Aerial photo detailing the location of the Flint Farmer's Market.

Can Farmers’ Markets in Shrinking Cities Contribute to Economic Development? A Case Study from Flint, Michigan

May 24, 2018 - Victoria Morckel, University of Michigan-Flint; Kathryn Colasanti, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems

We examine the extent to which the Flint Farmers’ Market produces positive spillover effects on nearby businesses in downtown Flint, Michigan. We care about spillover spending in shrinking cities like Flint because farmers’ markets may contribute to growth beyond their boundaries, and thus help to sustain their surrounding areas. We surveyed visitors of the Flint market to determine the percentage who spend downtown outside of the market, how much they spend, the demographic characteristics that predict spending, and the additional businesses that visitors would like to see in the downtown. We also interviewed downtown business owners and managers to capture their perspectives on the market, including whether its relocation in 2014 helped their businesses. This study differs from prior research on spillover effects because it uses a mixed-methods approach and it explores how the shrinking-city context affects market outcomes. Overall, we find that the Flint market has minimal impact on nearby businesses compared to markets in non-shrinking cities. We discuss the possible reasons why the Flint market under-performs, including potential visitor concerns about crime and a site design that does not promote walking to other destinations. We also discuss how these concerns (e.g., crime, walkability) stem from the shrinking-city context.

Morckel, V., & Colasanti, K. (2018). Can Farmers’ Markets in Shrinking Cities Contribute to Economic Development? A Case Study from Flint, Michigan. *Sustainability*, 10(6), 1714. doi:

Corresponding Author
Victoria Morckel, University of Michigan-Flint (email:

economic development; economic sustainability; legacy cities; revitalization

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