Much of the produce on offer at today’s farmer’s markets won’t be surplus but part of the farmer’s production plan. You’ll also find a variety of home-made goodies that are hard to resist.The point to remember is that the farmer has retained ownership of their produce up to the point of sale. This gives them control over the produce and the final price achieved.
Of course, this method is not suited to modern commercial farming, where large volumes and the attendant logistical challenges are involved. So farmers either sell their produce to a buyer who comes to the farm or send it to a market.
If it’s a wholesale market the farmer will sell to a wholesaler operating on the market. A price will be agreed upon and that’s it for the farmer; he has relinquished control over his produce at an early stage. There remain two options for farmers who do not want to lose that control.
Option one is to use a commission market like we have in this country. The farmer works through an agent and retains control of the produce deep into the process until it has been paid for by the purchaser.
Option two is taking the commission market concept one step further and having the farmers become owners – shareholders – of the market. They appoint the management, which in turn appoints the market agents.
Now the farmers also have a say on how the market should be run and what facilities and services it can offer. And they still have the market agents who are selling the produce on their behalf. Control is now probably at its most comprehensive. This is not pie-in-the-sky stuff. One of the most successful markets in Europe – the Mechelse Veiling in Belgium – is owned by more 2 400 farmers. Infrastructure is modern and services to farmers and buyers are comprehensive. Buyers come from far and wide to attend the daily auctions and produce is shipped to all the corners of Europe.
A true farmers’ market is a viable option.