We rely on your tax-deductible donations to support our mission. Donate online →
Most Policy Initiative logo
Browse Research TOPICS

Farmers Markets and Urban Agriculture

Written by Drs. Sarah Anderson and Madeleine Roberts
Published on November 2, 2023
Research Highlights

The addition of farmers markets in a food desert can increase the fresh fruit and vegetables consumed in the region. 

There is mixed evidence that urban agriculture increases food access in food deserts.  

MO and other states have provided tax incentives for farming on vacant or blighted land to increase food access in urban areas. 

Fresh produce in the community can decrease food insecurity.  

The USDA does not measure food deserts by access to urban agriculture or to farmers markets, but when accounting for these food sources it increases the number of healthy stores in an area (Bader 2010). This lack of accounting makes it difficult to identify how these interventions have impacted food access for people in food deserts. However, studies show these interventions can reduce food insecurity (Durward 2018; Carney 2012). 

Please refer to our Science Notes Food Insecurity & Deserts and Strategies to Combat Food Insecurity to learn who is impacted by food insecurity and other interventions to address it. 

Farmers Markets. There are 205 farmers markets in MO. When farmers markets open in food deserts, there is an increase in the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that the community eats (Gary-Webb 2018; Strome 2016; Larsen 2009).   

  • However, data from HI and DE show that most farmers markets are not located in food deserts (Brace 2020; Gbenro 2019).   

Additionally, farmers markets can be unsustainable since they are often run by volunteers or underpaid workers, have competition with online retailers, suffer from a scarcity of farmers, and struggle with a small consumer base (Metz 2021).  

Government programs such as the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) which is available to seniors and Women Infants and Children (WIC) participants, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) decrease food insecurity and increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption by reducing costs for households at farmers markets (Durward 2018). FMNP money can only be spent at participating farmers markets, while SNAP money can be spent at a variety of businesses including participating farmers markets.  

  • In MO, about half of farmers markets and food stands participate in FMNP and about a fifth accept SNAP (MO Grown USA; USDA 2023).  
  • Double Up Heartland Collaborative provides a dollar-for-dollar match to SNAP dollars used at 36 participating MO farmers markets and is currently funded by non-state grants.  
  • RSMo 208.018 allows for the establishment of a pilot program to provide dollar-for-dollar matching for SNAP dollars spent at farmers markets, but this program was not appropriated. 

Refer to our Science Note Farmer’s Market Nutrition Programs to learn how this program impacts consumers and vendors at farmers markets.  

Urban agriculture. Urban agriculture refers to growing and distributing food in urban areas, including personal gardens, community gardens, and large commercial operations. Surveys of low-income gardeners found that gardening increased daily fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, saved around $85 in groceries per month, and decreased food insecurity (Algert 2016; Carney 2012). Examples of long running urban agriculture programs (17-40 years) include The Food Project in Boston, MA, City Slicker Farms in Oakland, CA, and GreenThumb in New York, NY. The evidence on the impact of urban agriculture on increasing food access in food deserts is mixed.  

  • In Phoenix, AZ, the 68 urban gardens were primarily located in areas with good food access. Only 8% of the food deserts in Phoenix were close to these urban gardens (Mack 2017).   
  • In Portland, OR, home ownership was a major factor in the presence of home gardens (McClintock 2016).   
  • Access to land, land contamination, and lack of financial resources are barriers to engaging in urban agriculture (Whittinghill, 2021).  


Property tax incentives for urban agriculture are offered by several states. 

Some states have provided tax incentives to encourage urban agriculture, including tax credits and rebates. Other approaches give property tax incentives and provide use of vacant land to increase land access for use in urban agriculture (NCSL 2022).  

  • CA, District of Columbia, LA, MO, NJ: These states allow the creation of urban agricultural incentive zones, in which local municipalities designate vacant or blighted land for use in commercial agriculture, allowing landowners to receive property tax incentives for farming the land.  
  • MD: Authorizes local governments to provide a tax credit to offset a county or municipal property tax imposed on an urban agricultural property. 
  • KS, UT: Addresses the appraisal of agricultural land within urban or suburban parcels.  

See supplemental table 1 for further details on the tax incentives offered by MO and other states. 



Algert S, Diekmann L, Renvall M, Gray L (2016) Community and home garens increase vegetable intake and food security of residents in San Jose, California. California Agriculture, 70(2): 77-82. https://calag.ucanr.edu/archive/?type=pdf&article=ca.v070n02p77 

Bader MD, Purciel M, Yousefzadeh P, Neckerman KM (2010) Disparities in neighborhood food environments: implications of measurement strategies. Journal of Economic Geography, 86(4): 409-430. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21117330/ 

Bass M, Chavez FLC, Chapman D, Freeman K, Mangoni GN, McKelvey B, Miller E, Rikoon S (2019) Missouri Hunger Atlas 2019. Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security, University of Missouri. https://foodsecurity.missouri.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/2019-Missouri-Hunger-Atlas_FINAL-2.pdf  

Brace AM, Moore TW, Matthews TL (2020) The Relationship Between Food Deserts, Farmers' Markets, and Food Assistance Programs in Hawai‘i Census Tracts. Hawai’i Journal of Health & Social Welfare, 79(2): 36-41. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7007308/  

Carney PA, Hamada JL, Rdesinski R, Sprager L, Nichols K, Liu BY, Pelayo J, Sanchez MA, Shannon J (2012) Impact of a Community Gardening Project on Vegetable Intake, Food Security and Family Relationships: A Community-based Participatory Research Study. Journal of Community Health, 37(4): 874-881.  


Durward CM, Savoie-Roskos M, Atoloye A, Isabella P, Jewkew MD, Ralls B, Riggs K, LeBlanc H (2018) Double Up Food Bucks Participation is Associated with Increased Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Food Security Among Low-Income Adults. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 51(3): 342-347. https://www.jneb.org/article/S1499-4046(18)30745-0/fulltext#articleInformation 

Gary-Webb TL, Bear TM, Mendez DD, Schiff MD, Keenan E, Fabio A (2018) Evaluation of a Mobile Farmer's Market Aimed at Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Food Deserts: A Pilot Study to Determine Evaluation Feasibility. Health Equity, 2(1): 375-383. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6301430/ 

Gbenro M, Brace AM, Matthews TL (2019) The relationship between food deserts, farmers’ markets, Nutrition Benefits, and health in Delaware census tracts; 2017. Delaware Journal of Public Health, 5(5): 16-23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8389158/  

Larsen K, Gilliland J (2009) A farmers’ market in a food desert: Evaluating impacts on the price and availability of healthy food. Health & Place, 15(4): 1158-1162. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1353829209000641  

Mack EA, Ton D, Credit K (2017) Gardening in the desert: a spatial optimization approach to locating gardens in rapidly expanding urban environments. International Journal of Health Geographics, 16(1): 37. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29037243/ 

McClintock N, Mahmoudi D, Simpson M, Santos JP (2016) Socio-spatial differentiation in the Sustainable City: A mixed-methods assessment of residential gardens in metropolitan Portland, Oregon, USA. Landscape and Urban Planning, 148:1-16. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169204615002509 

Metz JJ, Scherer SM (2022) The rise and decline of farmers markets in greater Cincinnati. Agriculture and Human Values, 39(1): 95-117. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34149165/  

Missouri Grown USA (2023) Senior & WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Authorized Farmers. https://missourigrownusa.com/farmersmarketlistings.pdf  

Strome S, Johns T, Scicchitano MJ, Shelnutt K (2016) Elements of Access: The Effects of Food Outlet Proximity, Transportation, and Realized Access on Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Food Deserts. International Quarterly of Community Health Education, 37(1): 61-70. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28038499/ 

USDA (2023) Farmers Markets Accepting SNAP Benefits https://view.officeapps.live.com/op/view.aspx?src=https%3A%2F%2Ffns-prod.azureedge.us%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fresource-files%2FSNAPauthorizedFMsJanuary2023.xlsx&wdOrigin=BROWSELINK 

Whittinghill L, Sarr S (2021) Practices and Barriers to Sustainable Urban Agriculture: A Case Study of Louisville, Kentucky. Urban Science, 5(4): 92. https://www.mdpi.com/2413-8851/5/4/92 

Most Policy Initiative logo
238 E High St., 3rd Floor
Jefferson City, MO 65101
© 2024 MOST Policy Initiative | Website design and development by Pixel Jam Digital
Privacy Policy
chevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram