Flood of Farmers Markets

June is “Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month,” which is perfect timing given that it’s garden season and there’s an influx of farmers markets in Ohio and nationally.

Consumer’s interest in the local-food movement is rapidly increasing.

“Local food continues to expand with consumer demand,” said Julie Fox, direct marketing specialist for The Ohio State University in a story reported at The Packer — the self-proclaimed ‘fresh fruit and vegetable industry's leading source for news, information and analysis.’

“That interest is reflected in an increased number of farmers markets, an increased number of vendors in farmers markets, more restaurants carrying local food, more grocery stores buying and promoting local food and an expansion of community-supported agriculture and produce auctions,” Fox said.

Farmers markets are opportunities for small-scale and/or urban growers to expand their customer base. In addition, many restaurateurs scour farmers markets for menu ideas and create contracts with farmers for food orders.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is recognizing the value of farmers markets. Its supplying $10 million in funding to help develop farmers markets throughout the nation.

“Farmers markets are an integral part of the urban/farm linkage and have continued to rise in popularity, mostly due to the growing consumer interest in obtaining fresh products directly from the farm. Farmers markets allow consumers to have access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, enables farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers and cultivate consumer loyalty with the farmers who grow the produce,” states the USDA website.

“Direct marketing of farm products through farmers markets continues to be an important sales outlet for agricultural producers nationwide. As of mid-2010, there were 6,132 farmers markets operating throughout the U.S. This is a 16 percent increase from 2009,” according to the USDA website.

Many online resources direct consumers to farmers markets throughout the country. The 2011 National Farmers Market Directory is accessible at the USDA website: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/farmersmarkets.

Another such resource promoting the farmers-market industry is American Farmland Trust — the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to saving America’s farm and ranch land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices and supporting a sustainable future for farms.

To promote the connection between fresh, local food and the farms that supply it, online voting is now available for participants in the “America’s Favorite Farmers Markets” contest organized by American Farmland Trust.

Countrywide media outlets and ordinary citizens are reporting about the farmers-market trend.

The Huffington Post released an interesting slideshow of the “Top 10 Farmers Markets” in 2009 and a consumer blog post has a list of the “Top 10 U.S. Farmers Markets Worth a Trip.”

There’s no doubt that farmers markets will continue in popularity in the coming years. Only time will tell just how they will shape the landscape of agriculture.

Do you sell/know of someone who sells food at your local farmers market? Do you shop at farmers markets? What is your opinion about farmers markets?

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