Direct from farmer: Tier 1

Tier 1 of the food system is characterized by direct relationships between the people who grow the food (farmers) and the people who eat the food (consumers or eaters). In Tier 1, food producers are direct marketers, selling locally grown and produced foods at farmers markets, roadside stands and u-pick operations and through community supported agriculture (CSA) farms. The Tier 1 relationship between farmers and consumers often results in the development of lasting relationships and an exchange of knowledge that strengthens the local food system.

Benefits and challenges of Tier 1

Described below are some potential benefits and challenges of Tier 1 of the food system. For more information, see the Tier 1 resources on the Consumer resources, Community resources and Farmer and food business resources pages.



  • Direct communication with producers promotes an exchange of food knowledge.
  • Buying at local markets creates a connection to place.


  • Markets often are not open every day and operate only in particular places, and so are less convenient for consumers with limited time.
  • Low-income residents may have limited access to products because the products may command a premium price and the markets are often located far from their neighborhoods.



  • Low-risk entry for direct marketers.
  • Farmers can command retail rather than wholesale prices.
  • Food producers establish direct relationships with local citizens at farmers markets, CSAs or on-farm stands.
  • Working with smaller volumes of product, local food producers can test new products more easily than can large-volume producers involved in commodity production.


  • One-on-one market development requires a significant time commitment.
  • Full-time employment is usually not an option due to seasonal product availability.
  • Markets can require excellent management skills, particularly in CSAs.
  • Farmers must produce a large variety of crops in small volumes, reducing their ability to specialize.



  • Relationship development in production and sales leads to stronger community ties and generates increased understanding and support for local entrepreneurs.
  • Local production can increase land stewardship through reliance on alternative production methods for a diverse set of crops and livestock, which in turn enhances biodiversity.
  • Farmers markets may attract customers to the local business community.


  • Communities must have organizational support and enough customers to sustain a market.
  • Markets compete for vendors in areas with few farmers or food producers.
  • Communities may saturate market opportunities with too many farmers markets.


Next: Regional partners and markets: Tier 2