The Difference Between Public Markets and Farmers Markets

Edited By: Joe McNealy

As movements in food and developing local economies have grown across the country, markets of all kinds have popped-up and taken off. In developing a public market in West Louisville, one of the biggest questions have been, “What is the difference between a public market and a farmers’ market?”

The best definition of a public market comes from the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), an organization whose mission is to create and sustain public places that build communities. As they put it, public markets are “markets which operate in or as a public space, feature only locally owned and operated businesses, and which have a broader public purpose, such as neighborhood revitalization or improving community health.”

A relatively wide variety of places may serve this purpose, and indeed, public markets take shape in various ways. Here at The African Village, our mission as a non-profit organization outlines our larger purpose: to celebrate the regional food culture of  Kentucky and Indiana, to support local farmers, food producers, and farmers markets, to incubate small food-related businesses, and to increase food access in West Louisville. PPS also recognizes the important role public markets play in developing local economies, supporting public health, and developing local food systems, which are central to the Market’s vision for development.

Farmers’ markets may meet most of these criteria, too, but for the most part, they feature vendors who are growing or producing their own food. While selling local is a major centerpiece of the Public Market, you will also see products beyond food as well as some foods that are not exclusively local. In addition, at The African Village public market, you will find restaurants who are making prepared foods at the Market next to retailers who are selling other kinds of foods, ingredients and arts & crafts.

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