Farmers markets increase access to fresh food


There is nothing better than slicing up a ripe garden tomato fresh off the vine. However, some may not have the means to grow fresh vegetables in their backyards.

At the Center for Rural Affairs, we work with rural communities to build healthy, sustainable, local food systems. That includes supporting farmers markets.

Farmers markets expand access to fresh, healthy food in communities that need it most. They provide affordable, competitive prices for low-income families, and many accept food vouchers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than 5,000 farmers markets across the country accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, with the number of new locations increasing at an average 40 percent per year.

Vendors are reaping the benefits. In 2014, 362,477 SNAP households made at least one purchase at a farmers market, according to the National Farmers Market Coalition. That means more families are eating healthy and fresh local fruits and vegetables.

Farmers markets also provide beginning farmers a low-cost way to enter the marketplace and grow their businesses. Small and medium existing farms can supplement their revenue by selling at markets, supporting the sustainability of family farms.

The USDA reported 8,675 markets in the country in 2016, up from 2,863 in 2000. Many consumers now have the opportunity to eat food grown within a few miles of their homes. And, that money stays in their small towns, helping local economies.

Find your farmers market in USDA’s national directory at www.ams.usda.gov, and join us in celebrating National Farmers Market Week, Aug. 6 to 12.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Proclaims National Farmers Market Week

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2017 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has proclaimed Aug. 6-13 to be National Farmers Market Week. This is the eighteenth year USDA has supported local producers by encouraging families to meet, and buy from, the farmers and other vendors at their local farmers market.

The proclamation Perdue signed notes farmers markets and other agricultural direct marketing outlets contribute approximately $9 billion each year to the U.S. economy and “serve as significant outlets by which small-to-medium, new and beginning, and veteran agricultural producers market agricultural products, generating revenue that supports the sustainability of family farms and the revitalization of rural communities nationwide.”

Throughout the week, thousands of U.S. farmers markets will highlight the range of produce, fruit, meat, dairy and specialty products available from their local and regional farmers. USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory makes it easy to locate farmers markets in towns and neighborhoods across the country. Buying directly from farmers and ag-entrepreneurs has an outsized impact by helping diversify farm incomes and supporting other businesses by keeping more money in the local economy.

In addition to being good for the farmers and convenient for consumers, farmers markets are a gathering place that help build a sense of community.

For updates about the USDA Farmers Market, including the schedule for VegU classes, follow us @USDA_AMS on Twitter and Instagram and look for #USDAFarmersMkt or visit www.usda.gov/farmersmarket.

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THEIR VIEW

By Rhea Landholm

rheal@cfra.org

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.