May 18, 2023
Seven takeaways from benchmark survey of markets

Penn State Extension’s Farm Markets team works with a Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grant from the USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

The awarded project is titled Building Dynamic Marketplaces & Stronger Networks for Pennsylvania’s Direct to Consumer Outlets. We are in our second year of the three-year grant and, as part of the grant, we conducted a survey to measure the health of our markets across the state.

Survey results

Changes in Customer Numbers:

Overall, the survey data shows that the majority of respondents (around 55%) saw an increase in customer numbers compared to the 2021 season, with around 24% seeing no change and 21% seeing a decrease. This suggests that farmers markets and retail farm markets were able to attract and retain customers during a challenging time.

Changes in Employees:

Around 40% of respondents reported adding employees compared to the 2021 season, with the remaining respondents either maintaining the same number of employees or reducing their staff.

Changes in Products and Vendors:

The survey data indicates that the majority of respondents (around 63%) added new products and vendors compared to the 2021 season, with around 28% reporting no change and 9% reporting a decrease. This suggests that farmers markets and retail farm markets were able to adapt to changing customer demands and preferences by diversifying their offerings.

Challenges Faced:

When asked about the biggest challenges they faced during the 2022 season, the
most common responses were staffing (reported by 43% of respondents), supply chain disruptions (38%), and weather-related issues (21%). These findings suggest that farmers markets and retail farm markets faced similar challenges as other businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, including difficulties in finding and retaining employees and disruptions to supply chains.


Based on these findings, here are some recommendations that may be useful for farmers markets and retail farm markets:

Continue to focus on attracting and retaining customers by offering high-quality products and exceptional customer service; diversify product offerings and collaborate with new vendors to meet changing customer demands and preferences; and address challenges related to staffing and supply chain disruptions by exploring new recruitment strategies, streamlining operations, and building stronger relationships with suppliers.

Overall, the survey data suggests that farmers markets and retail farm markets were able to adapt and thrive during a challenging time, and there are opportunities to continue building on this success in the future.

— Brian Moyer, Penn State Extension

Photo: Messick’s Farm Market is a family-owned market in
Bealeton, Virginia. Photo by Debbie Eisele.


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