Mention Farmers Markets to anyone and you will find yourself almost immediately in a conversation about 'the good old days', when food still had taste and consumers did not have to worry about quality or food safety as the farmers knew how to handle such matters....
When we leave the rose tinted glasses off for a little while, we can deal with the facts as they relate to these markets.
Farmers Markets are as old as mankind. The minute our forebears stopped roaming the wilderness and settled down to grow crops, the trade in fruits and vegetables began. At first, people traded their surplus. Eventually, Farmers Markets became the venue where peasants sold their wares.
In the Middle Ages, food production took place close to the newly ermerging town and cities as the peasant farmers began to appreciate that these town were generally occupied by people who did NOT grow enough food for their own consumption - altthough they clearly had other skills and earned their living accordingly.
The one place that lent itself in those town as a market place and which was very central and reachable by everybody was the area surrounding the main church, basilica or cathedral, or the town hall. And this is how the food markets in the European cities evolved over the centuries. The markets we come across in France, Germany, Italy and Spain today are nothing other than the old peasants from days gone by.
When industrialisation took hold of the cities, the concept of just having one central market where produce brought their goods no longer sufficed. Whilst the markets themselves survived, new structure emerged alongside them, i.e. green grocer and fruiterer stores that followed the growing population to where they lived in the suburbs, as well as central wholesale markets which absorbed the composite volumes city dwellers required as part of their daily diet and then dispensed that volume to retailers.
Supermarkets and then Hypermarkets were a natural evolution of the suburbian store concept.
The medieval markets clustered around the main church or town survived in many European cities. They continued to serve the decreasing populations of the inner cities they were located and also became toursit attarcations in their own right.
As city centres are being revived and are becoming increasingly attractive again for under the motto 'inner city living', markets are undergoing a revival.
Aditional drivers are the slow food movement, the increasing awareness that supermarkets should not be considered to be the sole purveyor of fruits and vegetables for a variety of reasons and the stronger consuemr focus on issues such as food safety.