As an international student in the United Kingdom (UK), I am starting to miss home. I woke up on Saturday, 2nd November, with the determination to visit the Fox Valley farmers Market (the pictures through this page correspond to this visit). According to their twitter, on the first Saturday and Sunday of each month, local farmers and buyers make an appointment to enjoy exploring seasonal agriculture products. I thought, buying dirty potatoes could make me feel like I’m at home. I come from a rural farmer family in the Global South and we have sold weekly products in the city, for several generations.

That Saturday morning was colder than usual and rainy as always. All sellers were in their places to offer their best products. Rather than quickly adding items in a shopping cart, families and young adults spent time at the food stands.

Sometimes, consumers would ask questions not regularly heard in supermarkets such as:

“Who is involved in the farm process?” “Where do the products come from?” “Do you know what the benefits of eating broccoli are?” “How can I cook this item?” or expressions such as “I have not seen this before!”.

Carrots and their beta-carotene

Likewise, the seller would respond comes with a long explanation, stories and then, another question comes up: “How many are you at home?”. The following steps helps consumers to determine how much quantity they should buy to avoid food wastage. As one of the farmers told me “This big bread needs to be refrigerated after two weeks, there are no chemicals in it; nature follows its path”.

How important is where people buy food? Moreover, what is behind the period farmer markets that attracts people in the Global South and North?

All in one: periodic farmer markets

Professor Joyjit Debnath (2018, p. 1010) defines periodic farmer markets as “[…] a place where shopper and shopkeeper arrive for the business transaction purpose of the commodities at a regular interval. It is an authorised public place”. Notably, the commercial deals occur only a few days a week, contrary to what is called as “permanent farmer markets” where there are “middlemen”. So, the farmer avoids disrupting their production schedule (Sage and Mccracken 2017).

The use of this economic and social structure has marked the growth of entire civilisations (Park 1981). Meantime, periodic farmer markets play a crucial role in order to articulate people, behaviours and practices in favour of access to food all the time. Piture: Vitamin C in the form of cauliflowers.

Food Security is defined by World Food Summit (1996) as the state

“[…]  when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

According to FAO’s Agriculture and Development Economics Division (ESA) (2006), guaranteed food for everyone at least includes considering: availability, accessibility, utilisation, and stability.

Hence, in both the Global South and the North, the periodic farmer markets have a high potential in contributing to the safeguarding of quantities of seasonal-high quality- fresh food to some people in rural and urban areas. In addition, sellers, under principles of fair prices, educate the population through useful advice on efficient feeding. In other words, these markets could close the gaps in food and economic injustice of rural society, malnutrition and environmental degradation.  

A in-win Food security’s deal

Periodic markets and economic justice

Different definitions of Food Security converge in the quote “all thing for all people” (Gibson 2012, p. 25). However,

[…] Food insecurity in the region is principally, but not exclusively, a rural problem. When famine strikes, it is the rural population who is most vulnerable.

Food and Agriculture Organization, 2000

This affirmation made by an Agency of United Nations is based on that rural communities in the Horn of Africa, more than others, must face: climate global changes, natural disasters, crop-based system, household economy, marketing and credit system, health and social services, among other problems. Notwithstanding, the precariousness of rural zones vary around the globe, last enunciated issues look familiar to the 3 billion of the population who live in rural areas in the Global South (Ulrich Hoffmann 2011), and the European Union (Commins 2004).

According to Park (1981), the periodic local market had been under-estimated. However, surrounding agricultural communities and/or fishing villages became for the market “a source of growth, a school for entrepreneurship, and a device for distributing scale and other economies” (Moyer, R. and S. C. Hollander 1968, cited by the author).

Fiber, blueberries and multigrain bread.

Furthermore, the study of this market leads Park (1981) to conclude that, besides the generation of income to rural families, periodic local markets promote:

  • “[…] The exchange is encouraged by a sales and payment system that provides economic incentives to the Farmer” (p. 115). 
  • Conditions of Transportation system from rural areas to central cities.
  • Commercial interactions. That could allow them to create future networks and commercial agreement with small business owners located in the cities.

Another case is offered by Joyjit Debnath (2018) who mapped 46 periodic markets in Raiganj (India). Besides the advantages proposed by Park, these Indian markets are evidence that the employment opportunity during these events is considerable.

As well, it is worth to highlight that some homemade products are selling during the fair, such as jam or a variety of cakes. This evidences that periodic markets also foster gender income opportunities to rural women.

Periodic markets and nutrition

As farmers primarily constitute periodic markets, they provide not only healthier food access (Lucan 2019)  but also fresh aliments. In my visit to Fox markets, I witnessed farmers selling many products of high nutritional value. These goods could replace processed food, such as bread, cakes, soya, among others. Even some items there were originally fat-fast-food were changed for new healthier inventions. The following illustration is a “kind” of pizza made by soya mass and enriched with broccoli, carrots and other vegetables. 

Healthy fast food: Yummy pizza!

In regards to healthy eating habits, the United States Department of Agriculture has published a series of articles about the advantages of buying local food. Their arguments consider the highest level of nutrients of eating fresh, as well as, the opportunity to introduce new eating habits (seasonal, menus).  

Periodic markets and Environmental degradation

The link between food and the environment is reciprocal. As climate change affects the production of food substantially, the food chain could reduce or accelerate the nature degradation. Periodic markets bring at least two contributions to care about the environment while the population is fed.

The farm products sold in the Fox Valley farmers Market last Saturday came from zones surrounding that area. The distance between the lady apple crops and my plate is shorter than the distance that local farmers markets in Sydney have with their customers.

In this Australian City, applying quantitative assessment of environmental impacts, Rothwell et al. (2016) study the effect of “food miles” and discover that not only a considerable distance of food affects the production of carbon dioxide (kg CO2-e) but also the optimal use of land and water.

On the other hand, local farmers do not mean organic products, however, the blogger Emily Honeycutt states,

Some small-scale farmers use organic methods, but they are not certified because they simply are not big enough to be able to afford the certification fees. Even if they are not organic, small farmers tend to use fewer chemicals than large, industrialised farms.

The practice of adding toxic synthetic elements to crops causes contamination of food, disperse into the environment, disbalance in the agricultural system and deplete the health of the soil (Barcelo´ and Hennion 1997; Taylor et al., 2003).

So then?

Coming back home with my dirty potatoes, I realised that periodic local markets are very advantageous in terms of Food Security which could see their positive influence quickly. Yet, there will be some days of the market that I will be out of the city. This structure faces some organisational challenges which need to be overcome.

Perhaps, the biggest one is related to the culture of the population who would have to migrate and create new habits of consuming and shopping. For instances, being unable to attend to the market’s day may not represent a lack of food during a period for a family.

Furthermore, local farmers could not cover all demand of the cities and rural zones around them. Even if farmers would decide to create cooperatives, they will need the support of the government to produce more food. According to the A people’s food policy inform, just 50% of the food eaten in 2016 was produced in the United Kingdom.  All in all, the periodic farmer markets could be an excellent complement of the existent organic platforms and educate the citizens in practices to guarantee Food security.