Since their establishment in the late twentieth century, farmers markets have been a place of community, local economy and regional flare. The popularity of these events increased steeply in the 1990’s and have continued to do so into the present, with nearly every town - whether urban or rural - forming weekly markets. Often occurring once a week, community members navigate booths and vendors to seek out and celebrate their favorite locally made food and products but often overlook the large consumption of food service disposables used in service.
Farmers markets don’t just sell produce now but also act as a sort of food festival. They are the center of local food innovation with the freshest ingredients making for delectable foods that are prepared quickly and served informally with - often low quality - disposables such as plates, cutlery and servingware. With the massive success and sales within farmers markets, the amount of waste generated is colossal and growing
In the U.S., there are now over 8,200 farmers markets which is almost double from a decade ago in 2008 when only 4,685 existed. Progressive Grocer reports that consumer demand for farmers markets has remained strong and 64% of market managers report increased customer traffic. All of these markets are looking for ways to expand and meet demand. Farmers markets are not just a seasonal market, with 15% of markets being open year-round according to Farmers Market Coalition.
Farmers market consumers, vendors and staff are conscious of environmental and sustainability factors such as food waste and farmland preservation but largely miss out on the opportunity to reduce food service disposable waste. Vendors are acutely aware of consumer demand and preferences so they only bring to market a specific amount of product to avoid waste. In the rare case of excess product, it is quickly donated to local food banks. In Seattle, farmers markets donate nearly 44,000 pounds of fresh produce yearly. Farmers markets across the nation have made efforts to improve farmland and agriculture by seeking help and recommendations from horticulturists and experts in the field to make farming processes more efficient and improve quality to benefit both the product and the environment.
The primary reasons for consumers to shop at farmers markets are to purchase items that are either locally-made or locally-grown, organic or non-GMO, stimulate the local economy and create local jobs. Local farmers markets create an environment that appeals to today’s consumer who often shops with a sense of social, environmental and healthful responsibility that dictates many purchasing choices. Consumers flock to these events to seek out the most healthful and environmentally conscious items but often overlook the potential waste of disposables accompanying the goods. These disposables consist of foodservice items such as utensils, serving ware and plates. CNN reported on the popularity of these events last year, and described them as ‘’an excuse to sell overpriced paper bowls of pulled pork’’. It is no secret that food served in informal settings such as farmers markets, are accompanied by foodservice disposables that lack quality, but do we need to compromise quality and sustainability in these circumstances?
Within these community strengthening events, there is great potential for increased sustainability and green efforts while also improving the quality of food service disposables. With Transitions2earth products, markets can deliver the most delicious local cuisine using high quality, efficiently designed disposables. The environmental impact of incorporating Transitions2earth eco-conscious disposables into these events is immense, not only would the amount of waste lessen, but also the amount of new material to be harvested and energy expended would be reduced.
Implementing these green efforts in food service disposables within farmers markets is a continuation of the purpose and intention shared by vendors and consumers alike, to promote and consume goods and services that reflect our values of high quality, eco-consciousness, and sustainability.