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Why Food Systems Need Resilient Farmers Markets: 5 Lessons From 2020

Our food system has taken hits from COVID-19. You’ve read about it, maybe felt it firsthand. Endless food pantry lines, scrambles to feed kids out of school, and supply chain disruptions for farms and food retail alike. A shuttered restaurant industry. Supermarkets facing food shortages, suppliers figuring out their pivots, farms forced to discard food. Our food system has shown its fragility, but also revealed opportunities toward resilience and values-based food work. We’ve seen a surge in local food interest, renewed focus on regional food systems, and critical conversations on equity.

One bright spot from 2020 is the growth of direct-to-consumer local food demand, the very stuff of farm-to-table. Even pre-pandemic, farms selling directly through farmers markets, CSA programs, or farm stands were more likely to stay in business.

Now the pandemic has moved farmers markets even closer to the forefront. After early shocks, safety-conscious customers flocked to outdoor farmers markets. In the months since, markets have provided a lifeline for farmer sales, and have met new demand for local food with innovative programs.