Your local Farmers Market is a happening place right now. Fresh produce being picked daily and plenty more to come as the harvest season approaches. Take advantage now while the summer season is at its peak and locally grown foods are brought direct from the farm to a market near you. Friendly farmers are waiting to serve you and are full of stories and new recipes. You just might meet a new friend while you are there.
It was not until the mid 80s that Farmers Markets began to appear in the urban areas of the United States. There has always been some form of the roadside Farm Stand in this country. A small shed with an open side to display vegetables, fruit and jam. We have all seen that handmade sign somewhere that reads Fresh Eggs. That was and is in a rural environment. The popular Farmers Markets that we know today had humble beginnings in the city and where supported by just a few people who loved food. Those that grew it and those that were discriminant in their food choices.
National Farmers Market Week was August 7-13. I did go the market that week and bought some rare white Lehua honey. That was special. Farmers Markets have been a remarkable growth business in the past decade and indicates that local and regional foods are desired and sought out. This could make small farms sustainable if the public has any staying power. A news release dated August 5 2011, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, announced that there are 1,000 new Farmers Markets across the country. There are now 7,175 markets up from 6,132 in 2010. Remarkable. That’s a lot of healthy food getting out into the communities. Fortunately a lot of that healthy food is getting to lower income families. About 12% of market vendors accept SNAP ( former food stamps) and last year, 2010 there were 7.5 million dollars spent at Farmers Markets with the SNAP program. Connecting urban and rural communities with a system that retains capitol locally is a prime factor for sustainability. To find a new farmers market any where in the country you can go to:http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/ and get good helpful information from your government.
A Few Homegrown Benefits
- Direct sales reduces profit loss for farmer.
- Interaction between producer and customer is direct.
- Capitol remains in the community.
- Produce and commodities can be organic.
- Fresh, seasonal food is local thus saving transportation costs.
- Preserves and promotes heirloom varieties.
There are as many types and sizes of Farmers Markets in the U.S. as there are towns. While some may not be more than the tailgates of a few trucks others have had to be more carefully managed. Some allow producers only, while others have an emphasis on locally grown. There can be strict rules for price and vendor quality. California uses certified calif. grown and has registration. The structure is always different, some allow co-ops to sell and resell products. An important aspect of the regulations for any market is to prevent fraud. If the public loses its trust there might not be enough support to maintain some operations. No one wants sellers that say organic when it is not. The integrity of these markets are vital to their longevity. The markets also have to be vigilant about crass commercialism. Faux farmers have been challenged in a number of western cities. A large corporate supermarket was displaying produce under tents in parking lots with signs welcoming all to the new farmers corner. Another national supermarket chain was advertising corn pone malarky in the northwest and they had to be shut down. Locations for markets should be a community decision. In some towns markets are springing up like Starbucks on every street corner. That has hurt some areas like western Massachusetts which is now over saturated.
Farmers Markets are an evolving enterprise in this country and they still need your support. Where else are you going to find lemon cukes, Tilton apricots, French breakfast melons or wild lobster mushrooms. Don’t forget some of those new potatoes, the Skagit Valley Gold or the Ozettes. Haven’t been to the Farmers Market this week? Look up Farmers Markets on Google pictures for some good fun. There is some great looking healthy food that should get you in gear. Healthy eating.