels. Each one has its distinct identity within the community it serves, whether curbside on a street or in a parking lot or alongside a park. Typically, they operate throughout the week, making multiple stops in neighborhoods each day. At each stop, the parked vehicle is swiftly transfigured into a small grocery store—a mini-mart but with wholesome food. An awning hinged to its side easily lifts and cantilevers from the bus. Tables unfold beneath and are promptly covered with produce. Some vehicles have a metal track on the side that allows multiple wire baskets full of fruits and vegetables to easily attach. Others have shelves that fold down to support many containers of fresh food. Some are completely contained inside the vehicle, with stacked rows of shelving on either side of a center aisle. Often, off to the side and near the front of the bus, someone is seated at a table where they provide nutritional information and customer service to patrons, including federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) shoppers.
Mobile markets are similar in many ways to pop-up canopy markets. The structures are temporary and the food is immediately visible and accessible. The awning serves the same function as the canopy, providing shade from the sun and shelter from the rain. Unlike canopy markets, however, mobile markets make use of the features provided by a large transport vehicle. Most often, the exterior of a mobile market serves as a moving billboard. On renovated buses, the name of the market usually appears in large letters covering the windows, doors, and sides seamlessly.
Although this type of market is relatively new, its numbers are growing fast. One very successful pioneering mobile market in Charleston, SC, called Lowcountry Street Grocery, aims to replace the “brick and mortar” paradigm by traveling throughout the greater Charleston metropolitan area to underserved communities. Similar to Charleston’s mobile market, Fresh Truck began roaming the streets of Boston in 2011, and its founders Josh Trautwein and Daniel Clarke boldly claim on their web site: “Fresh Truck is out to radically impact community health by getting food to those who need it most.”1 In fact, Fresh Truck offers high quality fresh food at 20 percent less than average food store prices. However, to achieve the scale of change they aspire to they have enlisted a diverse range of partners, not only for operations and logistics but also health centers, hospitals, educators, and other community outreach and health organizations, to combine their resources to promote nutritional and cooking literacy through cooking demos and food-health workshops, and facilitate awareness of mobile market locations.
Observing the breadth of the mobile market’s impact on a community, Ken Reardon, University of Memphis professor of city and regional planning who helped spearhead Memphis’s The Green Machine Mobile Food Market, commented, “the community response has been wildly enthusiastic, particularly by a lot of older people, folks with disabilities, women who are involved with child care and elder care and who don’t have cars. These people who haven’t been able to get out to the store in months and, in some cases, years.”2
In each case, these markets share the same eight scales of interaction and interface found in the other market types, but differ significantly in two ways. One formative difference is that the multiple stalls of individual vendors characteristic of the other markets now have been consolidated into one vehicle. One farm takes on the responsibility for supply of fresh goods to the mobile market and for its operation, but also sources food from other nearby farms. In one situation it takes the form of a collective of farmers, and in another one as a farm alliance. Nonetheless, the intimacy of knowing the farmers that grew your food, and the sense of community among shoppers is similar to other types of markets. Another distinction is that the farm itself becomes part of the identity of the community—a landmark of its own.
I am fascinated by how this type of market contributes in unique ways to placemaking and community building. It appears that mobile markets situate themselves in the same type of spaces where the pop-up canopy type of farmers markets locates: public places like parking lots of schools and libraries as well as civic plazas and public parks. However, they also set up in private parking lots of senior centers, low-income housing developments, and places of religious assembly. My impression is that a sense of community arises out of shared pride of empowerment to improve one’s health through enjoyment of tastier, more nourishing food. Many older people express appreciation of their capacity to regain access to favorite fresh greens, such as collards and kale, that they enjoyed eating while growing up. I was surprised but heartened to learn that some kids have just now tasted the sweetness of their first apple or peach and found delight in eating healthy food. I find mobile markets foster place-making akin to pop-up canopy markets in the way their existence transforms streets, parking lots, and parks into places to just hang out, but with purpose and shared meaning-making.
Following discussion here of a couple of mobile markets, I talk about a few urban farms that are serving nearby residents and restaurants by transforming underutilized land and rooftops into farm plots. In these ways, mobile markets and urban farms are becoming integral parts of the neighborhood fabric of our cities.
Urban agriculture is not new to American cities; however, it has been largely relegated to the outskirts and beyond, as cities grew and industrialized. However, for various reasons a range of individuals and groups from restaurateurs to activists are bringing farming back into cities in unexpected places. Just as exemplary mobile markets have spawned associated urban agriculture, two urban farms featured in this chapter are part of allied programs of previously discussed case-study markets in Durham and Cincinnati. Another version of emerging urban agriculture worthy of mention is in alliance with subsidized housing projects—City Farm in collaboration with Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, and Chicago Lights Urban Farm in collaboration with Chicago’s Cabrini-Green residents. One other new form of urban agriculture that I touch upon is located in an unlikely place: atop Chicago’s premier convention center, hence its name, The Rooftop Garden at McCormick Place West.
In these ways, urban agriculture is becoming a part of a city’s future as it becomes integral to urban infrastructure and its equitable food access and distribution. This is in part due to the increase in knowledge and acceptance of the benefits of eating fresh food, but it also is a result of a surge in educational opportunities about cultivating land that are accessible to and achievable by most everyone. These relatively small areas of land production yield positive outcomes, including the economic value of new employment and supplemental income prospects, health benefits from consuming nutritionally advantaged fresh food, and socioeconomic benefits of education about growing and producing food in ways that cultivate the value of meaningful engagement with people of all ages and backgrounds.
Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture oversees two programs: operations of Arcadia Farm and its Mobile Market launched in 2012, and in the years since has changed the lives of countless DC residents. The twenty-eight-foot-long mobile market serves eleven neighborhoods all over the city, making weekly stops at Hendley Elementary School, Parkside Unity Health Center, Chinatown Wah Luck House, LeDroit Park, Congress Heights Senior Wellness Center, Bellevue Library/Community of Hope Conway Health Center, Edge-wood, Oxon Run Park, Anacostia, and Deanwood Recreation Center. The neighborhoods it serves typically have high SNAP usage, low car ownership, and are at least a mile from a grocery store that can support a healthy diet.3
When the bus—painted bright green with “Mobile Market” in bright orange over the front window—arrives, residents quickly gather in anticipation of the healthy food they will purchase with their SNAP benefits (see image 5.1). Some days there is additional value—a cooking demo, a recipe, nutritional information. Often a dozen people linger under the shade of the matching bright green canopy and chat about cooking their fresh produce. Price lists, hand-written with markers, lean against the bus. Items include fruits and vegetables, herbs, pastured eggs, grass-fed and pastured beef, pork, organic milk, cheese, handmade bread, and honey (see image 5.2). A chalkboard hangs over the bus windows touting “BUY FRESH, BUY LOCAL” And although most of the sites are parking lots and the transformation into an architecture of place is physically only temporary, it remains strong in shoppers’ minds as they eagerly await the mobile market’s arrival week after week. Another one of Arcadia’s mobile markets is a converted refrigerator truck that has similar features to their first one (see image 5.3).
Data documenting Arcadia Mobile Market’s impact is astounding; in their annual report, Executive Director Pamela Hess reports that “more than 70 percent of our SNAP transactions are with repeat customers. In total, more than 50 percent of our sales are with low-income customers using some form of food assistance.”4 Recently in an email she noted, since 2012 Arcadia has sold and distributed more than $1 million in fresh healthy locally grown foods in under-resourced neighborhoods, a 500% increase in demand since it began serving DC food deserts.5
Over the years, Arcadia has formed partnerships with compatible DC organizations in pursuit of a more equitable system of growing, distributing, and educating DC residents about the benefits of eating fresh food. Arcadia Mobile Market sources a lot of its food from its namesake 3-acre urban farm in Alexandria, VA, but a significant collaborator is Common Good City Farm (CGCF). This diversifies their business and gives them new customers in a market that they would not otherwise reach, with no financial risk because Arcadia pays them up front for their product. “To supplement our offerings, the Mobile Market sources from Arcadia’s agricultural partners, all of whom are within about 125 miles of DC and include local sustainable producers such as Bainum Foundation Farm, Ayrshire Farm, Chocolate & Tomatoes Farm, Three Springs Fruit Farm, Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative, Local Food Hub and The Common Market.”6 This is another way that farmers markets are building community within their region beyond market days.
CGCF is located in northwest DC adjacent to LeDroit Park: a third of this neighborhood’s residents live in poverty, one in five is overweight, one in ten has diabetes. Since January 2007, CGCF has provided over ten tons of fresh produce to the community, engaged over 2,700 adults and 4,500 young people in educational programs, and hosted over 3,000 volunteers. Not surprisingly, Arcadia’s success has been contagious. In a mere half-dozen years, they have provided free consultation to more than fifty like-minded organizations in other towns and cities.
Notably, the money needed to convert Arcadia’s bus to a mobile market was crowd-funded through Kickstarter, a web-based platform for raising money for start-up ideas without solely sourcing through government grants and/or corporate capital funding. But Arcadia is not alone in its achievements. Many organizations have also funded the transformation of a vehicle for mobile market ventures by raising monies through this internet-based social-media method of engaging tens of thousands of individuals. For me, this is yet another indicator of how farmers markets nurture community, albeit virtually.
Civic Works, a nonprofit working to strengthen Baltimore’s communities, has operated its Real Food Farm since 2009 in the bucolic 266-acre Clifton Park. Civic Work’s mission for its Real Food Farm Mobile Market is to “grow fresh produce on eight acres in east Baltimore and distribute to its neighbors throughout the city.”7 Their goals include bringing fresh, pesticide-free produce to neighbors who have limited access to food through community partnerships and a Mobile Farmers’ Market. They sell their produce at ten stops in Baltimore’s east and west side food deserts, including schools, senior centers, and community centers. At the farm they demonstrate sustainable alternatives to conventional farming and promote urban agriculture as an economic engine in Baltimore by serving as a training ground for the next generation of urban farmers.8
Real Food Farm Mobile Market’s first vehicle (2016) transformed an old newspaper delivery truck into a market-on-wheels that offered flexibility to experiment with the layout and display of its food. They added an extra seat up front to accommodate another person on market days. The interior is lined with shelves for storing produce and extra supplies (e.g. shopping bags, staplers, receipt paper, pens, chalk). Two chest refrigerators (with backup generator) were installed for meat and eggs. The key part of their retrofit was a pull-out drawer that is used as the base for the market stand (see image 5.4). Upon arrival on site, they simply roll up the back door of the truck, set up a camper awning, and pull out the drawer, already full of beautifully stacked fruits and veggies. All in all, setup takes about 5 to 10 minutes. There is a side awning for extra displays on folding tables when needed. Success indicators tracking the mobile market from inception to October 2016 show 452 total home deliveries, 1,527 total markets, 8,829 total transactions, and $12,883.08 in SNAP funds matched with $65,250.50 total sales.9
The following year Real Food Farm transformed another truck to expand the mobile market program and try something new. Ultimately, they purchased a Chevy Astro refrigerated van, a smaller vehicle that allows them to set up mini-sidewalk markets. While the size allows greater flexibility in where they go, it takes longer to set up and break down—although it is still only a 10 to 15 minute setup.10 Unfortunately, the group has sold “Astro” and are rethinking their strategy to service Baltimore’s west side food desert residents.
It was not long before the demand for their fresh food outgrew their farm’s capacity to produce. As a result, to meet the demand Real Food Farm now partners with over 17 different farms within 30 miles of the farm throughout a season. A significant source was the Farm Alliance of Baltimore City.11 All year long on Saturday mornings, you can purchase Real Food Farm produce as part of the Farm Alliance stall at the Waverly 32nd Street Farmers, a pop-up canopy market. This ongoing collaboration helps Real Food Farm fulfill its mission of developing an economically viable, environmentally responsible local agriculture sector.12 When asked about the sense of community, mobile market manager Gwen Kokes had this to say, “Some days we don’t make any sales because it is the end of the month and customers have spent all their SNAP benefit dollars. But we hang out and chat with the kids and neighbors that know us, know our faces.”13 In another validation of farmers markets capacity to build community, customers come on market days even though they do not intend to buy anything.
Another mobile market, Veggie Van in Durham County, NC, uses the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model to distribute fresh food to people with limited income and access. Customers buy “shares” and receive a weekly delivery of fresh produce either at their place of work or at one of the market stops, such as the public library, where additional produce is also available for sale.14 Orders are sold on a sliding scale; people who can afford to spend more often give a few extra dollars to help people with lower incomes afford the produce at a lower cost to them. In 2015, the health department’s prenatal clinic began writing prescriptions for fresh food, which expecting mothers can fill at the Veggie Van for a $2.50 co-pay. The pilot project is paid for with money from a state Public Health Association endowment. Veggie Van makes stops different days of the week for two hours at five locations including recreation centers, health care centers, and the public library. Community Nutrition Partnership (CNP), a local nonprofit, operates Veggie Van and has received funding from the county’s Public Health department since 2011.15
In a former parking lot adjacent to Durham’s Farmers Market (explored in Chapter 3), the nonprofit organization SEEDS established the “Garden of Eatin’” as one of its more recent initiatives to embed community gardens within the city. SEEDS continues to expand their urban agriculture programs, as they view gardening and growing food as a way to teach “respect for life, for the earth and for each other…[and a way to] promote principles of sustainable agriculture, organic gardening, food security and environmental stewardship.”16 Through its Community Harvest program SEEDS has partnered with Phoenix House, a transitional program for homeless men to transform barren plots into community gardens where people with limited budgets can rent a plot for as little as $1 per year to grow their own food with assistance from SEED for supplies, tools, and technical support. In alignment with their mission, SEEDS has collaborated with Durham’s Latino community since 1999 by co-hosting annual events, such as El Dia Del Nino (Day of the Child) and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I firmly believe in the tenets of SEEDS’ vision, which I found that numerous organizations and people across our country share. Local markets and allied groups promote these beliefs.
In a change from the mobile markets described above, Chicago’s Fresh Moves is a retrofitted out-of-service Chicago Transit Authority bus (see image 5.5). With the seats removed, the market goods are completely contained within the bus. Tiers of shelving holding green plastic bins overflowing with fresh produce line both sides of the center aisle. Shoppers enter the front of the bus and make their selections as they move to the rear, where they pay and exit (see image 5.6). Typically, there is not anything set up outside the bus: only when there is a cooking demonstration under a pop-up canopy. It is notable that this market is completely protected from inhospitable weather, and requires no setup time once it reaches one of its weekly thirteen stops in nine of Chicago’s south and west neighborhoods—North Lawndale, Austin-Gresham, Garfield Park, Washington Park, Englewood, Roseland, Woodlawn, Grand Boulevard, Fuller Park, and South Shore—which are known for their tough street life and not for fresh, healthy food. Fresh Moves stops at each location for one and a half hours in front of the community’s institutions—Mt. Sinai Hospital, Howard Brown Health Center, and Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, to name a few. I found it interesting to learn that at Howard Brown shoppers purchase food that doctors have prescribed to address health issues.17
In June 2012, Mayor Emanuel and USDA Secretary Vilsack announced the first round of federal funding for this mobile market, which was initially a program jointly run by Growing Power, Inc. and Food Desert Action, Inc. At the time Mayor Emanuel said, “Public and private investments in programs like Fresh Moves Mobile Market are helping to ensure that all Chicago families have access to affordable, fresh and healthy food, neighborhood services and the investments in infrastructure, education and public space that create the vital communities of tomorrow.”18
In 2018 Urban Growers Collective (UGC) took over operation of Fresh Moves Mobile Market. Laurell Sims and Erika Allen had founded UGC the previous fall and the mobile market fit their aim to “develop community-based food systems where food is grown, prepared and distributed within their home communities. Working closely with more than 33 community partners, the goal is to build economic opportunity for youth and mitigate food insecurity and limited access to high quality, affordable and nutritionally dense food.”19 These partnerships come with established customers in need of easily accessible healthy food as well as ways to get the word out through their organization’s marketing and outreach. In the course of a year and a half, UGC has served over 10,000 customers with over 17,000 pounds of produce it grew.20
In conversation with Laurell, she said UGC is changing the form of the city through the introduction of urban agriculture, which in turn changes the family dynamic through job training as farmers, which offers the opportunity to change one’s individual trajectory. She talked about recently hiring Malcolm as their farm manager. He is now 26 years old, but first worked with UGC as a 10-year-old intern at their Cabrini-Green farm, which is located on a former basketball court.21 All of their eight urban farms have transformed empty or underutilized plots, 11 acres in all, into productive green space that is envisioned as edible landscapes, including flowers. I find this view of landscape as urban infrastructure so fitting in Chicago; Daniel Burnham had envisioned a network of connected public neighborhood parks as the city’s emerald necklace, as detailed in the 1909 Chicago Plan that he co-authored with Edward Bennett.
Another relatively new farm in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood, the Chicago Lights Urban Farm, provides healthy food and economic empowerment for its poor residents on land that was previously an abandoned basketball court. The Fourth Presbyterian Church’s Chicago Lights Academic Success in Schools provided the initial leadership, which empowered “youth and community residents in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood to have increased economic opportunities through access to organic produce, nutritional education, work force training, and microenterprise development.”22
They planted a community garden in 2003 that transitioned into an urban farm in 2010, when Chicago Lights partnered with “Growing Power—a nonprofit organization empowering communities by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high quality, safe, and affordable food. Garden plots are available to neighborhood residents who live within a five-block radius of the farm.”23 Today the farm cultivates 25 types of crops on 30,000 square feet. The farm layout was the outcome of a charrette that included architects, youth participants, community stakeholders and the organization’s advisory board. The vision with a plan for the farm’s future was established within the day.24 As a testament to this farm’s accomplishment, supporters who live beyond the five-block radius volunteer their time in various capacities to ensure its ongoing success: another example of the ways in which a community interested in changing our food system appears to have no boundaries.
By early 2015 Chicago Lights Urban Farm had expanded its outreach in the community in three ways: through the opening of its farm stand, located at 444 W. Chicago Avenue; by offering subscriptions to its CSA Salad Shares; and through regular deliveries using their mobile market—GoodFood Mobile. The latter is an Urban Lights microenterprise that distributes fresh farm produce on Saturdays to neighboring residents who have ordered it online. In addition to these programs Chicago Lights Urban Farm is ensuring its sustainability through partnerships with nearby charter school Chicago Quest and higher education institutions Kendall College and Roosevelt University.25
Probably the most unusual urban farm in Chicago is the Rooftop Garden. At the opening celebration, Sophia Siskel, president and CEO of Chicago Botanic Garden, offered this summation: “This rooftop garden will have positive ripple effects as it expands our local agriculture production capabilities, saves on harmful gas emissions by eliminating the need to transport some of our food needs, creates additional hands-on training and job opportunities for our Windy City Harvest students, and serves as a local source of fresh produce to a major convention center catering provider.”26 An unprecedented partnership joins Savor, the Chicago catering company for the McCormick Place West convention center, with the city’s Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest (WCH) program, which is “a social enterprise that provides a nine-month certificate training program and internship in sustainable horticulture and urban agriculture. The program is offered in partnership with Richard J. Daley/Arturo Velasquez Institute and accredited by the Illinois Community College Board.”27 WCH students designed and planted Rooftop Garden, which includes 20,000 square feet of vegetables and herbs. It yields 8,000 pounds of farm-fresh plenty and is home to 20,000 honeybees that yield 50 pounds of honey annually. This stellar example of the changing origins of our food supply, and thereby distribution and consumption, translates into greater food security and sustainability of healthy food. This unconventional location for a farm pushes us to rethink the development of our cities.
In neighboring Cleveland, Ohio, sits City Farm, a six-acre incubator farm on publicly owned land located a mile from downtown. It is one part of four separate but connected initiatives of the Ohio City Fresh Food Collaborative that aims “to solidify Ohio City as the hub of Cleveland’s complete regional food system.”28 I toured the farm in September 2012 and was struck by the ingenuity of converting the underutilized grassy expanse, which required resource-draining maintenance (lawncare), into income-generating food production. I was further amazed by the collaboration among seemingly incongruent entities—Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), the Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC), and Refugee Response (RR)—who had come together to bring the project to fruition. As I learned more about each group’s role and stake in the enterprise, I saw an amalgamated community that complimented each other’s needs and resources based on shared principles about how we should live and what we should eat. CMHA supplied the land and in turn was provided access to discounted, healthy food for its on-site residents; the GLBC restaurant provided business acumen and initial funding, and gained nearby access to high-quality food for its chefs, and ultimately its diners; and RR resettled refugees who gained employment and on-the-job training through working on the farm. Two other groups—Central Roots and Cleveland Crops—also cultivate land at Ohio City Farm, which gives them access to low-cost land, shared facilities, and technical assistance. The expectation is that these farmers will “run economically viable businesses and provide financial information on their operations” for the benefit of future like-minded urban farmers.29 Central Roots also operates a farm stand on the premises, which provides them with direct sales in addition to opportunities to educate customers about the full extent of urban agricultural operations at Ohio City Farm. The interconnected purposes and benefits of these groups appear to provide sustainability for each enterprise while strengthening the solidarity of the neighborhood.
Downstate in Cincinnati, the Corporation for Findlay Market (the managing entity of the heritage building discussed in Chapter 2) collaborates with those of the Civic Garden Center, which has advocated for a tradition of agriculture within the city’s limits for over two decades since 1994. The Civic Garden Center has a cornerstone program, Neighborhood Gardens, which engages and successfully benefits twenty-three communities through the annual harvest of forty-seven gardens. The Corporation for Findlay Market established its CHEF program (Cultivating a Healthy Environment for Farmers) upon receipt of a 2009 USDA grant, which garnered nearly $60,000 “to recruit, train and provide start-up resources for new farmers to grow vegetables on vacant urban lots and sell at Findlay Market.”30 In 2010–2011, Findlay Market Urban Farms collaborated with the Civic Garden Center to establish Eco Garden, which provides “an experiential learning opportunity for inner-city youth to cultivate self-reliance, job skills and an entrepreneurial aptitude by cultivating a market garden for direct sales at Findlay Market.”31 By the end of 2013, Findlay Market Farms was working with numerous partners and had “more than 25 apprentice farmers [and was] growing on four sites (two in Over-the-Rhine, and one each in Hartwell and Westwood).”32 In 2013, Findlay Market further expanded its outreach into three neighborhoods—East Price Hill, Walnut Hills, and Westwood—by bringing the market to residents via farm stands in collaboration with Roberts Academy, the Walnut Hill Redevelopment Foundation, and St. James Episcopal Church, respectively. Roberts Academy is a public school that was “trying to overcome cultural, language and economic barriers to teach parents how to use their food assistance (SNAP) benefits to purchase fresh healthy foods rather than convenience foods.” Heather Wigle, a volunteer at Roberts Academy, sums up the farm stand’s success as going beyond solely eating healthy food. She says, “This is about more than peanut butter, popcorn and produce. It is about building community and bridging cultural barriers. People see bridging (cultural gaps) as a big thing, but really it’s just that we need to get to know our neighbors better and build community.”33
In tandem with mobile markets servicing urban food deserts, the exponential growth in the number of farmers markets in recent decades has also helped ameliorate a growing environmental issue: preserving farmland, which preserves rural livelihoods as well. The Farmers Market Coalition, a nonprofit organization that tracks the relationship between opportunities farmer markets offer for small farmers and the amount of farmland in production, found that in the Seattle region a total of seven farmers markets support 9,491 acres of farmland in diversified production.34 They also found that even a small farmers market has a significant impact: Georgia’s Lilburn Farmers Market gives ten farmers an opportunity to grow produce on 500 acres of farmland.35 The rural livelihood not only increases as the number of farmers markets rises but also as more farmers markets are open year-round. The Coalition tracked farmers markets operating during the winter months between 2011 and 2012 and recorded a 52 percent growth, for a total of 1,864. This number continues to increase substantially each year. In this way, they contend, “farmers markets provide one of the only low-barrier entry points for new farmers, allowing them to start small as they learn and test the market.”36
This symbiotic rapport between farmers markets, farmland, and livelihood expands the sense of community exponentially. And while this extends beyond the focus of exploring farmers markets as an architecture of place-making, it illustrates the inextricable interwoven complexity of farmers markets as community gathering places within the urban/rural framework. The numerous farmers markets across our country form a constellation that sustains us with more than food.