The trends of farmers markets

Published 12:01 am Monday, August 7, 2017

Despite all the news about economic globalization covering the planet with big box stores, public markets are undergoing a sweeping renaissance as people around the world strive to rebuild local economies and keep human connections flourishing.

Nationally, farmers markets have been on the rise over the past several decades. In 1994, the USDA reported fewer than 2,000 farmers markets. Now there are over 8,000 markets in the United States. We have more than 230 in North Carolina, nearly 50 of them opening in the last four years, placing us No. 10 in the nation according to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.

People love markets for so many reasons, yet in all surveys conducted by the Project for Public Spaces asking people why they use markets, the one that always shows up on top is the experience: seeing other people, opportunities for impromptu conversations and the unexpected sensory delights. This is what draws people back, again and again, to their favorite markets. But these qualities of spontaneity and sociability don’t just happen; a great market must be carefully planned as a public gathering place and managed within a sustainable business structure.

In many cities, public markets have become hotspots for tourism and city life: Pike Place Market in Seattle (, Eastern Market in Washington, D.C. (, Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace ( and its series of Public Markets (, as well as quite a few in North Carolina, such as Charlotte’s 7th Street Public Market ( The Harbor District Market will join many other budding market projects currently underway in North Carolina such as Chapel Hill’s Blue Dogwood Market ( and Raleigh’s Morgan Street Food Hall & Market ( We can learn from all of these.

Our vision is that vendors will offer an assortment of local products in permanent, temporary, and day stalls. Products will include farm fresh produce; meat, poultry and eggs; cheese and dairy; fish and shellfish; bread and baked goods; plants and flowers; and possibly an assortment of specialty and prepared foods, including several “grab‐and‐go” lunch/dinner options.

Helping to fulfill the Washington Harbor District Alliance’s (WHDA) mission, the Harbor District Market will be an incubator for small business, a job creator (throughout the value chain), and a marketplace to drive customer demand for local products — not just an indoor farmers market.

The Harbor District Market is currently raising additional funds in order to reach our financial goals and total capital necessary to complete the project and open the doors in 2018. If you have questions about the Harbor District Market or want to be a part, please contact me directly at

John Butler is chief operations officer of WHDA and co-owner of Elmwood 1820 Bed & Breakfast Inn and the Belle of Washington.