Cultivating great third places – farmers markets


In a post published in 2011, I cited that Greater Lansing has seen an explosion in the number of farmers markets from just two a decade ago to 17 currently, including two which operate on a year-round basis. With more than 6,000 farmers markets across the nation, other communities have seen similar growth.

Farmers markets are exemplary as third places. Not only are they perfect as social gathering places with loads of diverse cultural vibe, but they almost always cost nothing to visit (with the exception of parking). They can be found in communities of all shapes and sizes, and are quite often situated in downtown and midtown locations, providing easier access for the underprivileged.

Given the dearth of fresh fruits and vegetables available in many inner cities, farmers markets are often a healthy oasis surrounded by a stubborn desert of junk foods. As a result, pedestrian and bicycle access are preferable, and availability to mass transit is nearly imperative.

Lansing City Market - Source:

Here in Greater Lansing, the City Market is located directly across the river from the business district, adjacent to the convention center and baseball stadium, while also abutting the city’s River Trail bikeway. In has been in operation since 1909 and moved into its new facility several years ago.

On a smaller, yet no less important scale, is the very successful and popular farmers market operated in the Allen Street Neighborhood, near Sparrow Hospital on the Lansing’s east side.

Allen Street Farmers Market - Source:

Other farmers markets are scattered throughout the metropolitan area, including in downtown East Lansing and  a number of area suburbs. Some of these venues incorporate the performing arts while open, including students from area schools.

One of the sheds at Detroit's Eastern Market - Source:

Certainly the most impressive farmers market I have ever visited is the Eastern Market in Detroit. The massive complex with more than 250 vendors is one of those historic and endearing features that makes the City of Detroit so very, very special. On Saturday’s alone, more than 40,000 people visit the Eastern Market. The 43 acre complex is both a state historic site and on the National Register of Historic Places. It is truly special.

Map of Detroit's Eastern Market:

Many other cities across the nation and around the world have terrific farmers markets. Aside from those in Lansing and Detroit noted above, I have visited wonderful farmers markets in Ann Arbor, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Roanoke, and Seattle. Each has its own special flavor and uniqueness. Check one out in you local area. Not only are they great third places, but I think you will have a terrific time and find some deals on fresh food, as well. Bon appetiti my friends.

This entry was posted in cities, culture, diversity, economic development, economic gardening, entrepreneurship, food systems, health, land use, placemaking, tourism, Uncategorized, urban planning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Cultivating great third places – farmers markets

  1. I love farmers markets! They are so vibrant and multifunctional; often offering live music and other activities. Getting to actually meet the farmers that grow your food is invaluable and makes for such deeper connections than going to a grocery store and picking out what’s there, often not even having a name for where each item comes from.

    I think farmers markets can only become more important as the age of cheap oil comes to a close and we necessarily become more locally oriented.


  2. Lynne says:

    Thank you for writing so well about farmers markets! They are truly a gathering place for community and a good avenue for helping to promote local sustainable food production


  3. This is great stuff! I would also like to share that the Fulton Street Market in Grand Rapids, and the Bank Street Market in Kalamazoo both have renovation plans in place that once implemented, will make them even greater. Cheers! – Sharon


  4. Hey team i find the posting refreshing and healthy i will share my experience as well, but rick please keep the postings going.


  5. Andy Kitsinger says:

    Farmers markets have become a powerful community building tool on many different levels. Thanks for putting a spotlight on their positive impacts. One more success story to add to your list is the Memphis Farmers Market. We established it in 2006 and it has doubled in size and scope since as well as spurred several other markets in the region. see:


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