This week is National Farmers’ Market Week, a time that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated to raise awareness about farmers’ markets across the country. Farmers’ markets have exploded in popularity over the past few years, reflecting the growing number of people who want to know where their food comes from, and who want to contribute to the economic health of their communities by buying directly from local farmers. The USDA reported last week that there are now more than 7,800 registered farmers’ markets across the nation, a 9.6% increase over last year.
Here at the Recirculating Farms Coalition, we love our farmers and their markets. Farmers’ markets have many benefits for farmers, shoppers, and communities. We’ll list a few of our favorites below, and you can check out the Farmers Market Coalition for more.
- Farmers’ markets are a cost-effective way for small farms and family farms to reach shoppers.
- Farmers sell directly to shoppers, without distributors involved. As a result, produce is often cheaper than you can find it in the local grocery store, and farmers get to keep a greater portion of each food dollar.
- A greater portion of money spent at a farmers’ market (30% to 40%) stays in the local community, compared with money spent at a grocery store (just 15%).
- Shoppers get to talk with farmers or farm employees face to face. As a result, people learn about where their food comes from and how it was grown or raised.
- Many farmers who sell at farmers’ markets grow their food organically or through other environmentally friendly ways.
- Many local farmers sell rare and heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables that you can’t find easily at your local grocery store.
- Food grown locally, rather than shipped for hundreds or thousands of miles, is fresher, and often better tasting too.
- Shoppers at farmers’ markets spend time and money at neighboring businesses, which strengthens the local economy.
- Having a farmers’ market in your community may be good for your health: some research has found an association between proximity to a farmers’ market and lower body mass index (BMI).
- Farmers’ markets bring fresh, healthy foods to communities that may not have access to them otherwise.
- Many farmers’ markets accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as payment, making fresh, nutritious foods available to people at all income levels.
- Farmers’ markets are a social space — a gathering place for the community to meet and interact.
If you’ve never visited your local farmers’ market, or just haven’t been in a while, this is a great week to go — many markets are holding festivals, contests, and other special events in honor of National Farmers’ Market Week. Not sure where to find a farmers’ market? You can search for the one nearest you on the USDA website or at LocalHarvest.org. And to find recirculating farms near you – check out our interactive map here.