Why farmers are coming to town
By STAFF Daniel Seligman, David Kirkpatrick, Patricia Sellers, H. John Steinbreder

(FORTUNE Magazine) – One of the hottest growth industries in the U.S. is also one of the oldest. Farmers' markets are proliferating like zucchini. Californians can buy fresh fruit and vegetables directly from growers at 100 markets -- large, organized gatherings, as distinct from roadside stands -- about triple the number six years ago. New York State has ten times as many as it did a decade ago, and since 1982 some 80 markets have sprouted in Texas. The trend reflects a broad shift in consumer tastes. ''Superior freshness and flavor of product are more important to people these days,'' says Robert Sommer, director of the center for consumer research at the University of California at Davis. At least one mass-marketer, Campbell Soup, has noted the trend and begun offering fresh vegetables in supermarkets across the U.S. Cities and towns that host markets are as delighted with the revival as are farmers and customers. Says Barry Benepe, organizer of New York City's farmers' markets: ''A market will bring people to downtown areas they might not otherwise visit. And that means they may patronize neighboring businesses.'' Detroit is among the cities that have restored venerable marketplaces and made them bustle again. At Seattle's thriving 80-year-old Pike Place Market, farmers hawk side by side with fishmongers, potters, butchers, and bakers.