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The Los Angeles Times has an interesting story about farmers markets:

“Farmers markets have increased choice and improved the quality of fruits and vegetables for shoppers, and, perhaps most radically, they have provided farmers with a way to actually earn more money by selling food with flavor, as opposed to mainstream farmers who grow primarily for volume.

“But what's even more remarkable is that farmers markets have achieved all of that despite what has to be one of the most inefficient business plans ever devised. If you wanted to design a market from scratch, this almost certainly wouldn't be the way you'd do it. Let's see … it'll be open for only four hours a week. If a customer can't make it, they miss it. Let's just stick the markets wherever we can. And if shoppers can't find a parking spot, they miss it. For farmers, there's the not inconsiderable matter of having to drive hundreds of miles every day to spend hours standing outside, weighing lettuce and making change.”

The story notes that there are more alternatives than ever to farmers markets - for one thing, the move toward local sourcing of products means that shoppers can find high quality local produce in their neighborhood supermarkets. Furthermore, the Times writes, “There are other, less commercial possibilities. CSAs, or community-supported agriculture programs - you know, the ones where you sign up for a subscription and get a box of produce every week - are popular up north and are such a boon to small farmers economically, and now they finally seem to be catching on in Southern California.”

The Times writes, “The farmers market revolution may have been born in farmers markets, but if it is to continue, there will have to be other paths as well. Farmers markets as we know them now will always exist ... But if we are going to continue to improve the opportunities for small farmers, and if we want to continue to improve shoppers' access to great produce, we also need to look at alternatives, at other ways of achieving the same goals. These are not replacements for farmers markets but complements.”
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