Farmers Markets throughout the region are opening for another great season. Take the time to go visit the farmers market in your community. At farmers markets, local farmers share their goods directly to customers for them to enjoy. There are a number of campaigns to help build awareness of the importance of farmers markets and number of benefits of farmers markets for people and their communities.
When you go to the market, you truly have the chance to “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” like the USDA suggests with their campaign at www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer. On the USDA’s KYF2 mission page they state, “Local and regional food is already a multi-billion dollar market and growing quickly”. The Rooted in Appalachia is similar to the USDA’s campaign in that they both urge consumers to know where their food comes from. Rooted in Appalachia connects residents and visitors of southwest VA and northeast TN with the vibrant food heritage of the area by highlighting businesses that celebrate local food. You can learn more about this campaign at www.rootedinappalachia.com. Both of these campaigns urge consumers to understand and recognize the benefits of farmers markets.
Farmers Markets exist in many communities throughout the nation and are truly the heart of the local food economy in each of these communities. As shown at www.farmersmarketcoalition.org farmers markets help: preserve rural livelihoods and farmland, stimulate local economies, increase access to fresh nutritious food, support healthy communities, and promote sustainability. According to the Farmers Market Coalition, farmers markets are one of the only low-barrier entry markets for farmers. They are a great avenue for small and beginning farmers to start small, learn as they go, and test the market. This is important because census shows that we have been losing small and mid-size farms in our recent past. For every $100 spent at a farmers market, $62 stays in the local economy, and $99 stays in state. Increasingly, farmers markets are accepting SNAP benefits and providing double dollar incentive programs. These programs help all consumers have access to freshly picked locally grown foods. Studies of Los Angeles farmers market shoppers reveal that 75% came to market to do more than shop, 55% felt the market increased their connection to community, 99% believed the market improves the health of the community, and 53% believed the market improves perceptions of the neighborhood. For folks who don’t have strong kinship ties in the area, farmers markets can provide a sense of family and community. The benefits of farmers markets are plentiful.
An understanding of the benefits for farmers markets seems to be taking hold. A report released by the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that farmers markets have grown by 180% since 2007. If you haven’t been to your local farmers market, take the family and enjoy the benefits for yourself. If you already go to your farmers market, grab your neighbors and friends to go with you. Decide for yourself which benefits of farmers markets you like the best.