Is your farm market building green? According to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), food retailers are embracing sustainability to reduce energy costs and protect the environment in building new supermarkets. In their Facts About Store Development 2007 report, FMI says that many food retailers are focusing on reducing their impact on the environment by adding refrigeration management programs and making changes in store design, landscaping or transportation.

Dramatically increasing energy prices are prompting retailers to reduce energy costs in store operations, transportation and warehousing. They are decreasing energy use with LED lighting, skylights, light-motion detectors and energy-efficient HVAC systems, as well as reclaiming heat output, driving energy use to off-peak hours and minimizing leaks in refrigeration systems.

Green building is a key part of retailer sustainability plans, according to the FMI report. Twenty percent of retailers already use recycled building materials such as concrete and steel, equipment and appliances in remodels or new construction. As many as 34 percent of survey respondents are pursuing sustainability initiatives for new or remodeled buildings, and another 40 percent plan to do so in the next five years. To enhance sustainability, many retailers are retrofitting existing buildings in developing new stores.

FMI defines sustainability as “business strategies and practices that promote the long-term well-being of the environment, society and the bottom line.” That concept is nothing new to farmers—sustainable agriculture has been around for a while now. So, sustainable farm marketing is the next logical step.

As the report points out, retailers recognize that designing and constructing environmentally friendly stores not only protects natural resources and reduces energy costs, but also improves customer and community relations. Again, that’s not a new concept to farmers who long ago adopted environmentally friendly practices to improve customer and community relations, in addition to the other primary benefits.

Have farm marketers embraced green building construction? There are a few notable examples to be found online.

The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute is under contract with Cameron Construction in Santa Fe and Huitt Zollars Architects in Albuquerque to design and build a sustainable building that will meet rigorous green standards. The new permanent market will have both indoor and outdoor space for 100 vendors with trucks.

The Institute is seeking Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, a program of the U.S. Green Building Council, a first for a U.S. farmers’ market.

Water will be harvested from the roof, solar panels will heat the building and provide hot water, and up to 50 percent of construction waste will be salvaged and recycled. Recycled materials will be used in the construction, and local and regional materials will be extracted, processed or manufactured within a 500-mile radius of Santa Fe.

The indoor environmental quality will be improved through the use of low-emitting materials like paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, carpets, wood and agrifiber products. Water-efficient landscaping will reduce outdoor use by half. Ambient lighting will reduce the use of electricity during daylight hours.

In Norfolk, Va., the Five Points Community Farm Market is adding a “green” building showcasing environmentally friendly building techniques. The 575-square-foot building will be made of recycled steel, wood and plastic products. It includes a plant-covered roof, rain barrels, solarpanels, low-energy light fixtures and other energy-saving features.

The goal is a self-sustaining structure—one that uses rainwater to maintain the vegetation on the roof and harnesses the sun for heating, cooling and electricity—that offers locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as other made-in-Virginia products, including hand-churned butter, cheeses, baked goods, gelato, peanuts, potato chips, grass-fed meats and sausage and smoked meats.

In Milwaukee, Outpost Natural Foods will soon open a second location featuring a “green” building site using energy-efficient technologies, recycled materials, natural landscaping and low-impact sustainable processes on a remediated brownfield site.

Will the green building catch on at all levels of farm marketing? Well, a folding table with a lock box and a few baskets of tomatoes and peaches probably has the least environmental impact of all, but for larger farm marketing operations, it might be worth looking into.

The author, a freelance writer, is public affairs specialist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Amherst, Mass., and was previously director of communications at the Mass. Dept. of Food & Agriculture.