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agriculture

Mass. farmers markets may be a bad thing

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The sharp increase in farmers markets in the Bay State may be a bad thing for some farmers, The Republican reported on Monday.

“We used to do twice the business at some markets because now there are so many. In my opinion, the growth hasn’t been good,” said Rick P. Wysk of River Bend Farm in Hadley.

“There are definitely markets in the state where the customer counts are lower because there are more markets surrounding them,” said Jeffrey D. Cole, the executive director of the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets, a nonprofit group that works with farmers and communities to foster the markets. “So we are very concerned about the growth in the markets and the potential to outstrip the demand.”

In 2004, about 100 farmers markets operated in Massachusetts; now there are nearly 260. There has been a similar trend nationally. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 1,755 farmers markets nationwide in 1994, and by mid-2010, there were 6,132.

The Republican noted that the problem of “too many markets” seems to be most pronounced in the Hadley-Amherst area and in northeast Massachusetts, around Westford and Chelmsford.

Nevertheless, the potential profitability of the markets has attracted more farmers to set up shop, reversing a previous trend. From 1997 to 2002, the number of Massachusetts farms decreased 17 percent while the farms increased from 6,075 in 2002 to 7,651 in 2007.

The average size of the farm is smaller, however, falling from 85 acres in 2002 to 67 acres in 2007.

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