Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary, has declared the week of August 2 as National Farmers Market Week. National Farmers Market Week has been celebrated annually for the past 16 years as a way to celebrate and recognize the services provided by farmers markets. Join in the celebration and visit the Farmers Market Directory Search to find a farmers market near you.
Farmers markets provide numerous benefits to both communities and local farmers.
- Farmers markets contribute to the health of local residents. Farmers markets provide the community with fresh and nutritious foods at an affordable price. Many farmers market accept SNAP and WIC benefits, making fresh foods available to low income families. You can find out here if your local farmers market participates in the Farmers Market Nutrition Program. The locally grown foods sold at farmers markets are harvested at their peak of ripeness. These foods are full of flavor and taste better than what is available in stores. Locally grown foods are full of more nutrients because there is less time between when the food is harvested and when it reaches your table, limiting the amount of nutrient loss.
- Farmers markets help promote a safer food supply. When food travels long distances to reach the consumer, there is a greater risk that the food can become contaminated. When food is purchased from local farmers, you have the opportunity to know exactly where your food was grown and you can ask how the crops were raised and harvested.
- Farmers markets help support local economies. Money spent at farmers markets help support local farmers and is reinvested in the community. Farmers are able to earn more by selling at farmers markets because they are able to sell directly to the consumer.
- Farmers markets help protect the environment. When food is purchased that is locally grown it helps to maintain farmland in your community. The food also doesn’t need to travel far, thus reducing the needed energy consumption to support the transportation of food to stores across the country. Carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials are also reduced when food is sold locally.
Farmers markets are continuing to see economic growth. It has been estimated that in recent years local food sales have nearly doubled, from $5 billion in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014. To help ensure that growth continues, over the past six years, the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) has invested more than $800 million to local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects. Local Foods, Local Places is an initiative that is taking aim at boosting the economic opportunities for local farmers while also improving communities. If your community currently does not offer a farmers market and you interested in starting one, the USDA offers a guide on how to start a farmers market that can be found here.