Hooray for Farmers' Markets!

farmersmarket.jpg It’s the end of May, and one of the greatest rewards for making it through the winter is that farmers’ markets are once again open for business. For those of us who are increasingly trying to be more conscious of where our food comes from and the impact of our buying habits on the environment, farmers’ markets are a welcome offering, indeed. As the website of LocalHarvest reminds us, “Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.”

According to LocalHarvest:
“Farmers' markets are one of the oldest forms of direct marketing by small farmers. From the traditional ‘mercados’ in the Peruvian Andes to the unique street markets in Asia, growers all over the world gather weekly to sell their produce directly to the public. In the last decade they have become a favorite marketing method for many farmers throughout the United States, and a weekly ritual for many shoppers.
In a farmers' market, a group of farmers sell their products once or twice a week at a designated public place like a park or parking lot. Some farmers' markets have live entertainment. Shopping at a farmers' market is a great way to meet local farmers and get fresh, flavorful produce. “

The good news is that farmers’ markets are gaining in popularity as more and more people are looking for great -tasting, fresh, locally grown food. According to the Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA, the number of farmers’ markets in the US has grown from 1,755 in 1994 to 4,385 in 2006. The AMS reminds us that many people benefit from farmers’ markets, including:
• Small farm operators: Those with less than $250,000 in annual receipts who work and manage their own operations meet this definition (94 percent of all farms).

• Farmers and consumers: Farmers have direct access to markets to supplement farm income. Consumers have access to locally grown, farm-fresh produce and the opportunity to personally interact with the farmer who grows the produce.

• The community: Many urban communities where fresh, nutritious foods are scarce gain easy access to food. Farmers markets also help to promote nutrition education, wholesome eating habits, and better food preparation, as well as boosting the community’s economy.

Don’t know how to find a farmers’ market ? LocalHarvest provides a map where you can click on your locality and find the nearest farmers’ market to you. Challenge yourself to find one this weekend and treat yourself to the taste of food picked the same day you purchase it. You will be supporting your local economy, fighting global warming, participating in your community and indulging in the most delicious food you can get all at the same time!

Caroline Heine

Posted at 1:00 AM, May 28, 2008 in Economic Development | Environment | Health | Permalink | Comment