In a freakonomomics post from James McWilliams, he’s pessimistic about local farmer’s markets. He claims that they don’t actually lower carbon footprints and that the local and personal touch may not be a good thing. For one, it may be avoiding the true purpose of the farmer’s market: to buy food. We may be paying more than we have to for this local touch, rather than an impersonal, retail style produce store.
I think McWilliams misses a key point in favor of farmers markets, though. You can buy obscure produce that you just can’t find in most supermarkets.
In addition, the centrality of the market, competition is more direct and should theoretically help lower prices. Anecdotally, from my own experience as a consumer and seller in a farmer’s market, most customers don’t feel bad walking away from your booth without trying anything… even after you offer a free sample.
I like farmers markets and the competition they provide for grocery store produce isles, though not for any particular love for locally grown produce.