PHILADELPHIA IS UNDOUBTEDLY A MARKET CITY. There are more than 80 seasonal and year-round farmers’ markets in the region—60 within the city limits alone. Echoing national trends including the celebration of local, organic produce and producers, new markets have opened at a steady pace over the last 20 years. According to the Farmers Market Coalition, the number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. has grown from 2,000 in 1994 to more than 8,600 today. With a rich history of community gardening and a vibrant urban agriculture movement, Philadelphia has long understood the connections between healthy food and community. Folks have been selling produce at pop-up street markets here for hundreds of years.
Each week, especially during the summer, Philadelphians load up on the region’s bounty. Yet for all their benefits—fresh food, grower relationships, thriving communal spaces—farmers’ markets are sometimes seen as out-of-touch and elitist. Local and organic produce can be very expensive, placing it out of reach for those with limited budgets. Signals regarding who is welcome are sent by the vendor, product, and programming mix. As we look toward the next 20 years of farmers’ markets in the city, we set out to identify the elements that can contribute to a more inclusive scene.