Who doesn’t love a public market?
After all, they provide a great opportunity to buy local food, expanding your culinary tastes in the process. But despite our adoration for these markets, we may not realize the full impact they have on the people working the booth. Elijah Anderson, a Yale sociologist, coined Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market a “cosmopolitan canopy” because it is a place of equal opportunity for all genders and ethnicities. Philadelphia is not alone, though, as public markets across the country give everyone the chance to succeed.
Public markets are on the rise again, as noted by Project for Public Spaces (PPS), who found that the number of farmer’s markets increased from 2,863 in 2000 to 7,175 in 2011. The rise can be attributed partly to the help of organizations that assist in linking farmers with land — many of whom are minorities.
FARMroots is one such group. Since its formation in 2000, it has been connecting Latin American immigrants with land in New York State. Recently, they have expanded into the city, supporting urban farms, a growing industry. This is possible through partnerships with Black Urban Group and second-career farms, which are run mainly by women. In addition to minorities, women are also new titans in the sustainable agricultural business.  So far this year, FARMroots has helped raise and market 20 new farm businesses.
Further, farmers are also doing business with SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) customers, resulting in increased small business development and food access.
These initiatives aren’t limited to just the Northeast though. PPS has recently been working with a Hmong population in Missouri. Originally from Minnesota, the transition was rough due to a different growing season and less interest in Asian foods. However, with the help of a grant from the Kellogg Foundation through PPS, these Hmong farmers  have been given another chance, with a grant that allowed them to participate in training sessions — resulting in sales increases ranging from 200 to 800 percent.
Although these minority and women farmers may experience some discrimination, overall public markets give them the chance to expand their businesses and improve their lives. Therefore, next time you drop by a farmer’s market, realize that not only are you helping yourself, but you are benefiting the lives of those selling to you, too.
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