No Small Potatoes ...Or Tomatoes

Inside Dakota Ag

Would you like a share of a $1.3 million market? That's the estimate of sales at South Dakota farmers' markets in 2013.

Published on: January 8, 2014

Would a share of $1.3 million market interest you?

That’s how much farmers’ market vendors sold in South Dakota in 2013, according to a South Dakota Department of Agriculture estimate. That’s up from $583,000 in 2102.

“Farmers’ markets are growing,” says Alison Kiesz, SDDA marketing development director.

Sales probably didn’t double from 2012 to 2013 because SDDA is improved its survey methods. But the trend is definitely up and the sales are significant, Kiesz says.

In 2013, the SDDA partnered with 12 farmers’ markets to determine gross sales, pricing of products and conduct a customer survey.

“South Dakota has at least 61 farmers’ markets in the state,” says Kiesz. “Few operate year round with monthly indoor markets during the winter and weekly or bi-weekly markets during the summer. Farmers’ markets in this study were open for 18 weeks on average during the growing season.”

Bright red tomatoes bring in the customers at farmers markets, which did at least $1.3 million in business in sSouth Dakota last year.
Bright red tomatoes bring in the customers at farmers markets, which did at least $1.3 million in business in sSouth Dakota last year.

The surveys showed that while market vendors are geared up for early season sales in May and June, customers are not often shopping early in the season. Sales and customers usually pick up in July and August and taper off in September.

Customers who shop at farmers’ markets are often loyal customers with 63% of them shopping at the market 2-4 times per month.

Nearly half of all customers reported spending $10-20 on each trip to the farmers market while 29 percent of customers spent less than $10 on each visit.

Fifty percent of customers purchased fruits and vegetables at the market, 21 percent bought baked goods and 16 percent took home processed or prepared foods such as jelly, salsa or pot pies.

Product pricing data was also collected from various markets across the state to assist sellers in appropriate pricing for the future.

“This information gives us some valuable insight into statewide customer habits and the great potential of this market,” says Lucas Lentsch, South Dakota secretary of agriculture. “We look forward to a continued partnership with these farmers’ markets and helping grow the local foods movement in South Dakota.”