There is encouraging news coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today we have 6,132 farmers markets. That’s a 16 % increase over 2009 and a marked increase since the USDA started tracking. The USDA has declared August 1-7 as National Farmers Market Week for 2010.
I had an absolutely delightful time celebrating this week. Five months ago when I posted a St. Patrick’s Day blog, wordpress suggested a couple of other blogs as possibly related. I read them both and still do regularly. One of them, Susanintherain is a crackerjack writer with depth and wit. I commented on hers and she commented on mine and today, we met up at the market! We have good food in common and the outdoors and a belief in strong education systems and geographies and we’re both moms of boys and I can go on. Isn’t it said that one of the main benefits of Farmers Markets is that they cause more interactions creating a greater sense of community? I’m here to testify.
Before I launch into the other reasons to frequent a farmers’ market, let me begin by acknowledging that they are a heavy burden for some farmers. They get up early, transport produce, set it up and then after working a full day, take it all back down and work to find another use for a basket of wilted kale that didn’t sell. Still, markets have some distinct advantages:
- They eliminate middle vendors and provide greater financial return to producers.
- Farmers receive direct customer feedback on their produce and their prices.
- Consumers who are unable to take advantage of a CSA have a reasonable way to buy small quantities of local, organic goods.
- Discussions take place between producers and consumers about the products and the farming methods.
- The food travels fewer miles and less fossil fuel is used.
- They bring vitality into cities. Studies in the UK indicate that surrounding businesses do better on market days.
- They’re fun! Visitors can try new things and enjoy the experience of purchasing their food as much as they enjoy preparing and eating it.
If you enjoy farmers markets as much as I do, there is at least one thing that we can do to make them more prevalent and ensure their viability. Access to farmers markets is contingent on land being available for farmers and ranchers. Although the number of farmers markets is increasing, inside the U.S. two acres of farmland is lost to development every minute and the number is greater in some other countries. Consider writing a letter to your representatives or signing a petition to ask Congress to ensure protection for farm and ranch lands.
Looking for a Farmers Market near you? The USDA enables you to search for farmers markets in your area here.
Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by visiting a farmers market! Where is your favorite farmers market?