Farmers’ Markets vs Food Co-ops: Who wins?

Food co-ops and local farmers’ markets might seem like they would be direct competition against one another. They share the same customer demographics. Often, they provide similar and sometimes identical products. They use many of the same vendors. It makes sense that some would question the viability of both businesses within one community.

The reality is that there will always be some competition between farmers’ markets and food co-ops. But, that’s not always a bad thing. Healthy competition is good for consumers and the economy. It forces both businesses to innovate and hone their skills and develop a strong relationship with their customers.

Beyond that, however, there’s a real and true symbiosis that exists between food co-ops and farmers’ markets. Both want the same thing, healthy food choices, supporting local producers and strengthening a food economy in our community. There exists a business theory that having like businesses near each other creates a place and market for consumers. Clustering drives traffic and can be seen with restaurants, fast food chains and car dealerships. Working together, food co-ops and markets can create a common place to purchase healthy foods, one spot for consumers to congregate and shop.

They also provide vastly different experiences for the consumer. A farmer’s market allows consumers to put a face, name and relationship when they shop directly from the farmer. While food co-ops allow a broader shopping experience (from toilet paper to produce and everything in between) and are open 7 days a week, markets tend to be much more social in nature. Music guests and local artisans combine to give a more festival type atmosphere. Each provides their own unique shopping experiences that will draw their own unique customer base.

Almost all of the food co-ops in North Carolina have working relationships with their local farmers’ markets. Chatham Mills Farmers’ Market meets in the parking lot of Chatham Marketplace co-op in Pittsboro. Durham boasts four thriving farmers’ markets along with the highly successful Durham Co-op Market. Chapel Hill enjoys a 30-plus year relationship between its Carrboro Farmers’ Market and Weaver Street Market.

Even in small communities, farmers’ markets and co-ops can and do thrive together. Here at The Community Market Co-op we want there to be mutual benefits to working with the Grower’s Market in Fuquay-Varina. We are huge supporters of our local producers and want both of our businesses to succeed. We view it as a win-win situation for all.

The Growers’ Market opens this month on May 6th. They will be returning to Centennial Park in downtown Fuquay this year. So, be sure to go out and support them. Hours: Wednesdays 3pm-6pm, Saturdays 8am-12pm.

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