Apostrophe - A mark used with a noun or pronoun to indicate possession

Normally I'm a stickler for the oft-misused apostrophe. I cringe when I see signs like "book's for sale", and I consumed the book "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" in about an hour. So, when I wrote a blog entry about Farmers Markets, I was stumped. Should it be "Farmer's Markets" (one farmer runs several markets?), or "Farmers' Markets" (multiple markets owned by multiple farmers?), or "Farmers Markets" ("Farmers" is an adjective to the market, describing what kind of market it is, either selling farmers, or farmers selling things).

So, in a pinch, I decided to use the punctuation used by the markets themselves. Bzzt! Wrong answer. Hollywood Farmers' Market, for example, had the apostrophe, but the logo for the Portland Farmers Market is sans-punctuation, while this page says it's a Boring Farmer's Market. What's the deal here?

Then I came across this article on the Mother Jones website about how big guys are crowding out little guys at the markets. Pretty interesting, but the sidebar is what really caught my attention. Here's the full sidebar reprinted:
What's In An Apostrophe?
Who reads more nuance into punctuation rules than copy editors? Food activists! In the California law that has regulated farmers markets since 1977, the term contains a possessive apostrophe. Market managers who maintain the apostrophe believe it indicates that "farmers' markets" exist "for farmers and by farmers," says John Silveira, director of the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association, hastily adding he doesn't intend to besmirch those who have dropped it. Another naming convention allows farmers's market...farmers market...whatever...consumers to buy breakfast or lunch as they buy their produce. Though the Cali law limits "Certified Farmers' Market" vendors to farmers who grow all their own wares, vendors of prepared goods (who can use food from Costco or Wal-Mart) are permitted to sell at a nominally separate (but physically adjacent) market. Got it? —Alexis Fitts

So, it turns out the apostrophe is significant syntactically and, in California, legally. If you mean markets that are for farmers and by farmers, you should always write "Farmers' Markets." Once more the apostrophe strives for justice.

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  1. Anonymous10:29 AM

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