Farmers’ Markets Should Lead, Not Fight

October 01, 2010

When did operators of farmers’ markets get so snarky?

When did operators of farmers’ markets get so snarky? When did they lose sight of the simple yet noble goal to help people keep healthier by encouraging them to eat more fruits and vegetables?

Is their recent success tinged by a bitter aftertaste because some supermarkets are trying to capture some of the gestalt of true farmer’s markets? Because some Safeway stores in Seattle, and some Albertsons stores in Washington, Oregon and Idaho posted ‘Farmers Market’ signs on their produce displays (reported The Wall Street Journal), do the operators of true farmer’s markets think consumers can’t tell the difference?

We’re not legal experts. We don’t know if the term can be fully protected as a brand. But that’s hardly the point in our view at The Lempert Report. We urge that farmers’ market operators chill to some degree, remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that competition is the engine that makes suppliers and stores better. 

Then go to the drawing board and develop a killer national campaign that underscores for consumers what makes an authentic farmers’ market. And find ways to improve what you already do. That’s the American marketplace. This battle will not be won or lost by lawyers. It will be won or lost by message clarity and the purity of purpose to benefit consumer wellness overall.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports there are more than 6,100 farmer’s markets across the nation, 16% more than in 2009. These are often attractive outdoor outlets for local farm products that pull traffic, exude scents of freshness, and practically scream natural goodness. They have distinct characteristics that mere signs by opportunistic grocers cannot co-opt.

Given America’s deficient eating habits, operators of true farmers’ markets would do better for themselves and consumers by assuming a leadership stance for smarter eating, by getting involved with grassroots nutritional programs in the communities they serve, and perhaps by branding themselves locally.