Farmers markets up 16 percent
The number of farmers markets jumped 16 percent in 2010, according to figures to be released tomorrow by Department of Agriculture. There are 6,132 farmers markets in operation, up from 5,247 in 2009.
The National Farmers Market Directory reported the greatest surges in the Midwest. Missouri saw the number of markets skyrocket 77 percent; Minnesota's growth was 61 percent; Idaho and Michigan each saw a 60 percent jump. Locally, Virginia counted 152 markets, up 28 percent from 118 in 2009. Maryland has 107, up 18 percent from 91 in 2009. The District had 28 markets in 2010, a 12 percent increase from 25 in 2009.
There are 886 farmers market open during the off-season. This is the first year the USDA has tracked winter markets.
"Seeing such continued strong growth in the number of U.S. farmers markets indicates that regional food systems can provide great economic, social and health benefits to communities across the country," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. "Farmers markets provide fresh, local products to communities across the country while offering economic opportunities for producers of all sizes.
Growing interest in farmers markets is driven by consumer concerns about food safety and a renewed focus on healthful eating. But they have also become fashionable. Michelle Obama has drawn attention to markets and the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2009, the first lady became the first since Eleanor Roosevelt to plant a garden on the White House lawn. Last summer, she helped to christen the new market on Vermont Avenue, several blocks from the White House.
There were 1,755 farmers markets when the Agriculture Department first began tracking them in 1994.
Not everyone agrees, however, that the growth in farmers markets is proof of strong local food systems. Researchers at Franklin and Marshall College’s Local Economy recently released a study that suggested that it is largely wealthier urbanites who benefit from farmers markets. When small farmers head for the big cities, where they can charge higher prices, traffic drops off at smaller, rural markets and makes them untenable.
-- Jane Black
August 3, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories: Sustainable Food , To Market, To Market | Tags: Jane Black, farmers markets
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