The Evolution of Farmers Markets: From the 1600s to the Present Day

Farmers markets have been around for centuries, with the earliest ones in North America dating back to the 1600s. These markets were a vital economic activity and drew many people to city centers. In July 1806, President Thomas Jefferson even purchased beef, eggs, and a variety of vegetables at a Georgetown market. During the first decades of the 20th century, most cities with a population of at least 30,000 had municipal markets. However, improved roads and refrigeration soon gave way to supermarkets and wholesalers, leaving many small farms and markets out of the food cycle.

With a maturing farmers' market system, the USDA focuses its support on sustainability and encourages market development in underserved areas, helping both new and old farmers' markets to thrive. The Dallas Farmers Market is a great example of this growth. It is home to more than 200 small businesses and supports more than 50 farmers and ranches in Texas year-round. In 1991, the Dallas Farmers Market Friends were created by the long-time driving force and tireless advocacy of the DFM, “Mama Ida Papert.”The revival of farmers markets began just over 20 years ago in several places, including California and New York City. While farmers have been selling their products directly to consumers for as long as agriculture has existed, informal food markets have been present in what is now the United States since the 17th century. Once a humble horse and cart wholesale business, the Dallas Farmers Market has grown with the city and has become a hub for fresh vegetables, dairy products and more.

In 1993, it joined forces with the American Wine Institute & Food to start cooking classes offered by food lovers in the market. Today there are more than 8,000 farmers' markets operating in the United States. The buying and selling of fresh local produce, meats and baked goods is essential to daily life in many cities. The primitive joy of one person delivering food to another is still alive in these markets.

Tricia Sweetman
Tricia Sweetman

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