Massachusetts Farmers' Markets: Contributions to Farmer Sales and Food Access.
Farmers' markets are valued by many small farmers as a sales outlet. They are valued by
food systems advocates as a way to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables in
low-income communities. Despite these benefits, farmers' markets face a variety of
challenges. This dissertation investigated the characteristics associated with sales
volume at Massachusetts farmers' mar... read morekets. It also explored the degree to which
low-income individuals use farmers' markets and the contributions that federal nutrition
assistance programs can make to market sales. These issues were addressed in a series of
three articles. The first article explored the characteristics of farmers' markets that
influence vendor sales. Interviews revealed that Massachusetts farmers needed an average
of $250 in net sales per day for a market to be profitable. However, only 59% of
farmers' markets that operated in 2009 met this criterion; thereby, providing sufficient
sales volume to 57% of vendors. The characteristics most strongly associated with vendor
sales were market manager experience, manager's age, and the volume of customers. The
second article evaluated a pilot program in which Special Supplemental Nutrition Program
for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) participants were allowed to use cash value
vouchers (CVV) to purchase fruits and vegetables at six farmers' markets in
Massachusetts. The evaluation explored whether the ability to use CVV at pilot farmers'
markets would increase the number of WIC participants who shopped at those markets
compared with other farmers' markets. It also investigated whether the ability to use
CVV at pilot markets increased the number of individuals who shopped at them in 2010
compared with 2009. The evaluation found no difference in the use of CVV at farmers'
markets between pilot and comparison groups. Surprisingly, this was because nearly half
of WIC market shoppers from comparison sites reported use of their CVV at farmers'
markets. Study findings may be representative of a larger-than-expected demand for use
of CVV at farmers' markets. The third article is a case study of Boston markets
conducted during the summer of 2010. It explored the use of markets by Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) clients at Boston markets. The research revealed
that Boston farmers' markets captured 0.10% of local SNAP dollars - ten times the
national SNAP farmers' market redemption level. Combined, SNAP dollars and the local
SNAP incentive program, contributed an average of $556 in vendors sales per market. The
research conducted for this dissertation adds to the evolving literature on farmers'
markets in the United States. It aids in furthering the understanding of characteristics
that increase farmer sales and contribute to market stability. Additionally, it has
provided insight into the use of farmers' markets by individuals who participate in
federal nutrition assistance programs. This is important for understanding the
contribution that farmers' markets can make in improving fruit and vegetable consumption
for low-income individuals.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
Advisor: Jeanne Goldberg.
Committee: Timothy Griffin, and Daniel Maxwell.
Keywords: Agriculture, and Nutrition.read less