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Time to Celebrate Farmers Markets

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By Mary Wilbur

Have you noticed how good your produce is looking lately?

In the Northern Hemisphere, August is pretty much the peak of the season and there’s nowhere better to learn about what you’re putting on your table than at a farmers market. You can find these direct-to-consumers markets in nearly every part of the U.S.

Today’s modern markets are extensions of the old roadside stands located along the highway by the edge of a farmer’s field. However, today’s markets bring together many of those roadside stands for a more complete experience for the consumer. Fruit and vegetables are available at all locations and some even offer fish, poultry and red meats, too. The market where I shop even has live music each Saturday morning. Having the farmers gathered in one place works for the consumer, as price and quality are easy to compare. At my Saturday market one of the vendors will drop his price 50 cents a pound on Shady Lady tomatoes around 11am. A few minutes later many of the other stands will follow suit as nobody wants to load product back onto the truck for the trip back to the farm. And as to quality . . . Half a dozen stalls sell peaches, but everybody knows—well, at least most people know—that Matsumoto has the best. Word gets around and he always has a line waiting to buy. Another stall has a sign saying, “We sell strawberries that actually taste like strawberries.” No kidding. If you’ve been limited to supermarket berries lately, you may have forgotten the difference.

farmersmarket kids Picmonkey

Bernadine Prince, Board President of the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC), has announced that USDA is continung its annual sponsorship of this observance and will be signing a proclamation declaring Aug. 6-12, 2017, as National Farmers Market Week (NFMW). This year marks the 18th annual National Farmers Market Week to honor and celebrate the important role that farmers markets play in the nation’s food system.

“Farmers markets increase the availability of fresh produce, create jobs for rural and urban entrepreneurs, and offer nutritional and agricultural education to the public,” said Prince. “National Farmers Market Week highlights the unique benefits these markets bring to American agriculture. Farmers markets provide one of the only opportunities for producers to keep overheads low, test new products, and build relationships with new customers.”

According to research conducted by the USDA, farmers and ranchers that sell directly to consumers at farmers markets have lower rates of bankruptcy and farm foreclosure than producers that rely solely on the wholesale contracts.

“Farmers markets serve as a lifeline for many struggling producers—whether they’re beginning farmers looking to a place to start selling their produce, or established farms mitigating risk by diversifying their revenue streams,” added Prince.

Throughout National Farmers Market Week, farmers markets across the country will highlight their markets’ unique impacts through events and observances. This year, FMC encouraged all markets to invite public officials to their National Farmers Market Week events, and provided resources to help facilitate introductions and media. You can follow FMC’s social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for coverage of events taking place nationwide.

“The decision to buy directly from local farmers not only puts the freshest, most flavorful food on your dinner table, it has a very real impact on that farmer’s livelihood,” said Prince. “At farmers markets, we meet our community, access affordable, healthy produce, and support family farmers who overwhelmingly use farming practices that protect our environment. These are all benefits that impact each of us, and FMC will continue to work hard to highlight them to the public.”

More information can be found at www.farmersmarketcoalition.org

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